Ipswich Town CEO Mark Ashton has a big summer ahead as the Blues build for the Championship. He spoke about that and all things Town in a recent interview...

Mark Ashton is a man of action.

Town's CEO famously peppers his interviews with words like 'relentless' and 'at pace' as if demonstrating the dynamism he demands from himself and those around him. 

READ MORE: Key tasks and dates for Ashton and co this summer

And there will be plenty of that at Portman Road this summer. Town have only just been promoted and boss Kieran McKenna and his players are on holiday - but Ashton is already counting the days until key dates.

Asked in a Sky News interview if he gets a break over the summer, he laughed.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark Ashton is already counting the days until Town are back in actionMark Ashton is already counting the days until Town are back in action (Image: Sarah Lucy Brown)

“No!" came the reply. "There’s 38 days till the players return for pre-season and 78 days till we start competitive league fixtures.

"So myself and the staff behind the scenes are very focused, we have a number of things to do.

"Player trading begins now as the transfer window starts to open and then on top of that we have all the infrastructure projects – a major investment here into a £2.5m new pitch, infrastructure projects in the stadium and all the financial planning around financial fair play that comes with it.

"It’s a very busy time for us."

East Anglian Daily Times: Portman Road is getting a new £2.5m pitch this summerPortman Road is getting a new £2.5m pitch this summer (Image: PA)

That new pitch is part of the ongoing transformation of Portman Road under Ashton and the new American owners.

The famed old ground, which had been allowed to start showing its age under the less ambitious and more frugal era of Marcus Evans, has been given a new lease of life under the new brooms.

It attracted record crowds in the season just gone too, with an average attendance which topped Town's last Premier League campaign and was the highest at the club this century.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ashton and the Ipswich Town ownership group - (L-R) Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer - have big plansAshton and the Ipswich Town ownership group - (L-R) Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer - have big plans (Image: Steve Waller)

Ashton enthused: "We’re at 29,500 capacity here, with segregation.

"When we joined the club, average attendances were probably 13 or 14 thousand in League One and last season we were averaging 27,000 in League One.

"We were capping out in a lot of games towards the end at 29,500. Just incredible.

"Before we were promoted, when we were still a League One club, we sold 21,000 season tickets for next season – it’s just incredible."

READ MORE: Town's support is among best in Europe

He added: "The whole club has moved forward. If you look at our retail, for example, historically even in the Premier League this football club had only turned over about one million-ish in retail.

"This year we’ll break through four million in retail. We averaged to sell 12,000 shirts per season, last season we sold 50,000.

"Financially and off the pitch as well as on the pitch, the club is moving forward on a very steep upward trajectory."

East Anglian Daily Times: Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran helped the club sell 50,000 shirts this seasonSuffolk superstar Ed Sheeran helped the club sell 50,000 shirts this season (Image: ITFC)

Of course, a big reason for those staggering shirt sales - aside from the fact the kits were stone cold classics - was the tie-up with Suffolk superstar Ed Sheeran.

The Framlingham pop icon sponsors the shirts and even had a hand in designing the third kit which broke so many records.  

"Yeah, Ed got involved in the blackout kit, the third kit, which was a really good seller for us," Aston explained, asked about Sheeran's involvement.

READ MORE: Our big Cole Skuse interview

"Listen, when you’ve got a world superstar who’s a local man who supports the club and his local community, he’s sponsoring the shirt and is part of the club moving forward, it can only help.

"It helps when you launch a shirt and the first night at Wembley, Ed Sheeran rocks up in your new home kit.

"So he’s fantastic, a real big fan of the club and a real help to us.

"I think the whole club has moved forward at such a pace – season tickets, work in the community, attendances, retail.

"As I said, it’s a very steep upward trajectory that we’re on."

East Anglian Daily Times: Mark Ashton says Kieran McKenna and the team will 'attack the Championship'Mark Ashton says Kieran McKenna and the team will 'attack the Championship' (Image: Steve Waller)

That trajectory has the Blues hurtling towards the Championship with some serious momentum behind them.

So, is Ashton expecting another promotion push in 2023/24?

"It will be a season of progression for sure," he vowed. 

"We’re well backed and like all the clubs there are financial fair play controls in place, profit and sustainability rules that we have to adhere to.

"But we trade players. We’ve bought well, we’ve brought young players in with value – the likes of Leif Davis, Nathan Broadhead, Harry Clarke, Conor Chaplin who scored 29 goals last season.

"All young, hungry players with real value and, whilst we’ve spent money on those players, what people forget is that we’ve also traded players out in the background.

"If you look at our net cash outflow for a three year period – say last year, this year and next year – and all the players we’ve bought in, all the players we’ve sold, we’re literally net zero.

"We’ll more or less break even on player trading. So, while people see what you buy, they don’t tend to see sometimes what you’re selling in the background.

"We have a model and we’ll stick to the model. I expect us to attack the Championship well and continue to buy good players that give Kieran McKenna the best opportunity to be competitive."