Town will prevail, says Sheepshanks

IPSWICH Town will prevail.The message was unequivocal and largely well received by a 400-strong crowd who gave chairman David Sheepshanks a standing ovation last night, writes Derek Davis.

IPSWICH Town will prevail.

The message was unequivocal and largely well received by a 400-strong crowd who gave chairman David Sheepshanks a standing ovation last night, writes Derek Davis.

Not everyone did, but while a few sat stony-faced at the end – the vast majority expressed their undying support for the man who bravely answered as many of the questions thrown at him as he could.

The one boo as he appeared on stage was barely audible above the warm applause. Dressed immaculately in a sharp suit, Sheepshanks perspired slightly under the hot lights.

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"The one thing that united all of us is our love for Ipswich Town Football Club," he started – and the audience was captured.

He called the meeting due to "a lot of misunderstanding, misinformation and rumours" which he wanted to put straight.

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Using a screen to highlight the history and to outline the future, Sheepshanks cut to the chase, seeming surprisingly keen to get to the questions.

He explained the cumulative effect of putting players on long contracts due to the Bosman Ruling, relegation, why players were sold and bought, "backing the manager's judgement" and justifying paying £24m in wages in the last financial year – 15th lowest in a league table of 20.

He explained once more how the strategy for relegation was to sell players but the transfer market collapsed, and on top of the ITV Digital fiasco Ipswich were forced to go into plan B: Sell players in January after the window closed, the first time this had happened in this country – but clubs did not want to buy.

Cuts were made, players and staff took pay deferrals but in the end the administrators had to be called in.

He then went on to explain the next step, which would rely on a great football manager who investors believe in, a strong youth academy, a professional business management who have the confidence of banks and investors, fantastic stadum facilities and commercial expertise, and, most importantly – the fantastic support base, with 28,000 expected for tomorrow's home game.

He looked composed and good humoured as he explained why they had to sell Darren Ambrose for, he admitted, a ludicrously low price. Newcastle put in the only offer and the administrators, metaphorically at least, put a gun to his head to accept the bid.

Derek Bowden once more explained that the lease at the Portman Road ground was granted only for use as a sports stadium and it was in the best interest of Norwich Union, as the bondholder, for the club to continue playing there.

Yes, they were in principle in favour of a supporters' trust being set up to invest in the club, but Sheepshanks pointed out that representation, in the form of Supporters' Club chairman Ian Pennock who attended board meetings, was already in place.

He wriggled uncomfortably a couple of times, frustrated perhaps at being asked the same question. He could not say what the total debt was, but reminded people there were three components to the debt – the current, which is the £6m overdraft as shown in the last financial accounts; the term, namely the £25m 'mortgage' of the newly- rebuilt stands; and the liabilities, which includes the full length of player contracts.

There are also contingency liabilities, but in reality the figure is not as frightening as some headlines would have us believe.

Town fans Ian Stewart, Peter Hughes and Richard Baker were among those who asked questions. The Academy is safe, Ipswich won't have to sell all their players even if they don't get promoted and the CVA is close to being presented.

After ninety minutes of explaining and apologising, but mostly a plea for unity and asking for a posiive outlook for the future.

Not everyone was satisfied but Sheepshanks was plausible and credible – he is the sort of man you would buy a season ticket from.

Before going into the questions he said defiantly that he would steer Ipswich out of their current predicament – if not, he said: "If you want my head after that then you can have it."

Judging by the response last night it is only a very few who would pursue that option – and they would face fierce opposition from the vast majority of Blues fans.

Just as Ipswich Town will prevail with support from the faithful, so Sheepshanks and the board will prevail by popular choice.

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