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Clegg: Premier League The Number One Goal
Clegg: Premier League The Number One Goal
Tuesday, 21st Apr 2009 12:37

New Town chief executive Simon Clegg says winning promotion to the Premier League will be the number one goal during his time in charge at Portman Road. Clegg's appointment was confirmed at a press conference this morning.

The 49-year-old was introduced by director of communications Terry Baxter before taking questions from the floor and then giving one-to-one interviews with various media sources, including TWTD.

Clegg has no doubt where the club's sights will be set in the years to come: "Marcus Evans and I are absolutely in line in terms of the aspirations for the club. I'm not going to make any commitments to anyone in terms of time, but let me make it very clear that the number one goal of this club is promotion to the Premiership at the earliest opportunity.”

Married to Hilary with two children, Lucy and Toby, Clegg says history and community were central to why he was so keen to accept his new role: "There was no one single factor, this is a fantastic club with a great sporting heritage. It's a club which I think has a lot of potential and a fantastic future ahead of it.

"I'm particularly impressed with the facilities that we've got here, it's a great stadium, which holds just north of 30,000 people. I understand, although I've not been up there yet, that the training ground is really good, that there's a fantastic academy.

”I was impressed by Marcus Evans, by his vision for the future and by the people that I've met. I really like the community feel of the club.”

He says an incident at a game earlier in the season gave him an idea of the spirit of the club: "I was here at the Cardiff match, just sat in one of the stands very quietly and there was a small token which touched me. It was just before Christmas and a lady came down to one of the stewards with a box of chocolates. She was obviously a pensioner and an Ipswich fan through and through and she just said, ‘Thank you very much for all the work you've done this season'.

"I thought, ‘This is a club that's got a heart, this is a special place to be'. And that was another small building block which made me make the decision that this was the right place for me for the next part of my career.”

Awarded a CBE for his work on London's successful bid for the 2012 Olympics, Clegg says he aims to see Portman Road sold out on a regular basis: "The club has a great catchment area, there's not much competition for good quality football in this part of the country, although there is another club somewhere to the north-east.

"That catchment area is quite solid and we can draw 28,000 people, as we did for the home derby. One thing I want to do is to make sure the stadium is full week-in, week-out.

"The way we do that is by supporting the manager, supporting the players and I see my job as making sure that I'm doing everything I can to make a difference to what happens on the pitch.”


Clegg says he will be a traditional chief executive at Town, taking control of the non-footballing side of the club: "As you'll be aware, at the British Olympic Association I had two titles. Not only was I the chief executive but I was also the chef de mission of the British team. I see my role here as very much the chief executive of Ipswich Town Football Club.

"I hope that over 12 Olympic Games, summer and winter, and through my involvement in high performance sport, which started when I was manager of the British biathlon team in 1984/85 season, I can bring things to the table which will help and support the manager.

"If the manager would like to take on board my understanding of high performance sport or the extensive contacts that I have and my knowledge of best practice, then I'll work very closely with him to help and support him in those areas.

"I'm very much looking forward to working with the individuals at the club and making sure that everything we do is at a gold star level.”

The former Major in the 7th Parachute Regiment says that difference between success and failure can be very narrow in sport: "Going back to my last life at the Olympic Committee, when we came back from Athens, I calculated that five of our gold medals - Kelly Holmes's 800 and 1500, the 4x100 relay, Chris Hoy in the 1km time trial and Matthew Pinsent in the coxless four - were run over a total running time of 13 minutes and two seconds.

"Do you know that the total difference between five gold medals and five silver medals over 13 minutes and two seconds was just 0.545 of a second?

"So, the one thing that has driven me for the last four years is a passionate belief that in some tiny, tiny way I'm contributing to that 0.545 of a second. And I'm sure that that is equally as applicable on the football pitch as it is on the Olympic track.”

Town owner Marcus Evans has already promised money for additions to the squad in the summer and Clegg says buying and selling players will come into his remit: "Transfer negotiation is something that I will be involved in.

"I'm not going to kid anyone, I don't come with any huge football background, but what I do come with is a fresh set of eyes and a deep understanding and passion for high performance sport and I look forward to learning from people who are much more experienced than I am in the football world and testing and probing to see if we can do things a little bit differently.

"We'll have to see how it goes on transfer negotiations. It's very early days. We're going to have to finesse some of that in terms of the practicalities. What I see is that Marcus, David Sheepshanks, myself and the manager will work very closely on all issues like that.”

Clegg refused to be drawn on the future of manager Jim Magilton: ”I'm not going to fuel any speculation one way or another. Already there is plenty of speculation out there and it would be wrong and inappropriate. The focus now is to make sure we win the next two matches.”

Having left the BOA in December, formally ending his contract with them last week, Clegg will become very familiar to Town supporters in the seasons to come: ”I do believe that Marcus wants me to become the public face of the club. I read in one of the columns that if we're going to have a new face, couldn't it be a more attractive one, but what you've got is what you've got, like it or lump it!

"I've known Marcus for over a year. He's a very approachable individual, despite the fact that I recognise that he doesn't have the public profile a lot of people would like him to have. But let me assure you that that doesn't dilute his passion and aspirations for the club.”

Clegg's own footballing passions have previously been split between Anfield and Stamford Bridge: "I have a bit of a rebellious streak. I grew up supporting Liverpool, but only because my father was a Manchester United fan and a shareholder.

"More recently I've been involved with Chelsea on the Chelsea advisory board, although I will obviously resign from that as I'm totally committed to this job.”

Derek Bowden's time as chief executive has seen the club become more open to supporters and supporters groups and Clegg says he is keen for this to continue, starting this weekend: "I intend to go along to Saturday's game at Cardiff and I'll travel down on one of the fans' coaches.

"I was at the Chelsea match in my representative role and there was little doubt that the Town fans were the 12th man on the pitch. The Ipswich supporters were fantastic, 6,000 people, you couldn't hear the Chelsea fans. I have no doubt that that made a difference to the players. I thought the players did fantastically well.

"I very much look forward to working with the supporters and the various groups that are out there because they are absolutely critical for this club.”

Overall, Clegg seems itching to get on with the job: "I'm hugely flattered and very excited at arriving at such a historic football club to take over a chief executive officer.

"This club has a fantastic sporting heritage and I very much look forward to building on the achievements of others and working with everyone in the community, the staff, the supporters and the manager.”

Clegg begins his job with immediate effect with former chief executive Derek Bowden leaving the club at the end of the season.

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