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Ashton: Priority is to Get Some Players In
Tuesday, 1st Jun 2021 15:25

New CEO Mark Ashton says the priority is to get some players in and has spoken about the current position with potential ins and outs - there could be signings in the next week - and how recruitment will work at Town going forward.

Ashton formally took over as the club's new CEO this morning and gave a press conference at Portman Road.

“The priority is we've got to get some players in,” the 49-year-old said when asked what his priorities are.

“We’ve got to get the right players in, but it's really getting to know people and to meet people, and that's probably the piece I've been looking forward to for the last six weeks whilst I've been waiting to arrive.

“I talked today to the staff about togetherness. I can't do this on my own, the players can't do it on their own, Paul can't do it on his own, and the investors can't do it on their own.

“We need to make sure that we are fully engaged with the fanbase, fully engaged with the community, fully engaged with the staff and bring people together.

“We were just talking, this stadium holds more than 30,000 people. We're coming out of a pandemic. It's been difficult for everyone in the country, and I think we have a moment in time where if we can come together, we can really build something very special here, but we've got to make sure we bring people together.”

Asked whether he has spoken to manager Paul Cook about targets, Ashton said: “Oh yeah, we had dinner last night, and that's what we talked about for three or four hours with [chairman] Mike [O’Leary].

“I've had a number of conversations on the phone with him as well where he's wanted to get me up to speed.

“He's clear on the type of individual he wants and I love the fact he's really clear that anybody who comes to play for this football club has got to be committed.

“This isn't a stop-off for someone to go and play for someone else, this isn't where journeyman come to finish their careers, this is a football club that deserves better, and he's adamant that he wants players and staff totally, totally committed, and he's already setting a tempo. So, we'll be working on those later today.”

Quizzed on the latest on possible arrivals, he said: “Look, Paul's been really clear on the type of player he wants. He's been clear on some of the targets, the club has started to move on some of those targets, I will take that over as of today, and I'd like to think in the next week or so we can get some of those across the line.

“We've got to recruit players that can get us out of this division, and we've got to recruit talent around that.

“So, we'll look to recruit in all areas, we'll look to develop the academy, and that will come in time.

“We’ll look to develop and recruit players into the U23s, which is the underbelly that we can develop in time – all in the first team – but right now we've got to recruit players that can win games come August.”

How will the recruitment process work? "We work together. I'm not in talent ID, and I don't go and watch games, I don't scout – that's not my piece.

“My piece is the negotiation and the relationship with other clubs and the agents and the financial piece. That's the piece I do.

“Paul, his staff and the recruitment guys that are here lead on presenting the players that they'd like to sign.

“I think recruitment is an area that we will invest in over time, but again we'll bring the right people into that, whether that's technical recruitment, whether that's scouting, whether that's analysis – again, that's an area that we'll heavily invest in. But right now, it's all hands to the pump, and we've got to get players in for August.”

In an interview given during his time at Bristol City, he talked about having a ‘data dashboard’ and technical recruitment. He says they will be part of his armoury at Town.

“On hundred per cent,” he said. “I've already been on to my PA this morning saying ‘can we send the analysis?’ My data dashboards.

“What I don't do it, I don't do talent identification and I don't scout, I don't identify the players, I don't watch enough football to do that, it's not my skill set.

“But what I like to do is I need to understand the industry, so we will understand what every other football club in League One is doing, we will understand the market.

“One of the things between myself, Paul and his backroom staff is we're very well connected, and we have good relationships with big Premier League clubs, Championship clubs, and we will use those relationships if we need to either bring players in or get knowledge on players that are out there.

“For me, recruitment is a balance, it's a balance between objective and subjective, so it's a balance between data analysis and a balance between scouting.

“Neither is right or less or more important. The two have to come together, but where I like Paul is he's really clear on how he wants to play. He's really clear on the makeup of his players, that helps us in recruitment, and we'll be active, and we'll be onto it.”

So he'll identify the targets, and then it's your job from there? “No, he's part of it. Whether it's Paul, his staff, the scouts, relationships that we have, it's a funnel. All the names will go into the funnel and they will be measured against Paul's technical specifications and what comes out of that are players that we believe will be right for this football club.

“But what we won't do, no player at first-team level will come into the football club without Paul Cook saying he wants them, and we don't work like that because I just don't believe in that.

“He has to say yes, he wants that player. There will never be shocks or surprises because he'll be part of the process all the way through, and when we get to the endpoint, and we agree that's the player we want, it then goes to me to do the negotiation and the financial piece.”

Ashton says the recruitment process will be looked at from top to bottom: “You have to, for sure. It's one of the most important parts of any football club.

“We can have the best commercial department, the best retail, the best conference and banqueting but we get decisions wrong in recruitment, and it blows it all out of the water.

“So, we've got to make sure we get the right talent into the first team and the U23s whilst also investing and developing the academy and giving our academy staff the opportunity to bring young players through.

“Because, by the way, the FA Youth Cup semi-final is an incredible achievement. Lee O'Neill and his staff should be given huge credit for that. Something the club should be very proud of, and again, we've got to invest sensibly in all areas to take the club forward.”

Ashton says Cook will be given the tools with which to do the job, will be backed enough to bring in the players he wants.

“Yeah, I think so,” he continued. “Look, the club will be well-funded, but we also have to work under the salary protocols in League One, which means you can only spend a percentage of your turnover [60 per cent] on players' salaries, and everyone's turnover is substantially down because of the pandemic.

“But we'll be funded right to the top of that, but we'll be sensible. We'll be brave and we'll be bold, but we won't be reckless, and I think that's key.

“But yeah, Paul will be supported, we want to make this club competitive as quickly as we can, and we want to get results as quickly as we can.”

Asked about potential exits and the majority of the current squad being told they can move on, Ashton said: “We assess every player on an individual basis. I've already started that process with Paul, and you know we're in a really interesting transfer market.

“I've never had one in 30 years like this. The pandemic has caused a very depressed market where clubs will trade players because clubs haven't got the money they had historically to spend, and we'll step through it player by player, and there's a deal on the table that's the right thing for this football club then we'll do it.

“If it's not the right thing at the right time, then we won't do it. But let's be really clear, what will come first with regards to Paul is putting a team together for him that wins games come August.”

Is it fair to say there are a number of players in the current squad that Cook wants to keep and build his new recruits and the team around? “Yeah, for sure. It's very fluid, and there are a number of players in there where he's said to me I want them here.

“But with every player, you can never say never, and I've learnt that before. The key piece is not just to recruit players, we've got to assemble a team and a team that can work and perform in the way Paul's shape is and the way Paul wants them to perform. That’s really key.

“And assembling those pieces of the jigsaw in the right way so that over a 40-game season they can deliver success is going to be absolutely key.

“It's not necessarily how we perform on that first game of the season, it's when we get to February and we're away on a Tuesday night can we still get results.

“They've got to be able to handle going to Sunderland, going to Portsmouth, going to Rotherham.

“They've got to be able to handle playing here at home because there are fans coming back, and there's going to be expectation here.

“But we will work together and I think we've got a really good staff that will bring energy and focus that are real professionals, and we just want to get started.”

He says quality is more important than quantity with the club having had a huge number of players during 2020/21.

“Yeah, and Paul is clear on that,” he added. “Too many men can cause a problem, so we've got to get the right amount of players, and we've got to make sure that they are resilient enough to see the season through.

“Because a lot of clubs, my former club, this club and many, many that you speak to because of the pandemic and the rate of games over the last 12 months have really suffered with injuries.

“And that's one of the reasons that Andy Rolls [director of performance] and Andy Costin [head of sports science] have been brought into sports science is to make sure that, one, we recruit players that can physically do what Paul Cook wants, and when they're here, we can adapt and develop them to do what we want them to do.”

Town have already been linked with a lot of players - today they’re one of a long list of clubs claimed to be showing an interest in QPR winger Albert Adomah - with many of them Cook’s former Wigan and Portsmouth charges or those with links with Bristol City.

While players with links to Cook or Ashton may well come in, the CEO says they are looking farther afield as well.

“There's always an element of better the devil you know, and so yes, there are players at those clubs that we're looking at,” he said.

“But the net goes far, far wider than that. And we will endeavour to bring in the best talent that we can to win games.

Do Town have any bids in or are any offers currently on the table for Blues players? “I will pick all that up formally today, but there are certainly discussions going on with clubs and players for sure, and again, as soon as I get my feet under the desk, I'll be taking that on and moving them forward.”

Ashton knows he has a busy summer ahead of him: “For sure, But it's great. I hope the weather is like this every day because it's fantastic.

“I'm excited, and I'm genuinely excited, you know what, that's probably not the right word. I'm honoured, I'm really honoured to be here.

“I'm honoured that the Three Lions, Mark Steed [the chief investment officer at Arizona PSPRS Trust, the pension fund which owns 90 per cent of Gamechanger 20 Ltd] and Ed Schwarz [Gamechanger board member from investment fund ORG] have chosen me to come and work with them on this project. I'm proud to be Ipswich's CEO, and I just can't wait to get going.”

Photo: Matchday Images

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Bazza8564 added 15:37 - Jun 1
Top man! Lets get behind this team and buy our season tickets in our thousands again, get our bit done and let them build it!

cromwellblue added 15:37 - Jun 1
I truly hope this turns out as good as it is sounding.

We have a club management team committed to change and moving us forward.

As supporters we need to back them in this, even if we individually may not agree with every decision they make.

It will not be an overnight fix but at least we now have hope......


itsonlyme added 15:49 - Jun 1
Fantastic! Everything he says is what we fans want to hear. I know next season is going to be as hard as ever but can’t wait to be at fortress Portman Road again and watch a team that wants to play for the club, can score goals, can grind out results and lay decent football in front of huge crowds with expectations of looking upwards instead of downwards. Roll on August!

CavendishBlue added 16:17 - Jun 1
In order for the New Ipswich Town F C to work ,well not only need all of what he says, but also for him to overcome hurdles.

Mainly that for far too many players, clubs too far from London or away from football heartlands in NW England aren't sexy.

But just like any other salesmsn,if these boys can get them into the facilities and in front of Klug,Dyer & Butcher ,then we may well seem them privileged enough to pull on the shirt.


cooper4england added 17:05 - Jun 1
Never really understand why Suffolk isn't an attractive place to live. This isn't the 80s of champagne lifestyle booze culture football. Footballers now are fully committed professionals whose lifestyle must be frankly quite dull. Train, hit the golf course nice meal out and in bed by nine. perhaps. Really quite boring! Suffolk can offer all that with the occasional night out in London

braveblue added 17:10 - Jun 1
Sounds like a proper CEO. Hopefully everyone can now see the previous jokes that Evans appointed.

WhoisJimmyJuan added 22:14 - Jun 1
There is a hint in there that some if the existing players will be retained. If I'm right - if - then maybe PC's declaration that all the players can find new clubs could be a bit of motivational psychology for some of the squad.

KernewekBlue added 22:40 - Jun 1
This guy can certainly talk the right language... it's exciting to hear that we now have someone in the building who has some real ambition and the knowhow to make good acquisitions.

I can't wait for the transfer window to open and see the rebuild start to take some real shape.

Hopefully, some really, really good times for this club are just around the corner.


BettyBlue added 23:42 - Jun 1
yadda yadda yadda.......

armchaircritic59 added 01:49 - Jun 2
I'm certainly hoping that recruitment is now much more data led. The days of scouts trawling all over the country (except looking at more grass route levels) are much reduced.

Look at the Brentford model ,a programme which identifies over performing teams in their respective leagues, and within those teams, over performing players, according to their data model.

Of course you need to do a check to see they have the sort of temprement etc to go with it, but it has to be the way forward, still real bargains to be had, in particular abroad, though of course, what with covid/brexit etc, things might be a bit trickier than usual.

Looking forward to the next few weeks.

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 05:56 - Jun 2
Ashton paints a very promising picture. It's not a surprise for him to say that the priority is to get some players in, and it is hard to disagree. We've all heard of, and some of us have been a bit surprised at, Cooke's new broom policy re- the existing squad. So for me, one of the most interesting things Ashton also said was "there are a number of players in there where he's said to me I want them here." It seems that Cooke's "everyone is for sale" was, after all, some kind of a psychological ploy. Maybe not such a good one in my opinion, but I will be glad if that turns out to be the case. I don't disagree with a radical shakeup, but the best scenario for me is a core of our decent / promising players - we do have some - strengthened by some astute signings. There were times in the past, even going back to the Championship, when all we have lacked is maybe a couple of extra quality players to get us over the line. Hopefully now that is what Ashton is going to find for us.

Saxonblue74 added 07:19 - Jun 2
Cooper4england, that lifestyle sounds like heaven to me! I really hope season ticket sales reflect the optimism and enthusiasm that seems to be flowing through the club right now.

ringwoodblue added 08:18 - Jun 2
All sounds great and very encouraging but tbh I’ve heard so much talk over the last few months, now we need some action.

budgieplucker added 09:02 - Jun 2
I wouldn’t overly focus on Cooks “you can all go statement”.

Firstly, player trading may be on the way back, hence why we took up the options on some players.

There is very little money about and most that took the Premiership bail out are restricted in spending any money.

We have to adopt an in the trenches mentality, so it’s up to the players if they want to be snowflakes or fighters. We can’t bring a completely new squad and we have been too heavy in some areas.

We are on the right path and fragile confidences of players who maybe thought they were better than they really are cannot get in the way of a serious attitude to go out and win every game and flex every sinew. Up for it or not - we will find out and I am sure there are one or two who will survive and be stronger for it

dirtydingusmagee added 09:49 - Jun 2
Bettyblue, nothing pleases you, you need to get help.When everything was wrong with the club and nothing being done to reverse that ,it was understandable, now we have the beginings of everything we were asking for, in shape of complete new set up, top to bottom on and off the field, you still cant find a positive thing to say. SAD. It may not bring insatant success, it may even fail completely, but give it a chance, doing nothing was not an option.

Razor added 10:03 - Jun 2
Well he certainly talks a good game----but we all know you dont get promoted with words.

The next 2 to 3 weeks will be interesting.

BettyBlue added 13:42 - Jun 2
4 weeks to build a new squad. No signings. Rubbish manager in charge. It's all looking bright.

Ipswichbusiness added 19:47 - Jun 2
BettyBlue: I don’t agree with you, but it’s lovely to have you back!

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