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UNDER FIRE: Simon Clegg

Terry Hunt: Who will fill the void left by Clegg?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013
11.02 AM

SO, Simon Clegg has gone. Before assessing his four years at Portman Road, the question we all want answered is this: Who will be the new face of Ipswich Town?

We’re told that owner Marcus Evans will take a more hands-on role, and that he and three club directors will run the business.

That’s fine, but it doesn’t answer the question. What I’m talking about is the urgent need for a front man, or woman, to stand up and take the bouquets or brickbats.

You know, the way that David Sheepshanks did for so long, and the way that Simon Clegg has recently. I can’t see Marcus Evans – who has been very protective of his privacy - suddenly being happy to front press conferences and attend fans’ forums and the like.

Will it be one, or more, of the three directors, who have up to now taken a very low public profile? Maybe – but it would be a very big step for them to take.

One this is certain: That void needs to be filled. It needs to be filled quickly, and it needs to be filled by the right person.

Every single football club in the land has to have a public face, someone who links with the community.

In years gone by at Ipswich, it was the chairman – the two Cobbold brothers, John Kerr, David Sheepshanks, and most recently Clegg. Some has to fill that chair, or the club will be faceless. I’m sure Marcus Evans is on the case.

OK, what about Simon Clegg? Well, it’s fair to say that he has taken an awful lot of stick from the fans.

Some of that has happened because he doesn’t come from a footballing background, and some supporters appear to have believed that was an insurmountable obstacle.

But most of the flak has been over transfer dealings. There have been a number of times during Clegg’s tenure that a player seemed on the brink of signing for Town, only for the deal to fail to materialise with the target signing for another club.

The most galling was the case of Charlie Austin. The story was that he was at the club, but some hitch meant that he slipped through our fingers, went to Burnley and is now the leading scorer in the Championship.

Many fans have blamed Clegg for failed transfer deals, but the fact is that’s grossly unfair.

It is ALWAYS Marcus Evans who has the final say on transfers and players’ wages. It is, after all, his money which is being spent.

We can argue for ever and a day over whether Evans is prepared to spend enough, but let me ask this: How many Town fans would think it right to pay players more than £20,000 a week? Because, I can assure you, that’s what some of them demand.

As an Ipswich supporter of more than 40 years standing, I don’t want my club paying £1 million plus a year to players.

I’d much rather see them come through the ranks, like Luke Hyam, earning a fraction of those astronomical amounts.

The fact is that no fewer than 73 players have been signed in the last four years. The big problem for Clegg, and Evans, is that they haven’t managed to achieve success on the pitch.

For the majority of supporters, that’s the be-all and end-all. Win football matches on the rectangular piece of grass, and pretty much everything else is forgiven.

If the team isn’t winning enough matches, then everything is put in the spotlight. That’s what happened with Clegg. He did lots of good things at Ipswich Town, but ultimately he will be judged on performances on the pitch.

Again, rather unfair. It was Roy Keane and Paul Jewell who failed to deliver for Clegg, Evans and, most of all, for the fans. But, until the very end of their respective tenures, they pretty much escaped the fans’ wrath, which was still being directed towards Clegg.

Of course, he made mistakes. We all do. There’s little point in dwelling on them now. But I would never question his commitment, dedication to the job in hand, and his integrity.

I wish him well in whatever he does next. And I look forward to another new chapter in the history of Ipswich Town. It’s never dull, is it?