Marcus Evans outlines his plans for Ipswich Town’s future
IPSWICH Town’s mysterious owner Marcus Evans has spoken out about his plans for the club following a run of poor results. See below for the full interview that appeared in yesterday’s Official Matchday Programme.
– First of all Marcus, have you a message for the Town fans?
Yes, I’d like to say thank you to all our fans for their continued support throughout this season. I fully appreciate the harsh economic climate in which we currently live and the impact this has for many people on their decision to continue supporting Ipswich Town through the purchase of season or matchday tickets. The fans’ continued support is hugely appreciated, especially as results have not gone as we would have hoped for this season. I can assure you that everybody at the Club is fully committed to developing an entertaining and winning formula that our fans can be proud of.
– You mentioned the results have not gone as everyone would have hoped for so far. What are your reflections on the first half of the season?
As we stand at the moment, we’re obviously in a disappointing position. There have been some highs but too many lows, as there seems to have been since I have been involved with the Club. We had that good run of games when we were unbeaten in six matches and I can remember us going into the home match against Crystal Palace where a 1-0 win would have seen us move into the top two in the Championship. We lost that game 1-0 instead and that awful run of seven successive defeats followed. It looked like number eight at Barnsley until the incredible turnaround at Oakwell gave us a glimpse of our early season form and what the team is capable of.
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– What lessons have you learnt from the first half of this season?
It’s clear to me that creating a quick fix within any football club is extremely hard to achieve however deep the owner’s pockets might be! The Championship this year is littered with clubs that would be regarded as underperformers, where high profile managers and significant investment levels have not resulted in performances on the pitch or in league positions that would have been expected.
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We have done our best to put together a team this year that can challenge for promotion and while at the moment our focus is on moving away from the relegation zone, there is a huge commitment from the players and coaching staff to turn things around. I still expect the group to perform well over the rest of the season. That said, it is clear to me that producing a team that will consistently push for promotion and eventually join the Premier League, is about a long-term development programme.
– What does that long-term development programme consist of?
Getting the right players in at the right price (if we can’t produce them within our own Academy) that can take this Club to where we all want Ipswich Town to be. The coaching staff are focused on identifying young players that will take the Club forwards in the seasons ahead. That remains a priority, although it can be easier said than done. Paul and his coaching and scouting staff are constantly looking at players and travel around this country and abroad in the search for new talent. Talent like Aaron Cresswell, who has done so well for us since joining from Tranmere last summer.
We are looking to further develop our scouting network. We have done that already this season with new additions to the staff and we will continue to look to improve that area, as we do with every area of the Football Club. I’m in regular contact with Paul, we talk after virtually every game and he’s told me that he’s made mistakes this season in terms of the balance of the squad and the number of older players we have here. Mistakes are part and parcel of life. It’s how we go about rectifying them and moving forward that counts.
– How does your relationship with the manager work and do you believe that Paul Jewell is still the man to take Ipswich Town forward?
I have a good relationship with Paul. We meet regularly and talk even more frequently. He’s a good man and a good manager and has proved that with what he has achieved in the game. Paul will be the first to admit that results have not gone as we would have hoped for but no one is working harder to get us going in the right direction.
I have seen how much it hurts him when we lose a game. It hurts me, it hurts Simon [Clegg], it hurts the supporters, it hurts the players but it doesn’t hurt anyone more than it hurts the manager. Of course we would love to be pushing for promotion this season and there are still 21 games to play and 63 points to play for but as I said earlier there is no quick fix in football.
I have spoken to Paul about my plans here, to build a team that can reach and then compete at the highest level. To achieve that we need stability and so long as our manager and coaching team demonstrate the knowledge and clear ability to take us forward, I see little point in restarting the project every season by switching managers. The reasons I appointed Paul are just as strong today as they were a year ago and I believe given time and with my continued support he will return the good times to Ipswich Town Football Club.
– You have invested heavily in the squad since you first walked through the door at Portman Road four years ago. Will that continue?
Yes. We are in the middle of another transfer window and as in every window, we will look at opportunities to improve the squad. That will continue to be our strategy. As and when the manager has a player who he believes fits the profile and that he wishes to be part of the team that he is looking to develop, I will always look to support him in bringing that player to the Club. That has always been the case and will remain so.
– The Academy at Ipswich Town is highly regarded in the football world but with a new tier system set to be introduced, what are your plans for the youth development at the Club?
The Club is spending more money on the Academy than at any time in its recent history and certainly more than before I arrived here. This spend will continue. The manager and Academy team have a clear brief to develop first-team players and this tradition will continue. The current rules regarding Category One and Category Two are unclear, however if it’s financially viable we will apply for category one status.
Many figures are being bandied around, however until the Club can ascertain the exact cost, I can’t say whether we will invest in Category One or Two. We will look at all the facts and when we are in a position to make an informed decision as to what is the best way forward for us at Academy level, we will make our supporters aware of the decision and the reasons why we have come to that conclusion.
– There are also new guidelines being drawn up regarding financial `fair play’. How will that impact on you and the future of Ipswich Town?
It’s difficult to say at the moment because like the Academy category system, there are many areas that we are awaiting clarification on. The one thing I can confirm though is that I will continue to invest in Ipswich Town.
– So the disappointments of recent times have not affected your desire to take Ipswich Town into the Premier League?
Absolutely not. I am as determined as I was when I first became involved with the Club, in fact even more so, to see Ipswich Town playing Premier League football. I said when I first became a `Blue’ that I was in this for the long term and nothing has changed.
– How does running a football club compare to running your other businesses?
I don’t go around punching the air in my normal day-to-day job! Or hold my head in my hands, well, not that regularly anyway! It’s a game of emotions, of highs and lows, and we’ve had plenty of them this season. It grips you though. For 90 minutes on a Saturday afternoon, it’s all that I’m focussed on.
Although I’m the owner, I have two very able people running the Club. Paul takes care of the football while Simon oversees the off-field side and I have every confidence in both of them. They are good, knowledgeable people, doing their best, working their hardest to take this Club forward.
– Finally Marcus, will you continue to stay in the background at Portman Road?
If you mean doing interviews and the like, yes. I might not be based at the Club but I’m in regular contact with Simon and Paul and I’m very much involved in the decision-making in all aspects of the Club. It doesn’t mean I am any less determined to make this club a successful one. I am and I’m convinced we will be.