Sheepshanks: My Blues journey

IN the beginning there was the famed five-year plan but David Sheepshanks today reveals the truth about that vision and how its inception formed the basis for success.

Derek Davis

IN the beginning there was the famed five-year plan but David Sheepshanks today reveals the truth about that vision and how its inception formed the basis for success.

Right on time Town achieved their plan and won promotion to the Premier League, not only that but finished fifth in the top flight in the first season and qualified for Europe.

It all started when the newly-selected fresh-faced chairman called a meeting of every single member of staff.

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He recalls: “It was in the Sir Alf Ramsey suite in the Cobbold Stand and I had a presentation.

“Everyone had to stand up and say three things they would do to improve the club.

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“Some were dying a thousand deaths doing it but they all stood up and it was out of that came the five-year plan.

“Although people say it was my plan and the headlines said it was my vision, it was actually everyone's.”

And so the journey began and one more vital element was added when Town recruited George Burley, in somewhat acrimonious circumstances, from Colchester United.

Sheepshanks said: “We wanted to rebuild the stadium, the academy, and the winning mentality.

“We invested disproportionately in youth and wore our ambition on our sleeves.

“We wanted to retain the Cobbold spirit and culture but at the same time add to it a new winning mentality.

“All those things were embraced by the people at the club, on and off the field.

“Most important to all this was George Burley. We developed a tremendous rapport and although we were very different we got on very well and so the journey began and it began with real strength because we had involved everyone in the goal setting.”

While things were getting sorted behind the scenes on the pitch agony was heaped upon frustration with play-off semi-final losses against Charlton, Sheffield United and Bolton.

Sheepshanks said: “We were perennial bridesmaids for a while but that just made it all the sweeter when we did win at Wembley and went up.

“I can still feel the sense of disappointment when we lost out to Sheffield United on goal difference which encouraged me to lead for a change in the play-offs.

“Then we lost to Bolton when Kieron Dyer played the game of his life but we didn't make it and those nights were very hard to take. But there was a sense that we were on a journey and while it may sound clich�d I encouraged everyone to embrace the continued improvement ethos and we really did believe.

“We were climbing our own Everest and every time we fell down or stumbled we just came back and climbed harder.

“Everyone, the fans the staff everyone at the club bought into it and we just kept going.

“It was not easy and when we didn't make it we had to sell players to balance the books and we lost the likes of Claus Thomsen, Tony Vaughan and Mauricio Taricco.”

It wasn't until May 2000 that the club finally achieved their goal and after a pulsating two-legged semi-final win over Bolton Wanderers Town got to Wembley and won promotion.

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