North Stander: Ten years of stagnation under Evans – but now there’s a chance to really challenge
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Marcus Evans has now been the owner of Ipswich Town Football Club for ten years. Lifelong fan TERRY HUNT assesses the first decade of the Evans era.
In 2007-08, the season when mega-wealthy businessman Marcus Evans bought Ipswich Town, the team finished eighth in the Championship.
Fast forward through the first ten years of the Evans era to the present day, and take a look at the league table. Lo and behold, you will find Town in exactly the same league position – eighth in the Championship.
So, we’ve spent the last ten years going nowhere. Our league placings over that time sum it up, in a frustrating kind of way. Eighth, ninth, 15th, 13th, 15th, 14th, ninth, sixth, seventh, 16th.
How would I describe the Evans years so far? Several words spring to mind. Frustrating, mediocre, underwhelming and mystifying are among them.
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The first three are self-explanatory, so let’s focus on mystifying. Marcus Evans bought Ipswich Town with the ambition which every supporter shares – to see the club back in the Premier League.
He gave managers Roy Keane and Paul Jewell money to bring in the players they believed would achieve that goal. But both failed, and paid the price with their jobs.
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Then it all changed. Five years ago, Evans appointed Mick McCarthy as manager, with his first task to save the club from a disastrous drop to the third tier. To his credit, he succeeded in that.
But since then, McCarthy has had to deal in football’s bargain basement. The level of investment from the owner has reduced, and the result is a kind of standstill. Stagnation, if you like.
To be fair, with the arrival of some decent attacking players in the summer, this season is a whole lot better than the absolutely awful 2016-17 campaign.
But, without the level of funds to give the team a fighting chance of going up, McCarthy is expected to work miracles, to somehow turn his cut-price squad into a force to be reckoned with.
Well, that might happen, I suppose, but the odds are massively against it. Alf Ramsey did it when his team of cast-offs famously took the football world by storm in the early 1960s. But the sport has changed beyond recognition since then. Money speaks so much louder now.
Of course, in fairness, Evans is actually investing a whole lot of money in the club. The £30 million debt he inherited ten years ago has now grown to nearly £90 million. That’s an average of £6 million a year. Big money - but not enough to buy the club a realistic chance of making it to the land of milk and honey.
So, the mystifying thing for me (we’re finally back to that word) is this. Unless something extraordinary happens, Evans will have to pay out several millions every year just to keep the club where it is currently.
For an obviously astute businessman, that must be a mightily frustrating situation. So why doesn’t he take the risk and spend more? There’s an opportunity looming in just a couple of weeks – the January transfer window.
With a decent level of spending in January, the current team could be transformed from the edge of the play-offs to strong top six contenders.
Even if the play-offs ended in disappointment, we would have a great platform to strengthen further for next season. Plus we would have momentum.
We have seen how the combined £1 million fee for Martin Waghorn and Joe Garner from Glasgow Rangers has transformed the team as an attacking force.
Just a couple more quality signings in January could really do the trick.
The alternative, sadly, would be an almost inevitable continuation of the frustration we’ve all felt over the last decade.