Simon Milton tells Kieron Dyer about his friendship with former Ipswich Town manager Paul Jewell and his struggles with Roy Keane
- Credit: Stephen Waller
Part two of former Ipswich Town star Kieron Dyer’s interview with Simon Milton, where the duo discuss past and present managers of the club and changes in the dressing room atmosphere.
KD When I came into the first team at Ipswich Town, there was a bit of an old school era and some players made life hell for kids at times.
You were a senior pro who I now class as one of my best friends and you were great with the youngsters.
It was weird at the time, two 17-year-olds like me and Richard Wright used to come out with you socially on occasions.
SM I think that’s all to do with your character. The type of person you are. I didn’t want to be a coach or manager, I like getting on with people and I suppose that’s why I have gone into working with commercial clients, who you work with and stay with.
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When you are a manager, people don’t know you, they don’t know how hard you work.
Yet they question you all the time. I saw it back then and see it happen with managers now.
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I decided I didn’t want to go that way.
I’ve always enjoyed building relationships, including with young players.
I’m not into bullying people. I like to help and advise people, that way you can walk around the training ground after a win or a defeat and you know what to say to people because you know how they feel.
I enjoyed training and helping the youth team after I finished playing.
It was good cammaradarie to find out how the kids were getting on. I liked that.If you remember, Bryan Klug and I went to Wembley to watch your England debut, you invited us.
We weren’t just team-mates, but friends, and that is what building relationships is all about.
KD Who was the best Ipswich Town manager you ever played under, and why?
SM John Lyall was the best for me, no doubt whatsoever.
George Burley was also very good. I didn’t play under Bobby Ferguson. You want respect, John Lyall had it.
He was a brilliant talker, brilliant man manager and a very good coach.
He got the best out of his team, had an unbelievable upbringing at West Ham under Ron Greenwood. He also came to Ipswich just at the right time, no-one could believe he got the sack at West Ham. We were so lucky to get him at Portman Road.
John didn’t just improve your individual skills but the team shape, like getting balls wide and forward – getting crosses in.
If the ball was wide left and a cross came in and I wasn’t in the box on the right, he would want to know why.
For me, John had everything and it was a privilege for me to play under him.
KD Has coaching ever appealed to you Simon?
SM I have done my coaching badges. The big thought change for me about coaching was in 1996 when I was Supporters’ Player of the Year and the next season when I had my testimonial.
In my testimonial year I ended up having two golf days, two dinners, a testimonial game and I loved helping to organise it. Mike Noye was the sales manager at Ipswich Town then and we talked about what to do.
He helped me a lot and I remember him saying; “this is you Simon.”
In fact the club didn’t actually have a golf day until the year after my testimonial.
When I think of influences on my career, you can talk about managers and coaches like Bobby Ferguson and Charlie Woods.
John Duncan gave me my first contract, John Lyall, George Burley were all good managers.
But off the field, David Sheepshanks was influential and people like Mike Noye and Derek Bowden, were people who gave me plenty of good advice.
I now work with Rosie Richardson at Portman Road and we are always thinking what to do next. What will fans like? Joining the commercial side was a good match for me and the club I feel.
KD You should have been an agent, Simon.
SM Yes, I’ve been told that a few times. I should have set up my own agency the day I retired.
I’d have got you on board as my first signing!
But to be honest, I didn’t ever think of myself away from Portman Road.
People talk about doing other things but I can’t see myself away from Ipswich.
I enjoy representing the club in all the work I do.
I say to our youth players, once you’ve signed, look at that badge you are wearing and remember you are representing the club – don’t forget it.
KD You have talked about managers you enjoyed playing for. What about managers you have known and been around since you have been in your other roles at the club?
SM I was very good friends and was close to Jim Magilton. I remember saying when we gave him his presents at the end of the season that he retired as a player, that if he ever came back as manager, he would need to keep his cool a bit more.
When he was then named Town boss, I said to him again, “Jim, there are going to be times when you have got to count to 10. You do know that?”
He just looked at me and said; “I’ll try five!”
I was big mates with Jim and I think, given time, he could have been very successful at Ipswich. And then I loved Joe Royle. I thought he was a wonderful Town manager.
I never played under him and Willie Donachie, but they were a great team.
If we were coaching, Joe would drive over in our golf buggy and join him.
On match days, he was a brilliant man manager and a real gentlemen. Just a overall great guy.
Paul Jewell was also a good mate.
I still speak to him and he wanted me to move into the football side of things and take on a football operations role at Ipswich.
It was more to do with organising, everything, the team kit, hotel, pre-season, all that sort of thing.
Paul thought that if I was in charge of it, then it would work well.
The problem with that sort of thing is that it doesn’t bring money into the club, so the club were a bit loathe to move me.
I didn’t have any type of relationship with Roy Keane, quite frankly. I just didn’t.
I tried to get on with everyone, but there was no chance of building a relationship with him.
He kept himself to himself, he didn’t need any help at any time.
KD I must admit when Joe Royle was the manager at Ipswich Town, I would come to the club and meet players, same with Paul Jewell and now with Mick McCarthy, but when Roy was here, I literally wouldn’t dare show my face. I just think Roy went in to Ipswich but didn’t want people to feel comfortable. Do you think he wanted to change the way Ipswich did things?
SM That’s a tough one to get to the bottom of, how Roy wanted things, Kieron to be honest.
At the end of the day, he’s the manager. If that’s his way, that’s his way. If Town were top and successful, people would have been raving about him.
When Mick and Terry Connor came I didn’t know them both that well but knew them a bit because I had a few conversations with Mick the year before when he was at Wolves and I was at the Ipswich academy.
I helped them both find apartments in the town and I can’t speak highly enough of what they have both been like, on and off the field.
If we have got a golf day they are invariably both there, at auctions Mick is there, corporate events he goes round talking to everyone. He’s a dream for us as a commercial team. A real gentleman.
KD As a player it’s hard to be friends with the manager. If the manager gets sacked, as a player, you just have to get on with it don’t you? You have been at Portman Road for many years now, so which manager leaving the club has hit you hardest?
SM When Paul Jewell left, it was horrible to be here when it was happening. I’ll never forget it. I remember we had Sheffield Wednesday at home and we had just lost to Derby. He thought the team would have more chance of winning if he wasn’t in the dug-out because the crowd had turned on him.
So there was no Paul in the dug-out and we still got battered. It made no difference. I like Paul. But players get you promoted and can also get you the sack. Simple as that for a manager.
KD You recently won the PFA Football For Good award for outstanding work as a role model off the pitch, beating among others Alan Shearer and Jamie Carragher. That must have been a good night?
SM It was brilliant to be recognised and unbelievable to win. I’m very proud of the Cycle Challenge and to raise over £100,000, you can’t put that into words. It’s getting bigger every year with so many players getting involved. Not that we will ever get you to do it – I’ve seen you on a bike!