The Jim Magilton Interview - Part One
Saturday, 4th Apr 2020 09:40
Eleven years ago this month Jim Magilton’s 10-year association with the Blues as first a player and then a manager came to an end. TWTD caught up with the Northern Irishman for a lengthy chat about his time at Portman Road which we’ll run over four parts, the first covering the start of his time at Town and those 2000 play-off games.
Magilton, now 50, joined Town initially on loan in January 1999. At the time he was out of the side at Sheffield Wednesday, who he had joined from Southampton in September 1997.
“I wasn’t playing,” he recalled. “It was at a time where playing in the reserves wasn’t doing anything for me. You reach lows in football but that was probably the all-time low, playing in the reserves at Sheffield Wednesday.
“I went to speak to [assistant manager] Frank Barlow, who was a really good football man, a nice man and I sat him down and I said ‘This is not happening for me, this is not good for me. I want to play, I need to play games. Can you help me?’.
“It was in a way a plea to him because he was a football man, he understood me, I had a great relationship with him. He liked me as a player and I think he liked me as a fella and I always enjoyed training and working with him.
“So I went to him and he said that he knew that there were one or two clubs that would be interested, so to go and speak to [manager] Danny Wilson, ‘You have a relationship with Danny, just tell him exactly what you’ve told me. Danny will fully understand that and if everything’s OK, away you go’.
“I was sitting on the bench in Premier League games, I wasn’t coming on, I didn’t feel anywhere near fit and I just wanted a fresh start and going on loan was the option that was open to me.
“Then when I heard it was Ipswich I went ‘Right, great’. A footballing club, great history, great heritage in the game and I had heard lots about George Burley and knew where they were in the league.
“I thought, ‘This is going to test me, it’s a great challenge, I know they’re fighting for promotion’. So it ticked all the right boxes for me.”
Despite his debit at Sunderland ending in a 2-1 defeat, everything seemed to click immediately and by the end of his loan spell in March fans were calling on chairman David Sheepshanks to ‘Sign him up!’ from the terraces.
“Credit to George, credit to Colin Suggett, who was the chief scout, they saw something in me that maybe was missing within the team, maybe within the squad,” Magilton continued.
“And it did click, it really felt a perfect fit for me. I liked the club right away, I liked the people within the club. Edwina Sesto was the receptionist at the club and I remember coming down late at night and she was there for whatever reason was there to greet me and it was kind of like you’re here for one thing, one dream sort of thing, you’re hear to get us promoted and this, that and the other.
“You could feel a real desire for the club to do well and get the club back into the Premier League. That appealed to me. I wanted to continue to play in the Premier League but if that wasn’t to be the case then happy help another club to get into the Premier League and fulfil my ambitions as well as the club’s.
“And when I saw the players, I knew right away. It only needs one training session, I knew that quality was there. There were senior pros there who were top class people as well, there was Mogga [Tony Mowbray], Micky [Stockwell] and Veno [Mark Venus], Manu Thetis was there, great experience as well.
“I liked the feel, I liked the sessions. I definitely felt that they needed a nudge, they needed a little bit more intensity in their training and there were a lot of young lads in the group, a lot of top players, Kieron [Dyer], Johnno [David Johnson], Scowy [James Scowcroft], [Jamie] Clapham, Matty [Holland], Richard Wright.
“They needed pushing and there needed to be a different feel to the sessions and maybe I helped in that because I was bringing that experience with me. So it felt right straight from the start.”
Once the loan spell was at an end there seemed to be some doubt whether the permanent move the fans wanted would take place. The perception was that Magilton was reluctant to move down south.
“I think perception was one thing,” he said. “I think that I was dealing with Sheffield Wednesday more than anything and they were quite awkward and I didn’t want any ill feeling, I just wanted to play football, it was as simple as that.
“That hesitancy can happen in a negotiation, not a hesitancy from me regarding being part of the club or being sold on the ambitions of the club, and especially not the supporters, who had treated me so well. It was just a negotiation and once it was settled that was it.
“Sheffield Wednesday is the only club where I haven’t really honoured my contract, all the rest I’ve seen out contracts. It happens to many, many players, things didn’t work out for me and I wanted to make sure my family was settled and I was ready to go.
“My wife was pregnant with our second, so that had to be right. There are these little things that happen behind the scenes where people think, ‘He doesn’t want to do it’. No, they were practical but important decisions that had to be made.
“I was very clear in my own mind that I wanted to come and I wanted to play. I was never indecisive about that, it was just behind the scenes.”
That first season ended in play-off disappointment, for a third time for the Blues, losing to Bolton Wanderers having finished third in the table.
But three games from the end of the campaign they had looked on for automatic promotion having edged three points ahead of Paul Jewell’s Bradford in third with Sunderland well out in front. But then they were beaten 2-1 by bogie side Crewe Alexandra at Portman Road.
Photo: Action Images
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