Town supremo reveals his five-point plan

EVEN with a new chairman in Marcus Evans, a new manager in Roy Keane and a new chief executive in Simon Clegg the one thing that has not changed is Ipswich Town's overriding objective - promotion.

Derek Davis

EVEN with a new chairman in Marcus Evans, a new manager in Roy Keane and a new chief executive in Simon Clegg the one thing that has not changed is Ipswich Town's overriding objective - promotion.

It is no surprise then that it is top of the list when Clegg outlined the strategy which, it has to be said, bears an uncanny resemblance to David Sheepshanks' five-year plan from 14 years ago.

But after seven years in the doldrums the Blues need a fresh start and after coming to Portman Road on a bit of a spying mission months before being appointed Clegg believes the infrastructure is in place it just needs building upon.

Clegg revealed why and how he devised his own five-point vision.

He said: “Even before I came to the football club officially I visited a couple of time without people knowing and I thought about what the key issues for the club were.

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“I came up with a five-point plan, which I have not shared with anyone before because I wanted a four or five weeks to be here to see what had been done before and to see if what I wrote on paper would in theory hold water after I arrived. Quite frankly I feel it does and senior people at the club have bought into it.”

The five-point plan is:

1. Achieve promotion at the earliest opportunity.

Obvious maybe but as a former chief executive of the British Olympic Association, and with a manager in Keane who has done it before with Sunderland, Clegg believes they can find the right formula without rushing.

He said: “I have purposely not put a time frame on getting promoted. It is about putting in place the building blocks that will take us into the Premiership and then retain our position in the Premiership thereafter.

“What I have seen over the past five week is that a lot of the building blocks are already in place and it is more a question of actually building on the work of our predecessors and take it to the next level. What we have is an absolute alignment between Marcus, Roy and myself in terms of where we want to take this club.

“We can't be arrogant about this though as there are 23 other clubs in the Championship all of whom have the same aspirations and belief.

“We need to be smarter and work harder than the other clubs.”

It seems evolution not revolution is the key for Clegg who comes in after Evans had overseen a root and branch investigation into the club's workings which has already resulted in changes.

Clegg said: “There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this club that prohibits is from making that transition.

“We have a great stadium a good academy and a good team on and off the pitch so it is a case of building on that and going forward.

“The playing squad is sound and we will be attracting more people in during the summer but fundamentally everything is in place.”

2. Ensure that as a result of owner Marcus Evans' investment that Ipswich Town remains better off than many other clubs in the Championship but also continue to operate on a tight financial model.

After spending around �12m on transfer fees and wages, Evans is keen to make sure every pound he now spends is a pound well spent.

Clegg does not rule out more pruning of staff behind the scenes but is also keen to point out that he wants the club to be ready for sustained growth.

He said: “Marcus and his team came in and felt there was some fat and the club was still operating at Premiership levels of staff and infrastructure in some area even though we were back in the Championship and had not pared down as much as they thought we should have done to accommodate that relegation.

“Marcus has made it clear this is now my responsibility and it is up to me to build a team off the pitch to take us seamlessly back into the Premier League.

“As chief executive one of my key responsibilities is to ensure that we do operate in such a manner. We look to recruit and retain good staff and that means bringing in the best in class.

“We have a club structure that is fit for the Championship but prepared to step up to the Premiership.”

3.Maintain and enhance the link between club and community.

Clegg wants to make sure that the supporters, and the wider public, can once again feel part of the club after widespread criticism that they were being pushed away. Part of that will be to try and ensure the players are not seen as remote from the fans and the message from the club is spread further, and not just with the borough of Ipswich.

Clegg said: “It has been increasingly clear to me what an important role that the community plays in the football club and what an important role the football club plays in the community. It is a two-way relationship. I want us to be seen as a real proactive and partner to the local community.

“The work already done has been fantastic and that is in no small part down to the work done by people such as David Sheepshanks and others on the Community Trust

“Sometimes though it does need someone to come along and take a different look at it but fundamentally the blocks are already there.

“The issue is about community and I mean the wider geographical community around East Anglia where we need to look at the whole catchment area.”

The former Army major has moved up from Surrey and is enjoying a different pace of life.

He said: “It is quite invigorating to come to a place where people have time to come and chat even just walking up shaking my hand and saying good luck.”

4. Enhance the Ipswich Town brand.

After going to 12 Olympics with the British team Clegg has seen the potential world-wide if a club is marketed in the right way and is determined to cash in.

He said: “We are talking about taking the brand beyond the parameters of the local community.

“This is about us thinking big, thinking long-term and thinking Premiership and thinking about where we can pull spectators from outside the natural catchment area. That means not just domestically but internationally as well.

“It is something that has to be looked at. Wherever that will be.”

5. Make the academy pay dividends in terms of player development or transfer fees.

Although reasonably acclaimed the academy has not borne much fruit of late.

Connor Wickham is the latest but before that it was Owen Garvan now 21, whereas in the past the likes of Richard Naylor, Richard Wright, Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose Kieron Dyer and, Wigan player of the year this season, Tutus Bramble, benefited Town both in terms of playing contribution and bringing in much-needed cash.

Clegg said: “The Academy is important to us. Strategies change as circumstances change but from what I have seen we have a good academy. We have a good team up there running the academy and of course the good young footballer of today is our first team player of tomorrow.

“If we can do that with home grown talent then it is the right and proper thing for us to do that.

“The way the academy is measured is by the amount of conversions there get from academy to first team or on sales to other clubs.”

While the five points are all valid, Clegg recognises that there is another hugely important element to the club's future success - the supporters.

He added: “Underpinning those five pillars for our strategy are the fans.

“The fans are a priority and I see that they fit in with both the community and within the brand. One of the things I'm quite keen to do is to enhance the spectator experience.

“I'm sitting down with supporters groups to see how we can build on the experience and build on the atmosphere inside the stadium.

“I'm committed to the philosophy that the fans can be the 12th man on the pitch”

To sum it all up though Clegg stresses that everything done is done for a purpose and that is to make the team play better on the pitch and improve sufficiently to achieve point number one - promotion.

He added: “It is about adopting a world class performance environment by adopting the best practices within football and within sport.

“It is about creating a culture and ethos of excellence in everything we do.

“We are looking to treat players as individuals where they have both individual and collective responsibility while at the same time making sure we can do whatever we can to enable them to be able to fulfil their full potential both on the field and off the field.”

With and extra 2,700 season tickets sold since the arrival of Keane, and Clegg, it is clear Town fans are already buying into the new regime and more than 16,000 season ticket holders will be behind the team for the first home game in August and all will be hoping another version of the old five card trick will work once more.