North Stander: Misery of Marcus era has gone, and the future looks bright

Ipswich Towns Chief Executive Officer Mark Ashton with manager Paul Cook ahead of the game against C

Terry Hunt says there's a lot to smile about at Ipswich Town now with Mark Ashton and Paul Cook at the helm - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

Terry Hunt, a journalist and Ipswich Town fan for more than 50 years, shares his thoughts on the season ahead after a summer of change at Portman Road.

Here we go again. A new season dawns, and there’s lots of excitement, optimism and expectation. But this time there’s a big and very important difference - we actually have something to base our hopes on!

The club’s new ownership has swept away the misery of the Marcus Evans era, and we stand on the brink of what many Ipswich fans are convinced will be a bright and successful new era for our football club.

I certainly feel that way. I’ve supported Town since 1968, and the last few years have really tested my loyalty. Terrible football, poor customer care, not feeling valued. It was a pretty toxic combination.

That’s all in the rear view mirror now, thank goodness. Our new mega-wealthy American owners have swept through the club, making the much-needed changes we had been crying out for.

Luke Chambers gives a hug to former team-mate Kane Vincent-Young after the 3-3 draw at Colchester Uni

Town icon Luke Chambers is one of a number of players who have left the club - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

First and foremost, they’ve shipped out underperforming players and brought in new recruits who certainly look like they will introduce significant extra quality.

The first team squad is much slimmed down now, but under the previous regime we were simply carrying far too many players. Fewer players means we can afford to pay higher wages - and that means more quality.

Of course, we all hope that the new-look team will hit the ground running, starting with victory over Morecambe at Portman Road on Saturday.

It promises to be a really memorable occasion, with most fans watching competitive action for the first time in 18 months. There’s talk of a crowd in the region of 20,000, so a white-hot atmosphere is guaranteed.

Ipswich Town's new co-owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer. Photo: Contributed

Terry's been impressed with the club's new American owners (L-R) Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer - Credit: Contributed

But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) we must be realistic. I’d love to agree with those predicting that we’ll storm the league, and finish with 100 goals and 100 points. Believe me, nothing would delight me more!

But we might need to show just a little bit of patience. When the team runs out of the tunnel on Saturday afternoon, how many will be new faces? The vast majority - and, however good they are, they will probably need time to gel together as a team.

It might take a dozen or even 15 games for that to happen. Call me gloomy if you want, but I’d rather think of myself as a realist. In my view, it might take until the darker, colder days of October before this new team starts firing on all cylinders.

When that happens, I really believe there will not be a side in League One capable of living with them. So, it will be exciting - but we might need to wait another couple of months to really see these players at their best.

Off the pitch, the new owners have said and done all the right things. They really want to understand what matters to the fans, and have been happy to participate in a series of media interviews and fans’ forums. They’ve also been as transparent as they are able to be.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans pictured before Town's 0-0 draw at AFC Wimbledon Photo: ROSS HALLS

Marcus Evans has sold the Blues after a miserable era of ownership - Credit: Archant

Thank goodness they are also comfortable with the club’s glorious past. I always got the impression that the previous regime felt references to the eras of Sir Alf and Sir Bobby were rather tiresome and added to their burden. Absolute nonsense!

The new hierarchy thinks rather differently - as the brilliantly inspiring mural stretching along the Cobbold Stand clearly demonstrates.

New chief executive Mark Ashton talks a lot of sense, and has moved his family to Ipswich. That’s so important. It means he will rub shoulders with Town fans when he’s out and about, and will get to understand what makes us tick.

Then there’s Ed Sheeran’s involvement as shirt sponsor. What a coup that is. One of the world’s biggest pop stars is a dedicated Town fan and is happy to show his support in a very public way. That’s a marriage made in heaven, and will bring huge worldwide profile for the club, I’m sure.

What a few months! New owners, new chairman, new chief executive, new team, new sponsor, and a tidal wave of renewed hope and optimism among long-suffering fans. A very wise man said to me during the dark days: “Yes, things are bad, but so many people still love the club.”

Fans back at Portman Road.

Some 20,000 fans are expected at Portman Road for the League One opener against Morecambe - Credit: Steve Waller - www.stephenwaller

He was absolutely right - and our new owners have come in and found ways to unlock that love and loyalty for Ipswich Town Football Club.

So, hold tight, we’re all set. Even an old stager like me is getting excited. I’m sure there will be a few potholes in the road, but I know better times lie ahead.

Come on you Blues!

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter