Town are 'a Premier club in waiting'

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore was making the first of his two visits to Ipswich Town this week when he met local business people, and football writer Derek Davis went along to find out why he doesn't always agree with David Sheepshanks.

By Derek Davis

Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore was making the first of his two visits to Ipswich Town this week when he met local business people, and football writer Derek Davis went along to find out why he doesn't always agree with David Sheepshanks.

RICHARD Scudamore and David Sheepshanks go back a long way.

They first met when both were on the Football League board - Sheepshanks was chairman and Scudamore was the chief exec, before landing the same role at the Premiership.

As closely as they have worked together, there are many issues where they don't agree and bringing in a home-grown quota, which Sheepshanks advocates, is one of the points where they clash.

Scudamore explained why he doesn't see the point and also insists that England has enough great players to be able to produce a decent national team.

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Scudamore said: “Cesc Fabregas is home-grown, whereas Owen Hargreaves isn't, so where does that get you when you are thinking about your national team?

“Then is it of interest to have talent from the local vicinity - but does it help? Of course local heroes are much better for clubs than non-local heroes but that doesn't mean to say the non-locals are not still heroes.

“We know that Steven Gerrard and Jaime Carragher mean more to Liverpool supporters than any other player who pulls on a Liverpool shirt. But then go back to Gianfranco Zola and he is more revered by Chelsea supporters than Alan Hudson for example - so that is an odd debate.”

Scudamore praised the Ipswich Town Academy and held it up as an example for other clubs to follow but feels there needs to be a greater involvement at all levels and not just from football bodies.

He said: “When we have a better attitude towards sports investment at grassroots and we keep on investing in coaching and talent and Academies, which Ipswich do very well, then that is when we make sure that local talent is captured.

“Only then will we see the reversal in the trend towards investing in foreign talent.”

Scudamore dismisses the theory that too many foreign players flooding into English football is hampering the national team and suggests it is more down to the manager.

He said: “I'm an England fan and I know that we have the 300 best English footballers playing in our league and 300 should be enough to produce a team.

“We have some of the best players in the world but when you get them together in a match day situation they can't seem to win.”

The Bristol City fan returns to Portman Road tomorrow when his team try to end Ipswich Town's remarkable run of 10 successive wins, the best sequence for 26 years. He admits his rivalry with Sheepshanks adds spice to the encounter.

Scudamore said: “Winning is always a delight and when it is against your friends and rivals then it is all the more sweet.”

After eight years as cheif executive at the Premier League, Scudamore points out that he enjoys a healthy dialogue with Sheepshanks and tries to get along with all 92 football club chairmen, although he understands they will all have their own points of view.

He said: “It is a professional relationship with David. He was at the Football League and we have always kept a dialogue going

“I have good relations with a lot of Football League clubs who are clearly in our world but not necessarily members at the moment.

“When you are aspiring to get somewhere people see the gaps and the financial disparity as some level of unfairness. When you are already there then our 20 clubs don't look downwards but look at the internal gaps in the Premier League. They see the Champions' League club income versus the non-Champions League so they are looking upwards rather than down.

“If you are a Championship club I understand it. There are 92 professional football club opinions and it depends on where you are on that ladder what that opinion is.

“I have 20 opinions in my league and the name behind that opinion may change but they are of the same opinion depending on where the club is.

“I'm not sure the Championship are sitting around wondering how much money to give Leagues One and Two so it is the same phenomena.

“Football is a competitive world and everyone is on the ladder and as we know in a game of ladders there are also snakes.”

Not, of course, that he was referring to the Town chairman!

Indeed he spoke warmly about Ipswich and regards them as a Premiership club waiting to return.

He said: “There have been 40 teams who have played in the Premier League. 20 are in it now, and 20 are not. Ipswich Town are one of those seven or eight clubs that have the history, tradition and fabric to be a Premier League team.

“I know they have been through some dark days but David and the board have worked hard to bring them to the stage where they are now and we would welcome them back into the Premier League.”

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