ITFC: Why Marcus Evans has to get it right - by Editor Terry Hunt
MARCUS Evans must make the most important decision for Ipswich Town Football Club in more than 40 years.
Owner Evans and chief executive Simon Clegg have, with the benefit of hindsight, failed with their last two managerial appointments. Both Roy Keane and Paul Jewell were unable to halt the decline of a once-great club. Both paid the price.
Evans and Clegg simply cannot afford to get it wrong for a third time. This is a huge moment in the history of Ipswich Town. If they find the right man, and back him to the hilt financially, this could be a launch pad for better times ahead.
But, if they recruit badly again, then Town could quite easily find themselves playing third-tier football for the first time in more than 50 years.
Once down in the lower reaches, who knows how long it would take the team to clamber back into the Championship. Just look at Coventry’s plight.
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So, it could be argued that the decision facing Evans is the most important in the club’s history since legendary chairman John Cobbold famously backed a young Bobby Robson, despite many fans calling for his head.
The benchmark moment came in September 1971, in Robson’s third season at Portman Road. His struggling team was taken apart by Manchester United, and two-goal George Best in particular, in a League Cup tie.
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The disgruntled home fans turned on their manager, with large sections of the crowd chanting for him to be sacked.
After the game, a disconsolate Robson told his wife Elsie to start packing, so convinced was he that he would be sacked in the morning. Instead, “Mr John’’ called the manager to his office, apologised for the fans’ behaviour, and pledged his loyalty. He also put his money where his mouth was, by providing Robson with the funds to buy Allan Hunter.
The big Irish centre-half was a crucial building block in Robson’s first great team, heralding a decade of extraordinary success for a provincial club.
This could prove just as significant a turning point for the club – one way or another. All fans will passionately hope that the new manager, working with Evans and Clegg, signals a bright and exciting new era.
But, just as Paul Jewell cannot be blamed for all the current woes, so the next boss will not succeed without support. Not only the loyalty which is the “Ipswich Town way’’ but also proper financial backing.
One of the major issues during the Jewell era was the number of transfer deals which fell through, apparently due to failing to agree on what in football are euphemistically called “personal terms’’.
It is clear that, having seen money squandered by Keane, owner Evans has tightened the purse strings. While that makes absolute sense in every other part of business, in the crazy world of footballing finances, it doesn’t cut the mustard. It means you can’t compete, because players go elsewhere for bigger packages.
If Evans is serious about his stated ambition of getting Ipswich into the Premier League, then he needs to take more risks with his money, and accept that, sometimes, his manager will make mistakes in the transfer market. The low-risk strategy is the road to nowhere. Or maybe the road to a local derby with Colchester – unless they’re promoted.
It is unclear who Evans and Clegg have in mind – other than the revelation there are no fewer than 34 names on their long list. Personally, I’d like to see a young manager backed by a highly experienced figure in a Director of Football role.
But, whoever they choose, it simply has to be the right man. Third time lucky for Evans and Clegg? It must be.
The alternative is simply unthinkable.
n Where do you lay the blame for Ipswich Town’s demise? Who would you appoint to the Blues’ hot seat? Write to Your Letters, Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org