'This isn't a job, it's a way of life' - Ashton reveals why he wanted Town challenge
- Credit: Ross Halls
New Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton admits it would have been easier for him to stay at Bristol City - but he wanted the challenge of rebuilding the Blues.
Ashton started officially in his new role on Tuesday, and, along with boss Paul Cook, will spearhead the drive to fire Town back up the league pyramid, backed by the club's new American owners.
The Blues' new figurehead took the decision to step down from the Championship, and his job with Bristol City, to make the move to Suffolk.
Asked why, he said: "I'm a builder, and if you look at where I've been in the past and what I've done, that's what I've done, I've built.
"The easier choice would have been to stay where I was, working for an amazing owner at Bristol City and with some amazing people, having just completed the training ground, and having a really good relationship with the new manager.
"But you get to the point where I'm 50 this year - my word that frightens me - and I just felt it was time for a new challenge.
"I think the people who have acquired this football club and invested in it are really special, and they want to do the right thing, and I just think sometimes in life, things line up - and this just felt right from the moment they contacted me.
"I love a challenge and I think we've got one, but I think this is a really special football club.
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"It's amazing how many people have contacted me who are Ipswich Town fans and have said 'oh my god I'm so pleased you're going there, you can do this, you can do that', and want to talk to me about the tradition, areas we can improve it, what we should do and shouldn't do.
"It's a club that seems very dear to the football industry's heart. I mean, just look at the former managers who have been here. It's incredible!
"I'm just honoured to hopefully play a part in hopefully taking this club back to where we believe it should be."
A key part of Ashton's decision was his relationship with Town's new owners - Three Lions Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer.
The trio are on record as saying that, having met Ashton in America years back, they wanted him to be the man to run their football club when they bought in England.
Ashton said: "I met them a number of years ago in the US, when I went out to present at the USL national conference.
"I was blown away by their can-do attitude. I've been in football for 30-plus years now, and sometimes we get stuck in this industry to say 'football only does this' or 'football does it that way' and we don't try new things.
"And the USL, and the Three Lions in particular, were so positive about trying news ways of ticket sales, developing stadiums, building squads, they were fantastic.
"We spent two or three days talking about English football and how football was developing in the US, and the relationship built from there.
"There was almost a meeting of minds, and I think we all probably felt at some point in our careers there may come an opportunity for us to work together. And here we are."
Asked how much he's in touch with the owners, he replied: "I speak to them regularly. Sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, and they've been fantastic.
"The Three Lions are football people, Ed Schwartz and Mark Steed (both from the pension fund which backed the takeover) are really top, top drawer people, who have committed serious finance to this football club to take it forward.
"They're also keen, and keep stressing to me, how important it is that I build this the right way. They want this club at the centre of the local community, they want the club to interact with the fanbase, interact with the stakeholders and be a club that the community and its fans can be proud of.
"They are keen to impress that on me. In every area of the club - Rome wasn't built in a day - but we intend to take every part of the club forward."
You get the impression that Ashton isn't a man who does things by halves, and he confirmed he and his family are already Suffolk-based as he prepares for the challenge ahead.
"We have a house in Ipswich, which is great," he explained. "I get up this morning and it's five minutes to the stadium, five minutes to the training ground.
"You've got to do that, you can't run football clubs remotely, I passionately believe that - you've got to be all in, totally committed, and it's long hours.
"This isn't a job, this is a way of life. Those who know me from my other clubs, know I haven't missed a second of a game, every game. You have to do that, you have to have that commitment.
"We'll get decisions right on the way, and we'll get decisions wrong - but the one thing I can promise the fans is that they'll get my total commitment, all my energy, and everything we've got, to try and move this club forward."
Indeed, during his hour or so with the media, it was clear Ashton was hugely impressed with Portman Road, and the rich history of the club he'll be running.
"Just look at it," he said, gesturing around the stadium. "A couple of weeks ago, myself and my family drove down one evening. It was a good three hour drive, and we drove to the back of the Cobbold Stand.
"There was literally a lump in our throats, just looking at the size of the stand, and the tradition, the font of the writing on the stand. My other half said to me 'Whatever you do, don't get rid of that of that font on that stand, that means something.'
"When you walk around the club, you see it, you feel it. I was 16 years at West Brom and I always thought that was a club which carried a huge tradition with it, but walking around this place this morning, my word.
"The memorabilia, the tradition, the history, the success that this football club's had - it's just too big an opportunity to turn down, to help be part of turning this around and taking it back to where we think it genuinely belongs."