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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