Owner Evans takes the chair

MULTI-millionaire owner Marcus Evans has taken over as chairman at Ipswich Town from David Sheepshanks but as DEREK DAVIS explains, it comes as no great surprise.

Derek Davis

MULTI-millionaire owner Marcus Evans has taken over as chairman at Ipswich Town from David Sheepshanks but as EADT chief football writer DEREK DAVIS explains, it comes as no great surprise.

WITH far more dignity than we have seen with the Speaker of the House of Commons, Ipswich Town seamlessly changed chairman with David Sheepshanks gladly handing over the title to the man he brought in initially as club saviour.

Given that the main role changed a year ago when Sheepshanks was made non-executive chairman - basically a figurehead - it was no surprise to see the respected Suffolk businessman hand over the title to Evans, his work at Portman Road pretty much done.

It started with a five-year plan, which was accomplished, and even though Sheepshanks is no longer pulling the strings those original objectives remain the same.

Marcus Evans is 18 months into his five-year strategy and after a very thorough root and branch investigation into the workings of the club the changes he wants to implement are becoming very clear.

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New manager Roy Keane is high-profile and a proven winner, replacing Jim Magilton, who was seen by many as the cheap option when he was promoted from the dressing room by the old board, when they did not have the resources Evans has.

New chief executive Simon Clegg is an administrator so highly rated he has visited The Queen twice to be honoured for services to sport, replacing Derek Bowden.

Now that Sheepshanks has volunteered to step aside Evans has taken the position as chairman and let's face it, who else would be able to fill the role that for the best part of 14 years was filled energetically, and, for the most part, successfully, by one of the most recognised club bosses in Europe?

From a side in 1995 that had been relegated, had lost much of its standing in the community and was frankly out of touch with its public, under Sheepshanks Town became a club that reached the Premier League, got back into the UEFA Cup and won back the region.

For a couple of years at least they were the nation's favourite 'other' club and found a generation of new supporters and needed to increase the stadium capacity to 30,000.

Kids wore Town shirts instead of the traditional 'big' clubs, and the club was an integral part of the community.

Sheepshanks' vision was achieved.

A combination of factors, well documented and pointless to drag them up again, saw the club relegated and worse still fall into administration.

It would have been easy for Sheepshanks to fall on his sword, and indeed many people feel he should have done so, but out of a sense of honour and duty, maybe even out of sheer bloody-mindedness, or probably a combination of both, he stayed to steer the club back into safety.

He always said that when the club was back on an even keel and in safe hands he would step aside.

He took a small step a year ago and today makes the break complete.

That said Sheepshanks retains his connections and love for the club and by heading the 12.5 per centers as chairman of the PLC and Community Trust and staying on as a non-executive director of the main board, he keeps his place on both the boards of the FA and Football League and so can continue to help the Blues in the corridors of power.

New head honcho Evans has his own way of doing things and it is only right and proper that he takes on the mantle of chairman as well as owner.

There is little doubt that the day-to-day running that Sheepshanks did for so long, not just the public face but the behind-the-scenes organising, will now be done by Clegg.

This may add up to a less sentimental and more ruthless approach but if it achieves the objective just as Sheepshanks and Co. did in 2000, then Town fans will surely embrace evolution as enthusiastically as they did last time around.