Out of Africa
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Titus Bramble is jetting back from his charity work in Ghana to watch this afternoon’s clash between two of his former clubs. The matchday programme got his thoughts on the past, the present and the future…
Titus Bramble will be at Portman Road this afternoon watching two clubs who had a big part to play in his career go head to head. The Ipswich-born former defender is on that list of homegrown players who have progressed through the Club’s Academy and gone on to play in the Premier League.
Titus wore the blue shirt of Town at home and in Europe, with the Club enjoying a run in the UEFA Cup in 2001/02 before relegation back to the Championship prompted a £5m move to Newcastle and the chance to work under Sir Bobby Robson.
He clocked up more than a century of appearances at St James’ Park but the England U21 international says it was the move to Wigan in the summer of 2007 that prompted the best form of his career. “I had three great years at Wigan individually and I’d say I probably played my best football there,” Titus told the match day programme.
“I had an up and down time in my five years at Newcastle and when I moved on, I needed to get my confidence back.
“Chris Hutchings had just taken over as Wigan manager and he sold the club to me.
“I was playing week in, week out and the confidence came back. I really enjoyed my football and it was the perfect club for me.
“I could see similarities between Wigan and Ipswich, on a smaller scale obviously. They are both family clubs and I think having been at Newcastle, which is a massive football club, it suited me to go somewhere where there wasn’t such a big spotlight. It was the right move for me at the time.”
“Chris got sacked a few months after I joined and obviously he brought me in so you always worry a bit in those circumstances. I really wanted to do well for him because he had shown faith in me.”
Former Manchester United skipper Steve Bruce took over in the Latics’ hot seat and Titus is quick to acknowledge the role he had on his career.
“Steve Bruce was massive for me,” he said. “He had played for the biggest club in the world and knew what it took to be a top defender and he helped me so much.
“Like I said, I had to rebuild my confidence at that stage in my career and my time at Wigan did that. He played a big part in that.”
Titus picked up a string of player of the year medals at Wigan before being reunited with Bruce at Sunderland in 2010. He spent three years at the Stadium of Light before injuries took their toll.
He’s now back where it all began for him, in Town colours and at the Club’s Academy, working as a coach with the younger age groups.
“Ipswich is my club, everyone knows that. I have so much to thank the Club for,” he added.
“I love coaching and working with the kids but if an opportunity came up to work at senior level, then that’s something I’d have to look at.
“I have not really thought too much about what I want to do. I’ll look at opportunities if they come up. If Kieron [Dyer] gets a manager’s job and wants me as his assistant, then maybe!”
Titus added to his coaching experience recently by working with the England squad at U20 level, a squad that included Town’s Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and loanee, Trevoh Chalobah.
“It was a good opportunity for me to work with the best of the best at that age group,” he said
“I took a lot from the experience, seeing the boys work in great facilities and outside their club environment.”
Those facilities would have been far removed from what is available to the youngsters that Titus has worked with as part of the charity, Futurestars. Introduced to the project by fellow former Blue, Simon Milton, Titus has played an active role in supporting the charity’s work in Ghana, where he is part of the coaching team that puts free sessions on for underprivileged children. Futurestars also funds a much needed refurbishment programme for five schools in the country.
The ex-Blue has been in Africa this week and says every time he makes the trip it’s a humbling experience.
“It’s an eye opener for sure. It gives you a bit of a reality check,” he explained.
“Football can be a way out for them over there. It gives them a chance to succeed and look after their family. Every time I go over there, it makes me feel humble.
“One of my friends is at a Premier League team [Accra Hearts of Oak] and I had the chance this week to coach with them as well, which was great.”
Flights permitting, Titus will be taking his seat at Portman Road for this afternoon’s clash and although he accepts Blues face a challenge to get out of the current predicament, he is confident the right man is at the helm in Paul Lambert.
“We’ve got a guy who knows what it takes. He’s very experienced and knows the league,” he added.
“The performances are improving. It just needs the results to follow now.”
To find out more about Futurestars, click on www.futurestarscharity.org.uk.