A FAMILIAR, popular face will be missing when Ipswich Town report back for pre-season training in the last week of June.

For three decades, academy coach and kit man Ken Goody has been part of the fabric both at Portman Road and the Blues’ training base in Playford Road.

However, he called time on his distinguished career at the end of last season, bringing an end to his lengthy association with the Suffolk club.

Goody, from Langenhoe, just outside Colchester, saw it all in 29 years at Town.

He worked with hundreds of young players and their parents, operating alongside numerous first-team managers.

And while he feels both proud and fortunate to have spent a lifetime in football, he believes now is the right time to begin his well-earned retirement.

“I feel lucky to have had the career I had and to have worked in football so long,” said Goody, who started out playing semi-professional non-league football.

“Others come and go and there’s no doubt it’s a really tough industry, but when things are going well there’s nothing better.

“I’ve always tried to keep my head down and get on with my job.

“I’d probably carry on forever, had I not lost my wife, Janet, over Christmas in 2017.

“But I’ve had a year and a half to take stock and believe this is the right time to call it a day.

“I also have a little dog to look after – my wife’s dog, Max.

“I used to take him to the club and he had a great time roaming around the dressing room.

“Everyone made a fuss of him but it’s not fair to leave him with other people when I’m away travelling with the club, usually leaving on a Friday lunchtime.

“(First-team manager) Paul (Lambert) was good to me and wanted me to stay, to co-ordinate the academy.

“It was flattering and nice to be wanted but I didn’t want that much involvement.

"That’s the kind of role I was in two decades ago.

“If someone offered me a day or two, I’d be happy but I can’t commit on that professional level again.

“Having said that, I would like to stay active.

"I need to get out of the house and can’t be stuck here evermore.

“Whether that’s within football or not, I need to be around people. Otherwise I wouldn’t see anyone anymore.”

Town paid tribute to stalwart Goody, who more latterly worked as academy kit man for the club’s under-23s and under-18s, at half-time in their final game of the Championship season, against Leeds United.

He joined the under-23s on the pitch to receive their trophy for finishing top of the Professional Development League Two South table, joined by general manager of football operations Lee O’Neill and under-23 coaches Gerard Nash and Chris Hogg.

“It was a sad day in many respects and certainly the end of an era,” said Goody.

“People have been very kind and I’ve had some lovely messages.

“My role has always been focused on producing players, rather than winning games.

“That’s what the club is all about and there have been many highlights along the way, with the pick being winning the FA Youth Cup in 2005.

“We had some tough matches, playing Tottenham home and away in the semi-finals and then facing Southampton.

“They had so many good players but our keeper, Shane Supple, had a blinder and we hung on. Magic.

“In terms of players I worked with, two stand out for me – Richard Wright and Kieron Dyer.

“Richard started playing for me when he was 14.

“Even then, he shone and I knew from an early age he would go on to become a professional.

“It was similar with Kieron.

“He was outstanding – not so much as a young boy, because he was so small.

“But as he got older, he got stronger and never looked back.

“He had a football brain and was very clever.

“It was just a shame he was dogged by injury and, by his own admission, became affected by fame and money.

“It’s easier said than done but my advice to any young player is always to keep your feet on the ground and keep working hard.”

Goody has seen plenty of change at the club in the course of 30 years.

He was part of the Blues when they were a Premier League set-up, gracing Europe in the UEFA Cup.

But he is also sad that his last season coincided with the club suffering relegation from the Championship, sliding into League One.

He hopes they respond positively next season but expects it to be tough.

“It was a horrible year,” said Goody.

“I know you can never properly judge a team in pre-season but I remember going to the first friendly last summer, when we lost 2-0 at Braintree Town.

“I had a horrible feeling even then that it would be a struggle and unfortunately that turned out to be true.

“(Former manager) Paul (Hurst) didn't bring in the quality that was needed and struggled, which is sad because he was a lovely fella.

“But you can’t get rid of your best players and replace them with eight or nine lads from League One and Two.

“I don’t mean that in a disrespectful way but the Championship is unforgiving. Just look at the recent play-off game between Leeds and Derby.

“It’s blood and thunder and you have to be men.

“Hopefully the team can respond well next season and the young players break through and do well.

“But there’s no doubt it’s going to be a big challenge.

“League One’s a very tough division and the boys are going to be playing Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday.

“I hope they can stick it out and that the big clubs don’t come along and poach our best young talent. That’s the danger of being a category two club."

While Goody’s last season ended in relegation, his first, ironically, resulted in promotion from the old Second Division to the new Premier League in 1991/92.

“John Lyall was my first manager and he was a lovely man,” said Goody.

“We won the league in my first season and I remember thinking ‘this is easy’!

“It meant we were founder members of the new Premier League.

“George Burley then came in and we had a lot of success in terms of the boys coming through – the likes of Richard, Kieron and Titus Bramble.

“All of them were sold for £6 million-plus to Premier League clubs.

“Then we had Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose.

“George was focused on the first team.

"He let me get on with things and do things my way, which I liked and appreciated.

“He brought a lot of success to Ipswich, getting us back into the Premier League and Europe.

“Unfortunately, though, the club maybe got a bit too ambitious, bringing players in for silly money.

“It wasn’t sustainable and led to some very difficult times financially.

“Joe (Royle) was the next manager I worked with and he was great, getting us to the play-offs a couple of years in a row.

“He needed and wanted a bit more money to give the club a whoosh but sadly it wasn’t forthcoming.”

Goody felt things went downhill from there, perhaps contributing to last season’s struggles and relegation to the tier football for the first time since 1957.

“Jim (Magilton) was installed as Joe’s replacement and, to be fair, I thought it was a good appointment at the time,” he said.

“But he was a bit too hands-on and didn’t always let people get on with their jobs.

“Things started to go pear-shaped from there and he ended up leaving, to be replaced by Paul Jewell.

“I liked him but unfortunately it didn’t work out.

“The players didn't perform for him and maybe he relied on them a bit too much, rather than getting stuck into them.

Roy Keane was the next manager and he was an interesting character, to say the least.

“We only got some normality back when Mick McCarthy arrived.

“Mick, in contrast, was brilliant – one of the best managers I’ve worked with in my life.

“Both as a football man and person, I can’t praise him enough and if he had been in charge last season, we’d have finished halfway up the table.

“He still would have got dogs' abuse, though, as he did when he was in charge.

"We didn’t play free-flowing football but the truth is that he didn’t have the players to play that way.

“They weren’t good enough but he got the best out of them, playing a certain way.

“People just didn’t appreciate what he did for the club.”

Wise, prophetic words from someone who has seen and experienced just about everything in his 30 years at Portman Road.