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[Blog] What I Would Do If I Was Chief Executive of Town to Try and Protect the Future of the Club
Written by itfcjoe on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 15:03

This blog is an attempt to write from a neutral viewpoint. Personally I don’t think Paul Jewell is the man to lead Ipswich forward – but this isn’t a ‘Jewell out’ moan or anything of the sort.

I am attempting to write with regards to what I know about how football clubs are run, because I have a fear that the way ours is being run is not the greatest model currently – as too much power is given to the manager. At any point the manager is only six defeats away from the sack and over the last three years we have seen that when this model is the approach taken, the new manager comes in and changes everything.

We need to ensure that there is consistency in the squad, and there is some overall direction given from board level, so the first team manager comes in merely as a custodian and not as dictator.

I think, now that we have committed to a Category Two academy, it is vitally important that we fully embrace all parts of it. This means a fully functioning U21 team should be at the club, with their own manager.

Obviously it makes no sense to bring players in to be in the U21 squad currently but I think the decisions made on the academy players need to be completely taken away from the first team Manager.

The academy players, which the new rulings dictate are those “who are U21 and in the reasonable opinion of the club would not benefit from participating or continuing to participate in its academy’s Coaching and Games Programme”, would be looked after by a dedicated youth team coach.

Coaching youth players is very different to coaching adult players and during an academy stint, something as silly as an August birthday as opposed to September may mean that they end up being released as have not physically and mentally developed as much as their peers.

And, there is a huge caveat to this, but Paul Jewell has been relatively successful in the transfer market. The caveat is that I am discounting the over 30s he has signed (which is a huge leap for me as a PJ critic) and focusing on the young hungry players the club need to sign. Aaron Cresswell, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Andy Drury have all proven to be astute signings, and have no doubt increased their value in their time at the club. The same can be said for those who were previously bit part players with the likes of Tommy Smith and Lee Martin all having been improved under Paul Jewell.

Again excluding the over-30s in this, my biggest disappointment with Jewell has been his inability to integrate academy players into the first team squad. Josh Carson has gone backwards this year, Luke Hyam was dropped after a good spell and Joe Whight hasn’t had a look-in. While Jewell is the one who sees these players more often than I do, it is still disappointing that they haven’t been eased into first team football.

There is also a disappointment with players that have been released and from TWTD’s recent news story, those who have been offered terms, in some cases a derisory £250pw. The most glaring error at the moment seems to have been Tom Eastman, who was picked up by two ex-ITFC Academy coaches (and top flight centre backs!) at Colchester, subsequently loaned out to League Two Crawley and now has been an integral part of their season in League One.

I think a number of these problems could be avoided if the U21 coach had the final say in offering players coming out of the Academy contracts. The first team manager would always be able to veto a player leaving who he rates, but currently it seems as though it’s the other way round.

From watching a number of U18 games you often hear comments from those in the know along the lines of ‘if Jewell doesn’t fancy them they don’t have a hope’, ‘the Academy is disconnected from the club’ etc.

But in a way, who can really blame Jewell? He is given a budget to work with and if it is a case of paying four academy graduates £750pw or getting in a first team player who could impact the team £3,000 a week – in an industry as short-sighted as football it isn’t difficult to understand his thought process! This is where the chief executive needs to look at the long-term plan.

This is where the separate budgets need to come in, the academy budget for U21s needs to be managed as a separate squad and the budget totally separate. They are in the best position to develop the players – they know when it is right to sort out a loan move, they will be able to build links with local clubs for their U21s – whether this be with teams in the Ryman league like Leiston up to teams in the Conference like Braintree.

The Academy can be funded outside Financial Fair Play budgeting and it is so important for the future of the club that we allow the players to fully develop, and the academy staff are making decisions on players – rather than the current model where it seems that if players aren’t deemed good enough for first team squad at 18, they are released – again this must be related to Jewell’s budget and short-termism of football in general.

This will allow for a 'finishing school' to be at the club, between the Academy and first team, this is important for a number of reasons.

• Players in certain positions aren’t generally ready for first team at a young age (goalkeeper, centre-back and central midfield spring to mind), so they need to be developed further, and with more care from youth coaches.

• Not all people develop mentally and physically at the same speed so it is important that the more immature members are given the opportunity to shine.

• Paul Jewell, for all his criticism, has shown that he can develop players from around age 20-21 when they have already developed from boy into man. The likes of Cresswell, JET, Smith and Martin are good examples of this.

• The four players mentioned above have been signed for a total of around £2.5m and once Smith has signed his contract I’d guess this can nearly be doubled - Cresswell - £1m, JET - £1.5m, Smith - £750k, Martin - £1.5m. In the new world of Financial Fair Play, it is vitally important that the norm becomes to develop players and increase value if you wish to progress.

If we can give Jewell better players at 20, more hardened, more developed, more ready for first team football, then his track record has shown that he can begin to get the best out of them.

I think if we were to adapt this structure at the football club, then there would be a genuine long term plan. As I alluded to earlier, if we lose our first six games of next season then it is highly likely Jewell will be sacked. This would be disastrous as a new manager will come in, want his own men, and it will be hugely costly and unsustainable with FFP.

FFP dictates that this approach to managers can’t happen, and with the man in charge so easily expendable, it is vital that the chief exec takes responsibility for the shaping of the overall squad, from first team to development to Academy. This may mean the first team budget is cut slightly, but in every business budgets can be cut annually so Jewell will have to work with what he is given to protect the long term interests of the club.

I really think that a number of peoples main criticisms with regards to Jewell will be solved by this structure, as he has shown he can attract players and get them through the door, and shown that he can improve players. I hope he has learnt from his ‘old heads’ approach last year and we can build a competitive squad, while also improving players to sell at the right time to finance a promotion push. Names may be wrong here but we sold Kieron Dyer and used money to bring in John McGreal, Jermaine Wright and Marcus Stewart to push us to promotion.

This can be done again if there is joined up thinking between the Academy, the U21 development squad and the first team.




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Surco72 added 15:45 - May 9
You can only intergrate academy players into the squad if they are good enough,Jewell did this with Carson at the end of last season and gave him a run of games ,he then returned overweight and maybe too big for his boots after the summer break and has not performed well enough when given match time this year and is obviously not working hard enough in training ?
Whight seems to have a confidence issue as discussed by his youth team coach and Jewell and needs to step up to the plate at his age or look elsewhere .
Hyam i believe should have played more but is niave and is never far from a card or sending off but experience will bring this out of him and i think he will have a big year next season .
But as Jewell has said we also need those old heads as when Keane was manager we blooded a lot of youngsters and we were bullied out of lot of games Newcastle,Reading,QPR etc and Keane kept complaining that we didnt have enough experience .
The mix and the individuals desire has to be right for success and we are not a million miles away from that despite what others may think , an experienced goalkeeper and centre back with a young right back and young pacy forward are the key signings for me .
And with the young players Jewell released Eastman,Brown,OConnor,Lavery,Bennett with maybe the exception of Eastman the others have done very little as compared to Garvan,Trotter,Haynes,Rhodes released by Keane ?

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itfcjoe added 15:54 - May 9
This blog isn't about who PJ has or hasnt released....I've tried to stay clear if this and not mention individuals. If anything I've defended his reasoning while stating that it is up to the club, not the manager, to ensure planning is done long term.

PJ will get sacked if we have a bad run, it's vital that club doesn't need overhaul if this happens so the long term can't be decide by PJ in all cases or we are set up for a fall
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Surco72 added 16:28 - May 9
Itfc joe ..football can only be planned long term if all the factors remain the same ,including the the manager ,just because we have youth players coming through doesnt mean that a new manager coming in would not want other players ,other coaching staff ,other methods . If a manager gets sacked for going on a bad run does that not mean the players were not good enough ,or that we hit teams on good streaks ,or a hard patch of fixtures against top teams ?
That is why we must stick with and back the manager for the season and change if need be at the end of May .
And i think you should maybe read your blog again in respect of not mentioning individuals as you highlight "the glaring error of Eastman" and how "Carson has gone backwards" and "Whight not had a look in " ?
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itfcjoe added 16:45 - May 9
Surco.....you clearly aren't getting this.

The manager is the most expendable person at a football club. If results go badly he pays with his job....look at every club in the country for evidence.

I'm not saying this is right, or wrong, but it is how it is. A manager should be part of a management structure, not the absolute kingpin. He is working to objectives set by the CEO. He doesn't rule the roost, the job is explained to him in interview so he can't come in and change everything unless that is the job description.

In times of FFP, it will not be possible to overhaul squad, academy and coaching staff and still break even. So direction has to come from the top to manage things long term 5 years plus, not til end of next season.

If we finish where we are next season PJ will be sacked, therefore it's important that long term decisions for the club are made by the management team and not with the manager having final say.
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rosseden added 17:54 - May 9
the phrase 'dont blame the player, blame the game' comes to mind....

Fans want instant success
Owners want instant success
Managers try to get instant success
Players get paid far too much and rock up for a few hours a week

Football as an industry is screwed by the way it has been run over the last 20 years since the inception of the EPL. The big will get bigger now, the wider industry will struggle to keep up. In most other markets when this happens then companies consolidate and buy up the competition, this cant happen in sport, so the little guys get left to die slowly and quietly in the lower leagues.

Until the game changes for the better financially, and people throughout football, fans, owners, players and agents wise up, all the comments are just a by product of the way the game is now......

Defo some good points, and i think we're moving to a longer plan with younger players and a more commercial strategy, but that takes time, and the fans wont give football people time......

Oh, JET was £600k plus add ons too...... not £1.5m......

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rosseden added 17:56 - May 9
agree with Surcos view on the players too..... most of our youth just arent good enough.... thats how it is..... i hope Cat 2 will improve that in the future..... Football was tough to get into before, its even harder now..... i wonder if in a year or two some of the kids who turn down £250 a week will be wishing theyd said yes when theyre earling £6.50 an hour for a 40 hour week in McDonalds or Tescos...... makes £250 a week for 30 hours kicking a ball about seem like heaven.......
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itfcjoe added 18:48 - May 9
@Rosseden - the instant success thing is the problem with football. I can't blame PJ for being short termist a lot of the time but wish he didn't talk about this long term plan all the time - as unless it all goes well he won't be around to see it.

But this is where Clegg and Evans need to ensure the club is set up to cope with a change of manager, without an overhaul, and this is the long term plan that needs to be talked about.....and this can only be achieved by getting a good management structure with defined accountabilities in place.

With regards to JET, the £1.5m is what I think he's worth....think there were doubts he could play a consistent run of games which he appears to have disproved.

Regarding the youth, if we'd have kept on the 4 released last year - Eastman would have prob graduated. If we could afford to take a risk and give players full time coaching and meaningless games for a loan spell then this could quite easily save us in long run.

£250 a week is poor money, whichever way you look at it....i know people who play locally who can hold down a full time job and still earn £150 a game playing Ridgeons and Ryman league so will be much better off.
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rosseden added 20:50 - May 9
'£250 a week is poor money...' if its thats poor how come they dont get snapped up on massive contracts when they go. Some drop down a league or two, find their level and stay there, some get back up to our level - trotter springs to mind.... but until i see someone we discard really land it at our level then or above, then they must be making the right decisions surely?
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Superfrans added 23:39 - May 9
Decent, well thought out log. What you are really talking about is a director for football structure. If any club employed a first team manager and also an under-21 manager with total autonomy from each other, they would need to report to someone independent. That person would have to be a football person - it simply couldn't be someone like Clegg. So you would have to create a director of football type role.

Personally, I'm not sure Championship budgets under FFP would allow that. We simply cant afford it.



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Lesta_Tractor added 08:41 - May 10
did we release Eastman or did he turn down our offer?
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itfcjoe added 08:59 - May 10
We offered Eastman a 6 month contract on £250pw, Colchester offered him 2 years so he took their offer.

What made it stick out at time as a mistake to me, was that their academy coaches are Richard Hall and Tony Humes who are bot CBs and worked with Eastman for 8-9 years....and they snapped him up
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rosseden added 09:07 - May 10
And if eastman moves up to our level or above and establishes himself they will have made a mistake. As long as he's at col. U. And they're a league below, they didn't make a mistake? Or not?
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itfcjoe added 09:25 - May 10
@rosseden

You really look at the whole situation far too simplistically...

If we had kept Eastman we wouldn't have needed to sign Ingi and Sonko, do the money freed up by having just one of those on books would have been able to be invested in other areas of the squad.

Ingi played 6 games and had his contract settled, even being conservative he will have cost us 200k over the season - had Eastman been kept on a 2 year contract would have been at an expense of <100k, with potential for resale value if he did well.

Player in League 1=not a mistake yet is far too black and white for a 19 year old CB
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itfcjoe added 09:53 - May 10
@SuperFranz

Tend to agree with DoF comment as Clegg not football man. But in FFP I'm veering to the side of can we afford NOT to have this structure. Our sacking culture in UK has caught up with Italy and Spain so managers have no right to demand overhauls now.

Think the 'mess' PJ inherited is overstated and we had a decent team playing decent footy under him for 2nd half of season.....we knew we were losing McA, Norris and Wickham, but the £8m should have been sufficient to replace all 3....get Bullard in who'd been pivotal and a couple more squad players.

PJ, like Britsih managers seem to do, had to make his 'stamp' on the club and sent us backwards. Same thing happened when RK took over from JM.

Managers need to be coached these days to get best out of what we have, overhauls can't happen consistently under FFP, and manager will always act in short term interest to protect job do direction of club must come from elsewhere
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Doctor_Albran added 16:14 - May 10
So, and sorry if I look at this too simplistically, you are looking to employ an U21 coach, with his own budget and, following SuperFranz comments, a DoF.

Where is this money going to come from?

You're suggesting setting up a structure to nurture U21 talent with an autonomous management system - developing players that a manager might never play as he doesn't rate them/they don't fit into his style of play on the proviso that he might be sacked at any day? What if he isn't sacked?

Then you could have a group of 21 year olds you've been paying since they were 18 and you've seen no return on.

This can only work if you have a set up like Ajax or Barcelona where the club has an ethos/playing style and employes a manager to work within the constraints of the club/that style.

We have neither the structure (would need to be created - thus more money), funds (do we reduce the first team budget to pay for it - over a number of years), access to talent (scouting network is not there to identify these talents (yet more money) nor manager (if PJ goes have we got the ability to demand that a new manager works to our methods and not his own?).

I'm not saying what you've suggested is a bad idea, what I'm saying is that it is unachieveable inside of 10 years without a significant amount of investment, which the first team will lose, and a manager to help develop it - it would need to have the buy in of the current staff and then anybody coming in would need to sign-up to it.

Never going to happen.

The main point worrying me more than the above is have we actually got enough players at the club to play these U21 fixtures? are they scraping the under 18 league? Will we see players like Byron Lawrence playing in U21 and Championship divisions - I mean I used to play Sat morning football at youth level and then in the afternoon for a adult team, but I wasn't playing in front of 10 - 20k paying customers in the afternoon expecting a show!
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itfcjoe added 22:08 - May 10
All good points, and I don't disagree with the money side but it's one of those things that we have overspent so heavily on first team wages and it clearly hasn't worked that we need a structure set up to build for the future.

After writing this I did a bit of research at what I'd say are similar sized Championship clubs to see if any have got this working and the best example seems to be Southampton.

They have obviously got a highly successful academy which we all know about but the structure is very interesting. They have an Elite U21 coach, Martin Hunter who was in England youth setup, in there u21 squad there are just 7 players so it isn't a huge amount to be kept on. They played around 18 matches in the season against a variety of opposition and I assume have the best u18 players step up to play, and push the 16s up to replace them in the 18s but yet still have won the 18 league.

Their 'director of football' is Les Reed, ex disaster at Charlton but he has graduated from head of academy to there.

They have a seriously impressive setup and is be very interested to see their budgets and spending, and they were clearly bankrolled in League 1....but now they are up they have built their club on such solid foundations that I'd guess they'll be able to stabilise in Prem....whether it involves yo-yo ing for a bit as don't want to overspend initially but they seem the model that if ME wants to turn us into a long standing Prem club that needs to be followed.

Reading also have a seriously impressive set up and it's perhaps no surprise that these are one and two this year....the short term tilts at promotion haven't worked....and a manager can't be part of long term plan as can always be sacked at any point. But if you get a chance I'd really recommend looking at how Reading and Southampton are set up, they are destined to succeed
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buryblue77 added 22:46 - May 10
itfcjoe, there has been some singling out of the Eastman situation and his supposed £250 a week 6 month contract. Assuming his 2 year contract at Colchester is also of higher salary value, it probably comes down to the fact that we offered him a contract as a 'prove yourself' type and Colchester see him as a more integral player to their team given their Divisional status, thus owing to his higher status at Colchester they were able to offer him a better deal than us. Odd it seems given the difference in size between the clubs, but I simply don't think the funds are there at our club at this present time to 'carry' players from a youth system which hasn't been quite as productive as many seem to think.
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itfcjoe added 06:26 - May 11
BuryBlue, I'd be surprised if Col U offered him much more than the £250 judging by their overall wage budget but think the length of contract was the swinger. What concerns me is that I'd never heard of youths turning down contracts at ITFC before last season (excepting Trotter) and now it has happened 4 times. Brown, Eastman, Lavery and Bennett.

To keep these 4 players over a couple of years would have cost, at an estimate, around £250k, which means that just £2.5k per week needed to be trimmed of first team wage bill (£100 per player) and if only one of then made it through the risk would've been worth it.

I can fully understand why PJ would prefer to spend the money on 1st team squad, but if the club were willing to offer them a contract then there was obviously something there to try and get out and the small, in football terms, investment by the club should've been msde
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buryblue77 added 14:04 - May 11
itfcjoe, maybe we need to look deeper into the finances at our club, I am wondering how good or bad they are. It seems we are really starting to penny pinch nowadays and any money not spent is considered money saved. So whilst you point out, it may cost £250k to keep them if we could trim it from the first team budget, but my suspicions are that if we cut that sort of spending it simply wouldn't be re-invested. Whilst I fully appreciate the budget constraints in modern football after 10 years and more of lavish spending, I am not so sure we are financing ourselves in the way that a club with promotion ambitions should.
We spent some money last summer, but not huge amounts and Jewell seems to be feeding off the scraps, picking up the loans and frees. Now is that because the money now isn't available (in a way Evans should be investing now whilst he still can, as he wont be able to do so when FFP comes in to full effect) because it's all been spent, or has the ethos on money changed and someone has the idea that success can be achieved on the cheap?
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madmouse1959 added 07:20 - Jul 8
We could of saved money by not employing certain people who did nothing as a footballer at this club !!!!
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