Johnson: I Was Beyond Impressed With Ashton's Pragmatic, Disciplined Approach
Thursday, 29th Apr 2021 13:42
New Blues co-owner Brett Johnson says incoming CEO Mark Ashton first impressed him at a USL board meeting a number of years ago and earmarked him at the time as someone he’d like to run any English club he might be involved in at a later date. Johnson has also been very impressed with manager Paul Cook and says this summer’s changes will extend beyond the playing and coaching staff to the Town's Portman Road stadium.
Ashton, 49, will join Town on June 1st with his time as CEO at Bristol City set to end the previous day.
Johnson, speaking at length to the Price of Football podcast (from 37mins 17secs), says it was important that he and his fellow Three Lions, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer, ensured someone who knows English football would be running the club on a day-to-day basis.
“I think as an American along with my American partners have tasted some success in North America, I think the greatest sin we could have made was to think that somehow our success could translate to England,” said the 51-year-old, who also speaks about having been sounded out about buying Newcastle United prior to the takeover at Town
“And so to that end, I always felt that England’s where smart money goes to die if you don’t get someone, what I would describe as English, to really steer the ship.
“I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Ashton several years ago at a USL board meeting and was beyond impressed with the pragmatic, disciplined approach that he takes both on and off the pitch.
“That impressed me and I thought to myself that if I ever have the opportunity to invest or own any asset in that fine country, I wanted someone like Ashton in the tent, if you will, on the team.
“It’s a thrill to have him and that accolade that he won in 2019 [Championship CEO of he Year] is appropriate, his eye for signing talent and for monetising is very positive.
“We look at these clubs and you do want to make sure that you can find ways to find commercial success, in addition obviously to performance success. We hope to strike the balance between the two. So I’m thrilled to have him at the helm.
“Also Paul Cook, I’ve been very impressed with what he’s done. I think he’s the right manager for the club and we’re going to be busy in this transfer window and hopefully can really bring in the talent that’s not going to stop at anything until this club is again, at the minimum, back up in the Championship.”
Cook has made no secret of his intention to make wholesale changes to the playing personnel, while off the field Ashton’s Bristol City head of operations/club secretary Luke Werhun is set to follow him to Portman Road.
As TWTD has previously reported, former Blues left-back Scott Barron will to return to the club as head of recruitment and Robins head of performance (sports science and medicine) Andy Rolls is set to take a similar position at Town having left Ashton Gate earlier this week.
But Portman Road itself will also show some changes when fans make their way through the turnstiles at the start of the 2021/22. Indeed, the underside of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand was undergoing an inspection earlier in the week, presumably with a view to its flaking paintwork being refreshed.
“I think we’re going to change not just the playing staff but we’re going to invest in Portman Road,” Johnson continued. “My understanding from a distance is that it’s a fairly tired venue.
“I think there’s a fair bit of what I’d call low-hanging fruit of changes to really have the supporters that come [take notice of].
“First and foremost they recognise it on the pitch, there’s nothing more important for us than immediately having the 18 that are dressing doing whatever it takes to win, to get those three points, week in, week out, game in, game out.
“But that said, I certainly want all the supporters that come from such a great distances to support this club and who have stuck with this club during such dark days, I want them to sit there and notice that the food is better, the seat is cleaner, the scoreboard is new.
“All those elements of it so that they go away and ideally turn to others and say ‘you’ve got to join me next time at Portman Road, the club’s going in the right direction’.”
Johnson sees the club’s position in its locality as a very significant aspect of its role: “It’s not an ego play for me, I really want these clubs to succeed and they’ve got to succeed by winning and they also have to succeed by being a big and important part of the community.
“That’s where I feel very fortunate, starting with Phoenix and now extending over the pond, to be working with clubs that really do have the ability to positively impact the community.
“I always feel an incredible responsibility. I don’t say this just for a soundbite, this is asset which is part of the community. The success lives and dies by the support of the community.
“I view my role is to be a steward to make sure the community feels that sense of ownership and pride. I feel fortunate just to play whatever small role it is tipping the scale hopefully to that end.”
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