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Ashton: There Feels a Distance Between the Fans and the Club
Thursday, 29th Jul 2021 21:30

Blues CEO Mark Ashton feels there is a distance between supporters and the club and that's partly why events such as tonight’s Fans’ Forum in the Sir Bobby Robson Suite have been instigated. Ashton was answering questions from fans along with manager Paul Cook and chairman Mike O’Leary.

The event was attended by around 100 invited fans with PA man Stephen Foster on the microphone.

Ashton took on his role at Portman Road on June 1st with plenty having happened since then.

He says that with all the changes which have been made, fans should be patient as the new team gels.

“Someone said to me I’m 40 days in and I think the average is that we’ve signed a player every four days or something like that. We haven’t stopped yet, there are more players to come before the end of the window, let’s be clear about that,” he said.

“But this is a new squad, this is a new team and be fair to those lads, it is going to take Paul and his staff and the players a little [bit of time]. We all want to get out of the blocks and win the first 10 games, but seasons are built, trophies aren’t handed out in August, they’re handed out in April/May at the end of the season.

“And over a 46-game season we have to deliver. But seasons are built and the reality is that it will take these lads a bit of time to set up.

“But I think and I would hope from what I’ve seen so far of the fanbase, as long as the lads are committed, the team are committed and they’re giving the performances that the supporters would expect, they’ll stay with the team, because that’s really important.

“We’re not going to win everything, that’s for absolute sure, we’ll have highs and we’ll have lows, but we’ve got to create this genuine togetherness.

“This isn’t meant to be disrespectful to anyone who has been at the club in any role historically, but there feels a distance between the fans and the club, and one of the reasons we’re here tonight is to start to bring that back together because if we can do that, we’ll only be stronger.

“And when we do hit the hard times we’ll stay together and I think that togetherness is what will see us through the 46 games.

“And I promise you this, win, lose or draw, this team and the team that’s behind this team, the staff that are at the back of the room, will give everything they’ve got to move this football club forward and to be successful.

“That’s the one thing I can look you all in the eye and say. You will get everything we’ve got to take this club forward, I promise.”

Manager Cook says fans need to play their part on a matchday: “Part of the culture of football today is the negativity that fans carry in a stadium. I think from when I grew up as a kid, I can only remember going to Anfield as a kid, our job was to lift the team and support the team.

“As the years have passed now, it’s been more where people sometimes want to let all their negative emotions come out towards the players and the staff. I think we should take ourselves back sometimes.

“I think the bosses of a football club should be trusted to make the right decisions for your football club and everyone’s got a part to play.

“If the team aren’t doing well, that will be addressed, if the management aren’t doing well, that will be addressed.

“Our supporters must get behind the players and the staff. And you can be the extra man. When I was at Portsmouth fans thought they were the extra man. At times they were the 12th man for the opposition through their negativity towards their own players.

“We can’t let that happen at Ipswich Town Football Club. The time to debate a football match is after the referee blows the final whistle, not during the game. During the game let’s give all our players the utmost support we can because that will lift them.”

The ultimate aim of the new ownership is the Premier League and chairman O’Leary was asked about a timescale.

“We put a budget together we’re pretty confident is going to make us competitive in the current league, and I think there’s good evidence of that already,” he said.

“That budget will enable us to invest both on and off the pitch to make improvements in the team and in the infrastructure.

“If we’re fortunate enough to get into the Championship in short order, we will revisit that budget position and our investors are very keen that we should look at how we can maintain a competitive position and we’ll be looking then to rethink.

“What do we need to do? What do we need to put in place to have a good shout at getting up another league.

“It’s a bit of a cheat answer, I’m not giving you strict timescales because a lot depends on how you get on.

“We may have gone up last year if we’d had a bit of luck and that would have changed the timescales completely.

“But realistically you’ve got to think that with some of the players that we’ve seen arriving in the last few weeks, we’re going to have a strong side this year and we’re going to have a good chance, but you can never count your chickens and never say it’s nailed on.

“And if it takes a number of years, so be it. I know our investors are very content that we are patient and we build something that is sustainable, and that’s very important.”

A Portsmouth fan referring to Town as ‘Chequebook FC’ on social media went viral last week, something Ashton says he and Cook laughed about.

“Paul and I had a chuckle about it the other day,” he said. “Someone did point that out to us.

“I talked about player trading earlier. We’ve had a couple of players that have gone out and we think we’ve taken good value in the current market for them and we’re protected moving forward, not just including percentage of a sell-on, that includes additional payments on games, appearances, etc. We’re happy with the deals that we’ve done.

“People forget that we’ve sold as well as bought and we have moved out one helluva lot of salary because we have a set of salary protocols that we must adhere to. We do that, so we’ve had to move out to move in.

“Probably moving some of the players out has been as challenging as bringing some of them in.

“All we’re going to do is focus on us. Ipswich Town is the priority. Let’s just focus on what we do, let’s control what we can do. It makes me chuckle because if people are talking about us like that, we might be concerning one or two.”

O’Leary added: “It’s also be worth saying we’re within the budget we set, so we’re not being stupid.”

Cook says other clubs’ bosses making comment on Town, as one or two have obliquely over the summer, shows they’re taking note of what’s going on at Portman Road.

“From a manager’s point of view, I think it’s always ironic when other managers speak about us, isn’t it? They always say we’re not really interested in what other clubs are doing but they’re speaking about us, so obviously they are interested in what we’re doing,” he said.

“From a manager’s point of view, we will never focus on any other teams in our league, we know historically big clubs have been in this league.

“When I was managing Wigan, for example, Sunderland paid £4 million for Will Grigg. Big clubs in divisions will be big clubs.

“I feel Ipswich Town now are acting like a big club and that’s exactly what we want to deliver for you fans.”

In addition, O’Leary reiterated that the pitch will undergo a major renovation at the end of the season, while Ashton played down the significance of the academy moving to category one, although said it was a possibility.

Cook discussed his staff, revealing that while new coach Ian Craney’s official title at Wigan was as a kitman that wasn’t really his role, improving players - “We’ve got to make these players better footballers” - his attitude to cups.

O’Leary and Ashton also talked about their communication with the US arm of the ownership, the current matchday issues relating to Blue Action, plans to add big screens both to the stadium and FanZone and the aim of improving concourse catering, although with their hands currently tied due to the contract with provider Centerplate.

Photos: Matchday Images/ITFC

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micky_1560 added 21:47 - Jul 29
Very informative of what the new owners are attempting to achieve and actually doing.
Well streamed and professionally presented.
This isn't the ITFC we are used to! 😂

Bluearmy_81 added 21:51 - Jul 29
So refreshing to hear him say the club belongs to the community, that they are only custodians. Of course it does. When fans pre April used to say "It's his (Evans) club, he can do what he wants..." it used to break my heart (and make me really angry!) Never again.

BeattiesBackPocket added 21:54 - Jul 29
Great from Cook, Ashton and O’Leary. Exactly what most fans have been saying for a long while now and the fact they can see how far the fans have been separated from the family club we used to know and love gives me great hope for the future on and off the pitch. 👏🏻

BeattiesBackPocket added 21:54 - Jul 29
Great from Cook, Ashton and O’Leary. Exactly what most fans have been saying for a long while now and the fact they can see how far the fans have been separated from the family club we used to know and love gives me great hope for the future on and off the pitch. 👏🏻

Suffolkboy added 22:10 - Jul 29
Seems more than obvious that wisely the raison d’etre for this meeting was well thought through,and the scripts,as such,for each participant sound well rehearsed !
The message ,or messages,are clearly articulated ; but without actually being present to witness the emphasis or the body language ,frankly this remains a bit of an artifice : body language and the tones of delivery might and may have revealed more !
The ITFC supporters and fans will draw closer when actions speak louder than words ; we all want a team who ,from the very top down ,show energy and unified commitment to the tasks of producing a winning format and entertainment which will inspire once again the loyalty and passion for ITFC .
PS PC would have been well advised to steer clear or around any use at all of words relating to ‘negativity ‘ ; the time for that is well past !

KiwiTractor added 22:34 - Jul 29
Well said.

chunkymunky added 22:38 - Jul 29
Terrible use of the headline, you could of used any number of upbeat points and comments that came out of what was a very encouraging forum, yet you chose to use the headline, for those who just read a headline without knowing the context it was spoken about it just looks like a wedge is forming already between the board and the fans?

BlueBlood90 added 22:49 - Jul 29
I thought all three were great and answered questions respectfully and honestly.

Mark Ashton particularly impresses me more and more with every interview. Over time, I really hope and trust that he will overhaul every part of this club that has been left to stagnate over the years.

I do have a really positive feeling that we’re finally in good hands and moving in the right direction again.

My only gripe was actually with some of the fans’ ridiculous questions! What on Earth was that man’s rambling question about Portsmouth to Paul Cook and the people asking how we’ll cope when we lose? Downright bizarre.

chopra777 added 22:50 - Jul 29
Rome was not built in a day! The players that they have brought in give us a higher than normal standard within League one. It will take a short time to get them into a team worthy of title chasers. The game against Colchester proves we have a good strikeforce. What was said tonight was truly encouraging. All three are football people and not the shower who left last season.. Let's lift the roof on 7th August and send the Shrimpers back shell shocked.

Karlosfandangal added 23:00 - Jul 29
I think football as a whole has given the fans a club a distance.

My mum sold newspapers on Ipswich station for W H Smiths in the Sixties and Some of the Ipswich players would buy them as they got the train for away matches.

Be lucky to find that today as most players need spoon feeding and more so the higher up the leagues they go.

Messi earns more in 6 hours than most people earn in a year, and he took a pay cut.

DaGremloid added 23:01 - Jul 29
I hope we take the cup competitions seriously this year. Yes promotion is important but cup runs also provide impetus and confidence. It has sickened me in recent years how they have been treated with such contempt. Pleased with what I'm hearing generally though - there is no doubting the intentions and they are what we all want to hear after years of poor management and mediocre players. it's going to be an interesting season and hopefully a positive one.

Bluedandy added 23:05 - Jul 29
The story's peculiar lead provides an entirely distorted impression of what was an overwhelmingly positive forum.
Ashton's passing comment was an obvious reference to the old regime and most supporters clearly feel an entirely renewed sense of connection with the club...pointless negativity... opening paragraph is pointlessly negative and serves only as a shambolic misrepresentation of the event.

mojo added 23:32 - Jul 29
I may be alone but I dont get the obsession about the cups, putting our past success to one side. This season especially we have more important things to worry about. Can we not get back to the Championship before worrying unduly about the cups? I can see the cups being a hindrance especially as we will be running with a small squad. I totally get the romance but league success will bring far greater financial return.

midastouch added 23:35 - Jul 29
Just watched the replay on YouTube. Was impressed with how they all answered the questions. It felt like they gave genuine answers to genuine questions. It does feel like the club is in good hands now. I don't think there would be many on here that would want to swap back to Evans!

midastouch added 23:43 - Jul 29
I especially liked the answer from Mark Ashton just after 1 hour and 4 minutes in regarding how they only want players totally committed to Ipswich. That was a breath of fresh air.
And I have a lot of confidence in Mike O'Leary. He always comes across as very eloquent and thoughtful in his answers and seems to have a very good grasp on what is needed to take us forwards.

PhilTWTD added 00:14 - Jul 30

I used that line from Mark Ashton headline as I thought it covered the reasoning behind the Fans' Forum, as explained in the opening paragraph.

Michael101 added 00:26 - Jul 30
It's seems like we have a brand new club.
14 years of hurt its coming home it's coming g home ipswich s coming home.

FramlinghamBlue added 01:07 - Jul 30
Great to hear their thoughts and a brilliant idea to connect with fans. I’m surprised we have fans asking questions like ‘what’s your favoured formation?’ And ‘will we take the cups seriously?’ Are these really worthwhile questions!?

‘Foz’ presenting to a creased tablecloth. I bet it won’t look this amateur next time.

shakytown added 01:19 - Jul 30
We all need to realise this will take time and there will be ups and downs along the way. The whole club is a work in progress and 14 years of neglect and mis management will take time to repair. get behind the teams at the clubs ( there are more than just the first team) and ignore the negative idiots on here and the trolls.

JCBLUE added 06:49 - Jul 30
Excellent Fans’ Forum and early impressions are vindicated day by day. We have extremely knowledgeable and committed owners, a first class management team and are building a very strong squad where attitude is a key requirement. The clear community focus is a vital ingredient too.

PC’s comments about fans being the 12th man were spot on and frankly the club deserve that level of commitment from us.

A big thank you to Marcus too, you always said you would only sell the club to someone who could take it forward, mission accomplished. Enjoy the journey folks, we are about to rise like a Phoenix from the ashes …..

chappie added 07:10 - Jul 30
I agree the headline could have been better thought through, and kinda reflects Cooks point (or was it Ashtons) about fan’s negativity.

It’s a negative, glass half empty headline rather than a positive, glass half full approach.


Saxonblue74 added 07:25 - Jul 30
I have no problem with the headline. Every aspect at PR is being addressed, the connection with fans being one of them. If anyone chooses to read the headline without the rest of the article then yes it appears negative, can't legislate for that! The powers that be are doing an incredible job, down to us to do our best as supporters now

dav86 added 07:52 - Jul 30
So Ian craney was a coach at Wigan, just his title was Kitman to create a job, Hopefully that will shut a few up on here now asking about his credentials as a coach.

chappie added 08:13 - Jul 30
My comment on the headline to one side, everything else is indeed being addressed and it’s once again starting to be a good time to be an ITCF fan. Really excited to be looking forward to this season, just gutted I’m on holiday for the first home game. Bad planning on my part!

dirtydingusmagee added 08:36 - Jul 30
there is a distance,Evans only knows how far !. These people are really shaking the dust off the club, They havnt just taken over and its same old, every aspect is being addressed. Long needed. , I feel there is a real momentum building now . COYB .

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