Simon Clegg believes Ipswich Town have progressed under Paul Jewell

SIMON Clegg has insisted that Ipswich Town have improved in the last 12 months – despite Paul Jewell overseeing the worst run of league results for more than 15 years.

The chief executive made a defiant defence of his under-fire manager – proclaiming that there was no “panic stations” at Portman Road – during last night’s annual meeting of the club’s shareholders.

Coming against the backdrop of seven straight defeats which have plunged the Blues into the bottom four of the Championship, Clegg refused to speculate on when he and owner Marcus Evans might be forced into a decision on Jewell’s future.

Instead he said: “I am very adamant things have improved over the last 12 months. You only need to go up to Playford Road (training ground) to feel the complete change of atmosphere.

“We have a much closer, more cohesive group of individuals working together and that can only be good for what happens on the pitch.

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“I am not shying away from the results, we are where we are and that is an uncomfortable position.

“But there was no question about Saturday (the 2-1 defeat by Watford). Those players were passionate, very unlucky and playing for this club and the manager.

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“This is a long-term project, putting in the building blocks that will take us up. We need to turn things round but I am confident we will do.”

Despite the side being on the cusp of the bottom three – only goal difference keeping them out of the drop-zone – Clegg insisted he was not even contemplating League One football next season.

With Paul Jewell missing the annual meeting for what Clegg described as an “important family commitment”, assistant boss Chris Hutchings stepped in to field questions from shareholders concerned about the team’s plight and also the lack of young players emerging through the ranks.

Jewell’s No. 2 said youngsters had to take their opportunity and used Josh Carson as an example.

And he pointed to Byron Lawrence and Joe Whight, both of whom should start for Ipswich Under-18s tonight in the FA Youth Cup against Leeds, as examples of youngsters breaking through.

And Clegg added: “Every single person in this room would love to see a starting 11 come through the Academy.

“We will continue to invest and prioritise the Academy accordingly and we will continue to select players when it is right and when they are ready to move into the first team.”

When asked about the form of Michael Chopra following his public admission of his gambling addiction, Hutchings told the audience that the issues would not be resolved overnight and praised the striker’s attitude in training.

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