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Ashton: Too Big an Opportunity to Turn Down
Tuesday, 1st Jun 2021 14:55

Incoming Blues CEO Mark Ashton says it was time for a new challenge and Town was too big an opportunity to turn down following five and a half years at Bristol City.

Ashton was first mentioned in connection with the CEO’s role at Portman Road by TWTD in February with his appointment announced in April before he finally took charge today.

The 49-year-old held a short 10-minute meeting with club staff - from Playford Road as well as Portman Road - in the FanZone this morning to introduce himself and outline his plans for the future.

Ashton says it was good to finally speak to those working at the club face to face: “It was really important, particularly as the club has gone through a takeover as well.

“A number of the staff actually haven't been onsite for 12 months because of the pandemic, so to invite them in, albeit socially distanced, in the FanZone, just to try and give them a little bit of confidence that we're here to try and help and build the club, and we have plans in place to take it forward, and I think to just try to reassure them a little bit, so it was great to see them.”

Asked what appealed to him about the project, he said: “Just look at it [indicating the Portman Road stadium]. I'll tell you a quick story. A couple of weeks ago myself and my family drove down one evening – it was a good three-hour drive – and we drove to the back of the Cobbold Stand.

“And there was literally a lump in our throats just looking at the size of the stand, the tradition of the stand, the font of the writing on the stand. My other half said to me, ‘whatever you do, don't you get rid of that font on that stand. That means something’.

“And when you walk around a club, you see it, and you feel it. I said to the staff this morning, I was 16 years at West Brom and I always thought that was a club that carried a huge tradition with it.

“Walking around this place this morning, my word. The memorabilia, the tradition, the history, the success that this football club has had.

“It's just too big an opportunity to turn down, to help be part of turning this around and taking it back to where we think it genuinely belongs.”

Looking back on his five and a half years at Ashton Gate, he said: “An amazing time, amazing people. Amazing ownership and there was a group of people that build the stadium, I can’t take credit for that but there was a group of people behind the scenes that built an incredible stadium.

“The training ground was my project, I think we leave them with an incredible legacy in the academy with a production line of players, nine or 10 first-team debuts this season.

“On the pitch they’re going to go through a big change of players and squad. I think they’ve got a great manager in Nigel Pearson. He was messaging me yesterday wishing me all the best and thanking me for my support and vice versa to him.

“It’s a club that I believe is destined for the Premier League, and they’ll be the first set of results I’ll be looking for after the Ipswich one. I only have good memories.”

Ashton has wasted no time in getting himself settled in town: Already moved, we have a house in Ipswich, which is great, so I got up this morning and it was five minutes to the stadium and five minutes to the training ground.

“You've got to do that. You can't run football clubs remotely and I passionately believe that.

“You've got to be all in, totally committed, and it's long hours. This isn't a job, this is a way of life. Those who know me from other clubs, from Bristol City, I haven't missed a second of a game.

“Every second, every game, you have to do that, you have to have that commitment, and we'll get decisions right on the way through, and we'll get decisions wrong, but the one thing that I can promise the fans that they will get my total commitment, all my energy and everything we've got to try and move this club forward.”

He’s already aware that there will be plenty of lengthy trips with Suffolk well away from plenty of teams in the division, and not even particularly close to his native region.

“The Midlands, I've worked that out already,” he laughed. “But that's great, I travel a lot to the games anyway and I do a lot of my thinking and my calls in the car, and I'm just really looking forward to help building something.

“I know keep saying it, but I'm just overwhelmed by the size and the tradition of this football club.

“I was in the office this morning and I was looking at the '78 FA Cup-winning team, and I think my very earliest memory of football was being at my friend's house and listening to West Brom play Ipswich in the '78 semi-final where John Wile and Brian Talbot headbutted one another in the first five minutes.

“Brian scored and John's got his head bandage on, and that's an iconic picture. It's just bizarre how things come back.

“I look at the team picture and Brian Talbot was my manager when I was a player at West Brom, Cyril Lea was my youth team coach when I was at West Brom, and the dots all join up, it's incredible.

“I just want to embrace the heritage, bring everyone together and play a part in taking what is a very, very special football club forward.”

Why did he want the challenge? Why leave a Championship club for League One?

“I'm a builder and if you look at where I've worked in the past and what I've done, that's what I've done, I've built.

“And I think the easier choice would be to stay where I am working for an amazing owner at Bristol City with some amazing people having just completed the training ground and having a really good relationship with the new manager.

“But you get to a point, I'm 50 this year – my word that frightens me – and I just felt it was time for a new challenge and I think the people who have acquired this football club, have invested in this football club are really special and want to do the right thing.

“And I just think sometimes in life things line up, and this just felt right from the moment they contacted me, and I love a challenge, and I think we've got one.

“But as I just said, I think this is a really special football club. It's amazing, and I'm amazed about how many people have contacted me in different walks of life who are Ipswich Town fans and have said, 'oh my God, I'm so pleased you're going there, you can do this, and you can do this’.

“And want to talk to me about the history and want to talk to me about the tradition, want to talk to me about what areas we can improve, what we should do, what we shouldn't do.

“It's a club that seems very dear to the football industry’s heart – just look at the former managers that have been here, it's incredible. And I'm just honoured to play a part in hopefully taking this club back to where we believe it should be.”

Photos: Matchday Images/James Ager

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BurleysGloryDays added 15:08 - Jun 1
Fantastic interview, welcome Mark and very best of luck.

I hope the fans get behind you and the new owners, and management. They have been given every reason to.

And I hope you can get Portman Road full again, a place kids are desperate to go to, a place families want to be, and a place where the raucous fans can lose their voices every week.

If we can get back to hope rather than expectation, we'll all be in it together. That's what's defined our best eras as a club.

SohoBlue added 15:08 - Jun 1
To say we're looking forward to the new era is an understatement, but you're right in that it's the details that matter. Sometimes the little things really go deep, and I've often thought that about the fonts around Portman Road. Something that has little to do with the football and results, but epitomises the journey and the good times... something that I'm happy dates us given recent years' results! COYB!

ArnieM added 15:12 - Jun 1
You see, narwich scum, A Club's HISTORY IS EVERYTHING.!!

ITFC are on their way back........

Marcus added 15:23 - Jun 1
Interesting comments about the fonts. Some would have suggested the previous owner would have changed them to Comic Sans if a sponsor asked, glad the identity is taken more seriously now.

90z added 15:25 - Jun 1
Great interview came across well! Finally after so many years the foundations of our football clubs are being rebuilt!

herfie added 15:28 - Jun 1
Praise be - a charismatic prophet has just come down from the mountain. And the tablets of stone he carries bring hope and salvation! For those who have lost the faith, grab with both hands and regain it. For the rest of us keep on keeping it!


gosblue added 15:41 - Jun 1
Lump in throat. Tear in eye. As a group of supporters, we are desperate to have something to love again. Mark, please don’t allow this once great club to alienate the fans again as successive managers have done recently. Good luck in your new role. A massive welcome to ITFC.

johnwarksshorts added 16:34 - Jun 1
Speaks very well and is clearly very passionate about our great club. Welcome Mark. I really hope you build this club back up to where it belongs.

Bobbiesboys added 16:34 - Jun 1
Very good interview and a very charismatic person. We had planned not to renew this year if things had stayed the same. With the takeover and appointment of a new manager and back room team, we decided to renew. So six season tickets purchased on the first day of availability and reading all the items about Mark Ashton on here today I think it was a wise decision. So any of you currently sitting on the fence time to jump off and purchase those season tickets!

TractorRoyNo1 added 17:08 - Jun 1
1st day of summer but I can't wait for the autumn, bring it on!

rdibble added 17:16 - Jun 1
good luck bring the good times back

Nottsboy added 17:21 - Jun 1
Things are looking up, I hope the communications between all the coaches and top brass will be good as that's where the cracks start to appear and that the communication rolls down to the players. But I wish them good fortune ( It will be nice to make the return 308 mile round trip worth it ) instead of been jacked off at another loss cursing the A14 and A1 and the A52.

carlo88 added 17:54 - Jun 1
Not quite sure why everyone seems so thrilled by these appointments. Although I like very much how Mike O'Leary comes across, it may be worth reading comments about Ashton from the Bristol City and Watford press, and fans. Scathing puts it mildly.

greenkingtone added 18:13 - Jun 1
Welcome Mark. You are just what this great club needed. Don't be frightened of 50. Just wai till you are 88 like me. Now that is really scary.

TimmyH added 18:41 - Jun 1
Probably getting a pay rise brought him here...mind you a new team behind what happens on the pitch and then to bring hopefully success to a club with bigger history than Bristol City would probably be more rewarding.

jas0999 added 19:02 - Jun 1
Very impressed. Said the right things. Understands it’s important for the ground to look good, but unlike previous regime not at the expense of the playing squad. That’s the number one priority.

Excellent interview. A refreshing change.

JCBLUE added 19:20 - Jun 1


Monkey_Blue added 19:34 - Jun 1
Wish him well and he comes across well. I would only ponder if Bristol City are better on the pitch in nearly 6 years since he went there? We do need to improve the infrastructure, but it’s a vajazzle if the club Can’t get it up. Other than Ed’s sponsorship this has been a high point of the closed season….. still lots of if and buts though.

bernie added 19:36 - Jun 1
Welcome Mark , all the best and luck . I like what he’s been saying . Come on you blues !!

norfolkbluey added 20:18 - Jun 1
Good Luck Mark and welcome to a club that out gunned some of the top of clubs in the country and Europe. I just worry at the amount of chiefs being brought in and little sign of any quality players. Is there going to be enough money in the bank to fund all this? The club has limped along for a long time cash strapped with little in the way of money available to buy decent players to get us out of this league and back at the top where this wonderful club should be. I just hope I live long enough to see this happen again having supported it since Sir Alf was the manager. Ambition on the pitch is what the supporters want to see and that costs a great deal of cash these days but time will tell. We're all keeping our fingers crossed in anticipation.

Bluesky added 20:29 - Jun 1
Mark Ashton's enthusiasm and excitement sound totally genuine. I love his (other half's) appreciation of the font significance that resonates total appreciation of the history and achievements of our club. To have any chance of restoring our footballing status there has to be this empathy. I'm afraid ME fell well short of that level of understanding. I am excited now. Good luck Mr Ashton and welcome to Ipswich.

blaggers added 21:15 - Jun 1
Can't wait for Talking Town to get him on their podcast. 🤫

Talbs77 added 21:25 - Jun 1
Very impressed with new CEO statement today , very impressed with new owners statements over the last couple of months, very impressed with new Managers honesty and passion for success, impressed with recent appointments on fitness/conditioning/coaches coming in.

However I think we have now hit the stage, 9 weeks before a ball is even kicked next season where we have to start seeing it backed up with proper, quality players.

Not constant “Town linked with this player and understood to be interested in that player. Sunderland and Rotherham are also said to be interested...”

Let’s start seeing actions as well as words.

All feeling positive and not wanting to be a bummer but we’ve been here before people...many times over the last 15 years so let’s keep it real people.

DinDjarin added 18:30 - Jun 2
Talking the talk and hopefully walks the walk.

Foundations all being put in place and am buzzing for next season.

Then again I am every pre season!!!

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