Clegg: Exciting Times Ahead for Town
Wednesday, 6th Feb 2013 06:01
Exiting chief executive Simon Clegg believes Town have exciting times ahead, despite his four years at Portman Road failing to yield the success he had hoped for. Clegg’s departure by mutual consent was announced yesterday.
Why didn’t Town progress during his spell in charge? Clegg says it certainly wasn’t through a lack of effort or investment: “It would be easy, wouldn’t it, if there had been a lack of investment in the playing squad and you could turn round and say that was why. But I’ve signed 73 players since I came here four years ago.
“So no one could say that Marcus Evans is not committed to this football club and has not supported it in a massive way financially, but it has just not gelled on the pitch in the way we hoped it would do.
“Hindsight’s a great thing, isn’t it? I’ve worked predominantly with two managers who have not been able to deliver [success]. That said, I’ve got every confidence in Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor, I think they’re a fantastic team.
“I think Mick’s an awesome individual and I’m very confident about what the team can achieve going forward.
“I spoke to all the players up at the training ground this afternoon and I think with Mick at the helm, with Bryan Klug back running the academy now, there are exciting times ahead.”
Clegg’s relationship with fans wasn’t always an easy one, something he feels is part and parcel of the job, particularly when a club isn’t successful on the field.
“I recognise that fans need to vent their frustration on someone and I recognise that being chief executive, and acting chairman for the last couple of years, that goes with the territory,” he said.
“Do I think it’s justified? If I was in their position, I probably would think it was justified, but, of course, I’m not in their position, I’m in my position and I recognise that fans seldom have all the facts.
“They form their opinions on the facts that they have, what they read in the media, and more often than not I don’t make a point of publicly trying to justify every decision I make.
“I make [decisions] based upon the facts that I have to hand at that moment in time and if people don’t like that then I’m sorry, I’m accountable to Marcus.”
Former manager Roy Keane expressed his frustration that deals he hoped would go through weren’t completed during his time in charge, the signing of Shaun Derry from Crystal Palace particularly irking the former Manchester United man.
Clegg dismisses the suggestion that a situation such as that one was commonplace: “Of course it wasn’t. And ultimately, be very clear, the owner controls the purse strings at the club. I’m not trying to dress it up in any other way.
“I recognise that fans needed to vent their frustration on someone and as the public face of the business and the club, that was directed at me. Thankfully, I’ve got a fairly thick skin!”
Fans became similarly frustrated by the exits of the likes of Gareth McAuley, David Norris and Grant Leadbitter at their end of their contracts, but Clegg says it’s not down to the chief executive to make those judgements.
“Who makes that decision? Predominantly it’s the manager. Predominantly it’s the manager who is going ‘No, we shouldn’t be paying more than this for this particular player’. If the player isn’t prepared to accept it, then the player’s contract runs down.
“But, of course, everyone thinks we live in a bubble here and we wake up at the end of the season thinking ‘Crikey, we’ve let a player’s contract run down’.
“It really isn’t as simplistic as that. A lot of thought goes into what new contracts are offered to which players and when.”
Clegg, the British Olympic Association's chief executive prior to his time at Town, also dismisses the oft-made claim that owner Marcus Evans primarily brought him to Town due to his links with the Games: “I recognise that people want to make those connections but quite frankly it’s without any justification. I’ve not helped Marcus with Olympic matters for the last three years.
“People can judge me how they want to. I don’t think many people could have thrown much more into this football club than I have over the last four years.
“I’ve lived it, I’ve breathed it six days a week and even on the day off a week I had at home I was still working and was still on the computer, speaking to Marcus.”
Various players have had off-field issues during his time at the club which is something else he feels comes with the territory.
“I think that’s the job of a chief executive,” he said. “I have a very lucky background of managing soldiers, who traditionally are not without their problems themselves.
“I’ve managed some very difficult situations at the Olympics, incredible situations at the Olympics which have never got into the public domain, some instances much worse than I’ve had to deal with at Ipswich Town.
“I have an empathy with the performer and I see my job as the chief executive to do my best to alleviate some of the peripheral noise and distractions so they can focus on what they are employed to do, which is to play football.
“If you can help take those distractions away, it should allow them to deliver better on the pitch. And that’s what everything’s about. Everything in this business depends on what happens on the pitch for 90 minutes on a Saturday.
“If we play well, we hardly get any complaints. If we play badly and we get a bad result, everything is to blame, from the chief executive down, and most of the complaints land on my desk. But it goes with the territory.”
He feels his job at Town differed from his Olympics role quite significantly: “In my previous life you had one event every four years, possibly two if you include the Winter Olympics.
“This event is relentless, week in, week out, sometimes twice a week, for nine months of the season. Then everyone thinks that you go to sleep for the three months of the close season, but it’s an incredibly busy time when a huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes.
“That’s why I’ve made the decision now. Firstly, I’ve been discussing it for some time with Marcus. Secondly, when I did focus in on it we agreed that I would stay until the end of the transfer window to oversee that.
“That finished at 11pm on Thursday. Friday was the day before a home game and I didn’t want to announce it then because the focus would be on me when it should be on the players and the team. That’s why I’ve announced it this week.
“That will allow the new, incoming team to deal with matters between now and the end of the season and then really get to grips with things in the close season.”
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