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What’s the mystery man like? Pretty normal actually - the story behind meeting Marcus

PUBLISHED: 17:15 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:18 04 February 2019

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans speaks to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MACLEOD

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans speaks to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MACLEOD

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Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans finally gave his first face-to-face, on-the-record interview with an independent media organisation last week. Chief football writer STUART WATSON outlines what it was like meeting Marcus.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans watches the 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday with general manager football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: STEVE WALLERIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans watches the 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday with general manager football operations Lee O'Neill. Photo: STEVE WALLER

Marcus Evans barely paused for breath during an uninterrupted 10 minute answer that comprised of more than 1,200 words on subjects ranging from scouting, to sports science to the academy.

The Ipswich Town owner clearly had things he wanted to say.

I didn’t interject because it was all interesting stuff. At the drier end of the spectrum, granted, but interesting nonetheless.

The problem was that it threw the game plan out the window.

MORE: READ THE FULL TRANSCRIPT OF MARCUS EVANS’ BIG INTERVIEW

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans talking to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MCLEODIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans talking to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MCLEOD

We had started 15 minutes behind schedule, a 10 minute off-the-record chat had followed and now I was left looking at the clock.

There were no pre-determined time constraints put on the interview, but I also knew it wasn’t going to last forever.

A big red line was mentally put through some of the softer, warm-up questions that were planned. We had to get down to business.

The truth is I was nervous as hell. This was a big deal for me. It was an interview that had finally been granted after years of careful diplomacy and groundwork.

I knew the execution of it wasn’t going to please everyone, but I wanted to try damn hard to make sure that I left as little room for criticism as possible.

Don’t. Mess. This. Up.

MORE: Marcus Evans big interview: There have been offers to buy Town, but I’m glad I didn’t sell

That horrible nervous adrenaline didn’t subside afterwards. I’m my own worst self-critic. ‘Should there have been a follow-up question there?’, ‘I didn’t ask about X’, ‘did that question come across as intended?’

Once I’d listened back and transcribed the 7,000+ words I felt better. Within the 50-odd minute chat, I felt we covered a broad range of topics on past, present and future.

Were there any major revelations? No. But in truth I wasn’t expecting that. As he says, he has outlined a fair bit through various club interviews in the past.

It's understood manager Paul Lambert has put pressure on owner Marcus Evans to be more visible. It would have been nice to hear Evans' take on that. Photo: Steve WallerIt's understood manager Paul Lambert has put pressure on owner Marcus Evans to be more visible. It would have been nice to hear Evans' take on that. Photo: Steve Waller

MORE: ‘You can’t lay the blame at Marcus Evans’ door’ – Lambert responds to criticism of owner

The difference this time was that it was natural, more human. It’s easier to empathise with someone who is not simply a caricature.

Do we want an owner who talks too much, changes traditional shirt colours, doesn’t let their manager manage and treats the club as a play thing? No thanks. There are enough examples of them around.

But was it also too much to want to hear from the man at the very top in times of trouble? I don’t think so. That costs nothing. And thankfully Marcus recognised that.

I did outline, in very generic terms, what I planned to talk about in a phone conversation with press officer Steve Pearce beforehand – but none of those subjects will have come as a surprise.

Marcus Evans said Ipswich Town can do little to stand in the way of players who want to move to the Premier League - but the Blues did sell Martyn Waghorn to Championship rivals Derby. Photo: PAMarcus Evans said Ipswich Town can do little to stand in the way of players who want to move to the Premier League - but the Blues did sell Martyn Waghorn to Championship rivals Derby. Photo: PA

MORE: Marcus Evans big interview: What relegation would mean to Town

The only thing off-topic was the Brazil arrest warrant issued following allegations of illegal ticket sales at the Rio Olympics back in 2016. An ‘on-going legal matter’, was the feedback. To be fair, I wanted to keep things to the football club.

I also made it very clear that, while I was happy to send over the subsequent transcript before publication, I wouldn’t tolerate anything being rewritten.

This wasn’t meant to be polished. That was the point.

So what is the mystery man like? Pretty normal actually.

MORE: Marcus Evans big interview: ‘You can make it work on a conservative budget in the Championship’

Stepping into the boardroom I half expected to see a chair slowly spin around a man to beckon me in while stroking a cat, Bond-villain style.

He knows that his desire for anonymity (initially born out of seeing the stick other owners have got in person) has led to that character assessment. In an e-mail prior to the meeting he asked if my colleague Andy Warren could come ‘just so more than one person can see I’m not a three-headed monster’.

Andy, sadly, was on holiday that week. I can confirm, however, he has just the one head though (as the photographs prove).

On the subject of photographs, we did have an awkward handshake picture taken at the end. I don’t think either party were particularly comfortable with the message it would send out.

Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans speaks to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MACLEODIpswich Town owner Marcus Evans speaks to chief football writer Stuart Watson. Picture: LAURA MACLEOD

This wasn’t some sort of official link-up. So it was decided only to use the pictures taken as the interview took place.

What could I have pushed him on further?

MORE: Marcus Evans big interview: Why I didn’t spend in January 2015

Really nailing him down to an answer about how just long he’s prepared to keep up these levels of investment for.

Providing more of a counter-argument to his firm belief that you can be competitive in the Championship on a conservative budget. He used Millwall and Preston as examples of that when speaking on camera last April. Look where they both are now.

Marcus Evans spoke about his new hands-on role in depth following the recent departure of managing director Ian Milne. Photo: Gregg BrownMarcus Evans spoke about his new hands-on role in depth following the recent departure of managing director Ian Milne. Photo: Gregg Brown

He said you can’t stand in the way of players when Premier League clubs come calling. I should probably have highlighted that Martyn Waghorn, Adam Webster and Joe Garner went to fellow Championship clubs last summer.

Should there have been more discussion about Paul Lambert and their working relationship? Probably.

Could I have asked about Lambert’s criticism that the club had become too reliant on loan deals and needed to sort contracts out sooner? Yes.

Ian Milne’s departure, season ticket pricing, Financial Fair Play, academy status, stadium improvements… there’s loads more we could have discussed.

And every topic broached could easily have been an hour’s discussion on its own.

Hopefully this interview provides a decent overview of how we’ve got to this point and what’s next.

For me, the biggest take away was that Marcus Evans could have cut his losses and run a long time ago. But he hasn’t.

Maybe it’s the driven businessman in him that refuses to accept defeat. Maybe it’s because he is genuinely emotionally invested. It’s probably a bit of both.

Whether you think the plan can work is a moot point. At least there is now no confusion, or at least less fog surrounding, what that plan is.

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