New chapter as Clegg moves in

A NEW chapter opened at Portman Road with the appointment of new Ipswich Town chief executive Simon Clegg and chief football writer DEREK DAVIS met the man who is looking to bring his golden touch to the Blues.

Derek Davis

A NEW chapter opened at Portman Road with the appointment of new Ipswich Town chief executive Simon Clegg and EADT chief football writer DEREK DAVIS met the man who is looking to bring his golden touch to the Blues.

AS sports administrators go Simon Clegg is Premier League.

You don't get an OBE and MBE for services to sport, in his role as British Olympic Association chief executive, for not being pretty decent at your job.

Meeting the man at his official unveiling as Ipswich Town's it is clear he is someone who means business and is used to achieving his goals.

With the bearing of a former army major, the physique even at 49 of an accomplished athlete, he only missed out of competing in the Winter Olympics due to operational requirements, Clegg oozes confidence and determination without being brusque or arrogant.

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Although clearly ambitious for Town, the first thing he dispenses with is the usual tub-thumping that in the past has only raised expectations and in turn underlined the failings.

He said: “I'm not going to sit here and make any promises or predictions about when we are going to get into the Premier League. But that is where we are aiming to be. I have spoken extensively with Marcus (Evans) about his ambitions and what he wants to achieve. We are of the same mind and I certainly would not want to be here if all he wanted to do is own a Championship team forever.

“What I'm here to do is help put in place all the building blocks that we need for us to get into the Premier League and maintain that status.”

No platitudes, no empty promises just straight talking even if he uses all the skill of a cross country skier to negotiate the trickier questions that are too early to be answered.

The future of Jim Magilton comes up, along with senior administration staff and chairman David Sheepshanks.

Clegg is polite but firm - he is not going there.

He tells me: “I'm not surprised you have asked me that but I have only been here a couple of hours and I'm not going to fuel any sort of speculation one way or another.

“We will all sit down at the end of the season and make plans going forward from there.

“With David, he is he as the non-executive chairman until at least the end of the season and that will be a discussion between him and Marcus Evans.”

The club has been accused of losing its direction over the past 18 months with an owner who prefers to stay in the background and questions have been asked about Magilton's culpability when he answers directly to Evans.

Clegg is someone who is used to a hierarchy with everyone knowing their place and their job within a team and it is clear he will be a voice that is heard on high.

But Clegg also knows his own strengths, and weaknesses, and although a follower of Chelsea, and a member of their fans' advisory panel, for the past few years does not profess to be a football guru.

“I see us working as a triangle, Marcus myself and the manager.

“I'm not a football expert. I don't have a background in football. But I come into it with a fresh set of eyes. The manager will continue to deal in all team matters, regarding training players and tactics.

“I will support and help in any way I can in providing whatever it is I can to make the team successful.

“I'm sure we all recognise, the fans, the staff and everyone, that the club exists for the team and what it does on the pitch.”

Clegg is also used to dealing with a cynical media, achieving your goals works wonders, and has no regrets about leaving the BOA after leading the British athletes to the most successful games in 100 years with 47 medals.

He said: “It was the right time for me to leave the BOA. I had set the targets for Great Britain to finish fourth in the medal table for 2012 and even though I was ridiculed in the national press we actually achieved that four years early in Beijing.

“That was the summit for me. I had achieved what we set out to do and so it was a good time for me to look at fresh challenges.”

And with a twinkle of the blue eyes Clegg even shows a line in self deprecation when I ask him about his rapid rise through the ranks from private to eventually making major.

He said: “You have to put that promotion into context. I only got to be major as no-one else in the regiment seeking the position passed the fitness test, whereas I had passed the parachute regiment course some years earlier.”

With that Clegg was off on another part of his initiation and whatever happens over the next few weeks in terms of other appointments it looks like exciting days ahead at Portman Road.

(N) Dean Bowditch, Connor Wickham and Jack Ainsley were on target as Town's reserves drew 3-3 at Peterborough United's London Road yesterday afternoon. The Blues were 3-1 down but clawed their way back to claim a draw.