'They have big dreams... we're in great hands' - Town favourite Yallop on his links to new US owners
- Credit: MonterayBayFC/ITFC
If Ipswich Town’s new American owners ultimately prove successful, the Blues may just have an old favourite to thank.
That’s because Frank Yallop, who played nearly 400 games for the club between 1983 and 1996, has more reasons than most to be excited by the prospect of change at Portman Road.
The former full-back has previously worked under Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer at Phoenix Rising, between 2015 and 2017, having been convinced to drop down into the US second tier following a 15-year run coaching in MLS.
Having potentially played a small role, Yallop couldn’t be more excited now the Gamechanger group have completed their £40million purchase from former owner Marcus Evans.
“I’m really, really happy,” Yallop said.
“I met Brett four or five years ago when we talked about me going to Phoenix. He built up that ownership group and got Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer involved and they are all wonderful guys.
“They’re forward-thinking, experienced and I feel really good about what they’re going to do now in Ipswich.
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“Brett did joke to me ‘I’m going to blame you’ after it all went through. We did talk over a dinner a few years ago about clubs in England who would be good to buy. I said ‘buy my old club, Ipswich’. There were some other clubs I could have thrown in there but didn’t because I wanted them to go for Ipswich.
“I love the club and spent so many great years there and have great memories and still great friends, so it’s close to my heart.
“I’m glad it’s all happened because they want to get the club back to where it should be and build from there. Championship first and then go for that Premier League spot.
“They are very committed to this. They have asked me about the fanbase and what it could be like if they got the club going and I told them they couldn’t be in a better club as long as everything is done right and correctly.
“Brighter things are hopefully going to happen in the future.”
While this is their first foray into a major European football country, the Gamechanger group do arrive with a good pedigree in the USL Championship and have appointed two experienced executives in the form of chairman Mike O’Leary and incoming CEO Mark Ashton.
With Town languishing in the English third division, it’s clear the new ownership group, largely funded through investment company ORG and an Arizona-based pension fund, have work to do not only on the pitch, but off it as well.
“They wanted to be the best club in the USL Championship and they’ve done that in just three or four years,” Yallop said of Johnson, Bakay and Detmer’s work in the United States.
“The crowds aren’t as big as in England, obviously, but they filled out a 6,500 seater-stadium right away and are now moving to a 10,000 one, so they’re very forward thinking.
“I was allowed to sign players on a good budget to ensure we were successful. I signed Shaun Wright-Phillips, a big name, and Jordan Stewart and, just as I left, the club signed Didier Drogba which is obviously a huge name to sign.
“They’re not afraid of things like that. I don’t know what the funds will be like at Ipswich but they’re not afraid to go for it and make sure the manager has the tools to succeed.
“They’re definitely the top team in the Western Conference, not only on the field but off it as well.
“Clubs here start out as a community club and they do a great job of that, making sure the club is integrated well. Myself as manager and all of our players are available all of the time and that really builds up a trust with the fanbase.
“When fans come to the stadium they are well taken care of and we do the best we can to win.
“I keep coming back to the phrase ‘forward-thinking’ and I really think they are because they want the best for the fans. That’s the most important thing because that filters down to new fans, too.
“Ipswich have been beaten down a little bit and it feels like this could be the perfect time.”
While their business backgrounds and achievement in sports speak for themselves, Yallop believes Town will be run by good people who will likely take a hands-on approach to running the club despite being thousands of miles away.
“Berke was the chairman and Brett was the frontman/promotional person who speaks a lot about the club,” Yallop said.
“He’s a very smart man. All three of them are very clever businessmen and are soccer nuts or football crazy.
“Brett has educated me on things within the game and is right on top of everything. He’s smart, clever and honest and that’s what you want. When they say they will do it they do it, or at least try to. He’s a fun guy to talk to and a solid guy.
“He’s very good at putting groups together and getting everyone on the same page. You have to get people together and he’s an expert at that.
“Berke brings leadership and a very strong character. Brett brought him to the Phoenix Rising group and he’s a very solid, driven, family man. He loves Galatasaray.
“He wanted to get into football in Europe and I’m so glad he’s doing that at Ipswich. Fans will really enjoy him.
“Mark is a quality person. I don’t know him as well as the two others but my dealings with him and working with him have been fantastic. They’re all on the same page and are really excited about this, which is what I love to hear.
“They won't be distant. They may be over here (the States) a lot of the time but they will still be around the club and making sure things are right and running well.
“I know they will be hands on with this club and that’s great. We need that. We’re in great hands now – these guys will make it work but it’s just about how long it takes.
“They have big dreams and aren’t just going to sit on their hands having bought the club.”
Yallop is watching from afar as Town’s new era begins, living in Northern California and overseeing the launch of Monterey Bay FC as sporting director of a club which is due to begin play in the US second division in 2022.
But it’s clear the town of Ipswich and its football club still holds a special place in his heart, with the Watford-born former Canadian international already excited for his next visit to Portman Road.
“I haven’t been back for a while but I will be now,” he said, smiling.
“My wife is from Ipswich so we normally look to come back every couple of years. I can’t wait to come back and hopefully I can come with the guys and show them around a little bit.
“We all want the best for Ipswich Town and there are a lot of people in the town, including plenty of former players, who want success.
“Once they see the stadium they will absolutely love it. Hopefully I can come over with them and help spread the word.
“They’re coming in to make a change, they’re not buying it for show and they want to get promoted.
“That’s the plan.”