|Where We Might Be Without Asset Stripping|
Written by David_GG on Thursday, 29th Nov 2018 14:50
I am writing today to put forward my opinion about the sorry sad state of Ipswich Town and I suspect a number of other clubs around the land with supporters who feel as if they are suffering at the hands otherwise hugely successful businessmen and women as owners.
There is probably a yearning for us to have the club run as a successful business, but the performance on the pitch certainly doesn't reflect that in reality."
I am 47 years old now and do not care to try remember the last time I got excited about an Ipswich result. I have been a supporter of Ipswich for 40 years, the fateful day I chose is forever etched in my mind, at school, seven years old, the day before the 1978 FA Cup final, choosing the fabulous team Sir Bobby had not only built, but continued to press for success, or Arsenal!
No brainer. Sir Bobby had one of the most endearing personalities in football and it should be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about football to learn how successful he was in his career with clubs far greater than the Tractor Boys.
I will oft remind enquirers that the Tractor Boys have provided England with their two most successful managers (World Cup winner and World Cup semi-final), Sir Alf and Sir Bobby both taking up the role from ITFC. Sir Gareth has put a spanner in that story now, but who asks me ‘Why Ipswich?’ these days anyway.
Back to the point! Almost 10 years ago I went to watch Ipswich play away against Watford (October 2010). I used to play semi-professional football as a centre-back and I could see the Watford centre-half, Martin Taylor, having one of the easiest nights of his life in the heart of the Watford defence.
Town were unable to pressure him, biggest guy in the line (6ft 4), great positioning, a walk in the park for him as he mopped up our hopeful long balls, and Watford cruised into a 2-0 lead. Too easy.
Roy Keane on the sidelines being urged to sort it out by the fans. Ten minutes into the second half, Keane brought on Connor Wickham. A raw 17-year-old big youth, fearless, full of effort and determination, chasing the lost causes, giving everything for ITFC, the club who had probably given him everything in his career up to that point.
Taylor's night changed from being a routine strolling performance to being given a real run-around by our own young wonder kid. It was fantastic, the first time Connor got the ball, he basically ran straight through Taylor, engaging the physical confrontation, and then every other time Connor got the ball he simply ran at Taylor, threatening to turn him inside out and upside down every time taking him on.
Challenging the high balls, winning plenty, chasing balls to the dead-ball line, you could sense Wickham had arrived, and against a quality experienced centre-back, his fearless efforts made such a big difference to the performance. Town got a goal back and were all over Watford for the rest of the game but couldn’t quite muster an equaliser, having a goal chalked off by an offside flag.
I remember coming away, regardless of the result thinking I had witnessed a star of the future. Wickham was in the England youth team set up and without doubt was livening up the games he played in. Even Fabio Capello mentioned he might get a seat on the plane for the World Cup! This is what I wanted to see, this was the future of our club, fight and determination, youthful endeavour without fear, let’s have more of this, let’s make this our future. Let’s get some players in the England team again, can you imagine this now?
As it transpired, Connor Wickham was indeed the future, but a different future to what I hoped for. He was sold. He was sold for £8.1m as a 19-year-old kid with a mere 72 games under his belt for my beloved Ipswich.
By the time he was playing for England U21s Wickham was just the same, his last-minute winner in a qualifier against the Serbs causing chaos and celebrations, Wickham still capable of delivering the goods in the most hostile of circumstances.
This transfer was the start, for me, the start of the asset stripping of Ipswich Town Football Club. Since Connor was sold, it seems that the primary aim of the football club is to cash in on assets when the saleable value is too profitable to refuse.
Wickham was effectively free to Ipswich, and in no way does that intend to belittle to fantastic work our youth training staff do in the community. Wickham has played 220 games in his 10 years as a professional footballer. He has been transferred for £8.1m and £7m (rising to £9m). For Sunderland and Crystal Palace he has played 109 games, in simplistic terms those clubs have effectively paid him £138,000 every time he has played a match.
That is not Connor Wickham’s fault, but what would have happened if he had stayed? Where would we be if we had invested further in our talent as opposed to cashing in when the “offer from Sunderland is simply too good to turn down," as Simon Clegg said at the time?
Since leaving Ipswich for around £900,000, Jordan Rhodes has scored 209 career goals in 449 games mostly in the Championship. Where would Ipswich be with those goals?
It does not sit right that the ambitions of a football club who once lifted the FA Cup and UEFA Cup within three seasons, regularly found themselves in the top six of the old first division between 72 and 82 throughout Sir Bobby’s time are now reduced to being regularly stripped of prize assets which can only act as a demotivational indication to the rest of the squad, suggesting that we’re not even aiming for the play-offs, we’re only looking for the next bright young thing to come through the ranks and sell once the fee offered becomes irresistible.
Of course, players' heads will be turned when big transfer fees are mentioned, I imagine it would be like winning the pools if a six-figure transfer fee is mentioned and as a 20-odd-year-old player it must be very hard not to let that influence your thoughts.
When you are playing in a team and you have good players around you, you’re confident you are going to improve and have the quality to over-deliver results and punch above your weight. When the best player is sold, you lose more than a good player, the gap created punches a whole in confidence of the rest of the team, bigger than can ever be imagined by the board.
I didn’t ever see the sale of good players being the fault of the managers, until Paul Hurst turned up and ripped up that rule book. Prior to Hurst, I would always have blamed the board for asset stripping, the players belong to the club, the club sanction purchases and sales, they sign the cheques and bank the profits, not the manager.
No matter what we think of Paul Jewell, Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy, I am sure they didn’t decide the time was right to sell our best players, and I’m even more certain they didn’t bank any of the lolly that has been drained from our club.
I have often wondered what it would be like if we had kept our best players. Is the current business plan flawed? Let’s consider whether retaining these players would have got us in the Premier League.
Grant Leadbitter (free), Damien Delaney (free), Jordan Rhodes (£0.9m), Wickham (sold for £8.1m), Tyrone Mings (sold for £8m), Webster (sold for £3.6m), Waghorn (sold for £5m), Garner (sold for £1.2m), Murphy (sold for £3m), Cresswell (sold for £3.75m), to name but a few.
It is difficult to reason that if any of us found a rare gem (called Tyrone) and paid £10k at a car boot, we wouldn’t cash-in when somebody offered us £8m for the same thing 18 months later. It’s nonsense to suggest we would turn that down. However, is it not the outlook of an owner with a goal to reach the Premier League, there has to be a plan in place to get there and cashing in on every saleable asset is surely not the way to do it.
One season in the Premier League is now worth almost £100m in income (in 2017/18 WBA earned 94.7m for finishing bottom, 19th Swansea earned £98.5m, 18th Stoke earned £98.9m). Huddersfield, who finished fourth bottom not only earned £102.4m, but also the guarantee of almost another £100m by surviving into 2018/19. If they survive again, another £100m, so in three seasons, £300m can be earned by investing in the right manager, building a team and keeping faith in him. Remember Sir Bobby….?
Had the owner decided to not to sell any of these players, accepting that this is hypothetical as the players are from different eras and of different ages, could we have built a team from the players who have left ITFC to get this club promoted? Then Mr Evans, you can enjoy all the lovely dough that comes with it.
Cashing in to the tune of £35m has meant we have not made it to the Premier League. £100m for one season, £200m if you stay up.
Marcus Evans’s net worth of £765m makes Premier League income look like small fry, but having considered what he has done to the club, the pitiful decline in quality of the play and shredding of all levels of excitement around the football club it is time for him to step aside, or show up in the transfer window with an investment plan that demonstrates an intention to support Paul Lambert improve his squad.
I thank you for the memories, but I am now drained of all hope that the club will ever return to any kind of happy days with this regime in charge.
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