Ashton on starting his 'proper job', owners' plans and a call for patience

Mark Ashton goes to the Town fans at Colchester United

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton has been keen to engage with supporters. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton sat down for an exclusive interview with the EADT and Ipswich Star last week. Having reflected on a hectic transfer window, he outlines what's next on his agenda.

Mark Ashton first day 9

Ipswich Town's new CEO, Mark Ashton - Credit: Ross Halls

Mark Ashton is well aware of the anxieties that have become deeply ingrained in the collective Ipswich Town psyche over a prolonged period.

He also knows, as previous manager Paul Lambert kept stressing, that once the proverbial oil tanker is turned around then it will become difficult to stop.

Once more, the long-suffering fanbase are being asked to show patience following a six-game winless start which has included fixtures against Morecambe, Newport, Burton, Cheltenham, MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon.

This time, however, following 19 summer signings, many with so much pedigree for this level, it's easier to buy into the message. 

“When we went 1-0 down to Morecambe, honestly my heart and stomach sank, because it was my worst fear - I just knew it would happen," said Ashton, looking back on the opening day 2-2 home draw.

Cole Stockton (9) celebrates scoring his and Morecambes second.

Cole Stockton (left) celebrates scoring one of his two goals for Morecambe on the opening day at Portman Road. - Credit: Steve Waller -

“When you are delivering change management, and this level of change management, it’s going to take time. 

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“The one ingredient we need to add is time and patience. Give it time and patience. 

“If you look at the majority of football clubs in the world who are really successful – and there’s a difference between having success and sustainable success – those who have sustainable success have a plan and they give it time. 

“We’ve got to give this time. 

“We’re all under no illusions that we’ve got the team up and running, and we’ve got to get wins on the board. But give it time. 

“As long as we keep everybody fit, over a period of time they will come together. We have a really good staff. As everything moulds and gels together, as it all becomes tighter, clearer and works in harmony, the reality is the results will come. We’ve just got to give it that bit of time."

Wes Burns makes it 2-0.

Wes Burns put Ipswich Town 2-0 up against AFC Wimbledon - but the match ended 2-2. - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

It's been nearly a fortnight since Town let a two-goal lead slip to draw against AFC Wimbledon at Portman Road, with last weekend's scheduled trip to Wycombe postponed due to the Chairboys having international call-ups.

The Blues return to action with the visit of Bolton on Saturday, a side who have lost just four of their last 31 matches, with September also including league games against Lincoln (a), Sheffield Wednesday (h) and Doncaster (h).

"Last weekend's call-off allowed us to have two weeks of fitness work with the players and get one or two up to speed," said Ashton. 

"I think it's just allowed us to breath after the transfer window. 

“I’ve delivered change management programmes before and you always go through this period. It’s difficult. 

Bersant Celina is back at Ipswich Town

Paul Cook has said Saturday's trip to Lincoln is the earliest Bersant Celina will be considered for selection. - Credit: ITFC

“I think what we’ve got to now is a tipping point. I think we’ve got to a big tipping point. There is a different mind-set of character that is coming into the organisation. That’s like a snowball. That will build and build and build. I think it will be the same on the pitch. It will get to a point where that snowball will be unstoppable. If you keep all that quality fit and you keep them organised and playing in the way Paul (Cook) wants the club will only go in one direction."

He added: "I feel like there’s such a positive vibe around the town, around the county and around the club. 

“Part of the challenge that myself, the players and all the team have got now is we’ve got to keep that energy going. We mustn’t let this drop. I know results haven’t been what we wanted thus far, but performances lead to results and the results will come. We’ve got too much talent for that not to happen. 

“But we’ve got to keep the energy up, we’ve got to get this place rocking and we’ve got to remove the anxiety from the stadium."

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Mark Ashton often joked that he'd go and lay down in a darkened room once the transfer window was shut.

Just a couple of days on from the deadline day additions of Bersant Celina and Sam Morsy, Town's chief executive was leaning forward in his chair insisting: "Now my proper job starts!"

He continued: "The business of running the business now starts.

“I’ll be honest with you, we’ve got some difficult discussions coming up in this football club. This football club has got to change. There is a reason why this football has not been successful for a decade. And part of that is down to behaviours.

"We had a team meeting with all of the senior staff from the departments for a couple of hours. 

“We will root and branch now. We look at commercial operations, infrastructure, academy, stadium, training ground. I’ve got letters from fans that I need respond to. There is so much to do. 

General view of Portman Road, home to Ipswich Town.

Mark Ashton is keen to make improvements to Portman Road. - Credit: PA

“The sequencing of what we do is key. We have to have a plan in place for that sequencing. 

“I’ll give you an example of that. A number of fans have written to me and said the PA system is not good enough. I totally agree, but the reality is the PA system is 20 years old. 

“Firstly, there are no parts we can go and purchase to fix the PA system. And if we were to completely change the PA system, we’d have to put huge cherry pickers on the pitch to get to the PA system. The cherry pickers would literally sink into the pitch and we wouldn’t have a pitch to play on. 

“So all of that has to be sequenced. There are hundreds of things. I walked the bars with Luke Werhun (chief operating officer) and Mike O’Leary (chairman) last week. On the concourse level we’ve got to address the service that the fans get. We’ve got to address the FanZone. Some of the seating in the stadium is just not good enough.  

“We’ve got the stadium clean and tidy, but we’ve got to progress in all areas now. 

“We need to settle down now, we need to get on with our work and there’s a lot of it to do."

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Ipswich Town's new co-owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer. Photo: Contributed

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer. - Credit: Contributed

There's a reason you heaven't heard from Ipswich Town's owners for a few weeks.

The US-based trio of Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer conducted a series of interviews following the club takeover back in April, but have been much quieter since the season started. 

“Now we’re now through the window they will certainly be talking directly to the fans again - we’ll make sure that’s all set up," said Ashton.

“It's just that during the transfer window it’s really important you have just once voice because things move so quickly."

The 'Three Lions' still haven't been to Ipswich in person yet, their planned trip for the season opener cancelled due to Covid-related travel restrictions.

“I can’t wait for them to come over," said Ashton.

"They’re asking questions daily about the squad, the stadium, the community and relationships. Be under no illusions, they are as excited as they were on day one! 

“They have been absolutely fantastic and I can’t thank them enough because they’ve given us the platform to deliver what we’ve delivered so far."

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