Bobby Ferguson recalls the challenges he faced when replacing an Ipswich Town legend

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson

David Moyes replaces Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United at the end of this season. In 1982, Bobby Ferguson took over from legendary Blues boss Sir Bobby Robson, but explains to CHRIS BRAMMER why he faced a bigger task than the new Old Trafford boss will

Former Town boss Sir Bobby Robson

Former Town boss Sir Bobby Robson

Bobby Ferguson can’t help but be a little bit envious as he discusses the task ahead for David Moyes at Manchester United.

“It’s a completely different scenario to the one I faced when I replaced Sir Bobby Robson,” said the 75-year-old, who spent five years at the helm at Portman Road.

“I had to sell my best players at Ipswich Town, whereas David (Moyes) is inheriting a powerful squad and will be given the opportunity to strengthen it even further.

“He is a solid boy and he will be confident of doing a good job as he never had big money to spend at Everton and has always done a good job. He is a good signing.”


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Ferguson faced a tough task to fill the boots of Robson, who was leaving Suffolk to become the England manager, but the club’s decision to extend the West Stand (to become the Pioneer Stand) at Portman Road, thrust the Geordie into the role of miracle worker.

Following a ninth-placed finish in his first season in charge, Town were unable to kick on and eventually dropped from the top flight at the end of the 1985/86 season.

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A year later, Ferguson was to be replaced by John Duncan, having failed to engineer an instant return to the old First Division, but his hands were tied.

“I had been at Ipswich for 12 years before Bobby left and I had managed the youth team and been first-team coach and most of my reserves came through to the first team,” said Ferguson.

“We had a marvellous time, playing some cracking football and beating some of the best teams in Europe. Teams couldn’t work us out and struggled against players such as Gatesy (Eric Gates).

“I was going to go to West Brom when Sir Bobby took the England job but he was keen on me staying at Portman Road to maintain the links and made a recommendation to the board.

“The transition was easy but the sad thing was that I had to sell the players that I had brought through in the youth team and reserves.

“Alan Brazil, Eric Gates, Terry Butcher – the money we made from him covered the final payment for the stand.

“We couldn’t bring anyone in though, so we were maybe selling a player for £500,000 then being taxed for it as we were making a profit.”

The Pioneer Stand is now known as the East of England Co-op Stand, and cost around £1.3m, despite its construction not being welcomed by everyone among the Portman Road hierarchy.

“A lot of people did not want it. I think Bobby wanted it and maybe one or two other board members did,” Ferguson recalled.

“Bobby’s idea was that we would be able to sell a player for a couple of million but that summer, the bottom completely fell out of the market.”

Ferguson sold 22 players for a profit during his time at Ipswich, spending money on just a handful – a world away from the multi-million pound deals of the Premier League and players earning six-figures on a weekly basis.

“I brought in Nigel Gleghorn from the Fire Service in exchange for a set of kit, paid £150,000 for Kevin Wilson and £70,000 each for Ian Atkins and Romeo Zondervan,” said Ferguson.

“There were other bits and pieces and I had agreed a fee of £5,000 for Simon Milton, from Bury, but I left before he signed, while I brought in John Deehan from Norwich in a swap deal for Trevor Putney.

“We had to develop our own players and, at one time, we had nine full internationals that we had brought through.

“There was no sugar daddy to save the club and people said that I was the right person at the wrong time as we were getting weaker every year. It would have been a lot different had I had some money to spend.

“We had to save the club and my only regret perhaps was that I had to forfeit my ego.”

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