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The Office (UK): Ipswich Town edition


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Just now, Marcus Aurelius said:

What's funny to me, excluding the children on Twitter, I think our fans have been quite polite when warning them about Ashton. Yet have been met with a tirade of abuse.

Agree. It’s not like they are Cardiff or the gas . I think we all used to like them ! This time next year , if they are not in L2 , they will get it . More will leak from behind the scenes and they will hear exactly what we know goes on . But as they have turned out to be such a miserable bunch , it is now fair comedy game . 

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26 minutes ago, billywedlock said:

Agree. It’s not like they are Cardiff or the gas . I think we all used to like them ! This time next year , if they are not in L2 , they will get it . More will leak from behind the scenes and they will hear exactly what we know goes on . But as they have turned out to be such a miserable bunch , it is now fair comedy game . 

Are the US owners totally oblivious?

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On the face of it, without having the benefit of knowing how Mark Ashton practically dismantled our house from the inside, and used our club as a vessel for self-gain, the Ipswich Town job appears attractive, yet they have ended up with a coach in his first “Head” role.

I wonder how many seasoned, experienced, and respected managers either:-

i) Looked at the job and were put off because of Ashton and the spookily familiar house of cards he is building which includes a fraud of a Fitness Coach.

ii) Were not considered by Ashton as they would not accept his maniacally self-driven need to control everything, or that the main man himself felt threatened by.

No wonder he could not wait to scuttle off to ITFC, probably a perfect outfit for him to be able to hide in plain sight from the owners whilst coining it in, and off-setting accountability easily as they are so far removed from it.

I always find time to comment on this subject as my view is that he was professionally negligent here in his last 6-12 months at best, and at worse should have been disciplined and ultimately dismissed for gross misconduct.

You can not overplay the mess he created here and then left us with, both in squad, and ability to reinvest.

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1 hour ago, cidered abroad said:

The appointment of McKenna is a mirror version of the way Holden was appointed here.

Which leads me to wonder if MA, who is a really clever sod in his own mind, and knowing what affinity SL had with the Johnson family, had a much bigger influence on LJ getting the City job than we have ever realised.

And even how much he had to do with the demise of Cotterill?

The story is the board (MA included) wanted Appleton, Lansdown wanted Johnson, Lansdown overruled them. Whether it’s true I don’t know.

Re Cotterill, I’m sure Lansdown brought MA back to do his dirty work for him.

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17 minutes ago, Davefevs said:

The story is the board (MA included) wanted Appleton, Lansdown wanted Johnson, Lansdown overruled them. Whether it’s true I don’t know.

Re Cotterill, I’m sure Lansdown brought MA back to do his dirty work for him.

Yet there is the story (promoted by MA) that he suggested LJ to SL.

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13 minutes ago, Davefevs said:

I bet it was jumping on SL’s coat-tails.

Wouldn’t be surprised if another scribbled spider-diagram in his “Goals of Mark Ashton” notebook is to take a relatively unknown coach and mentor and develop him and hope he actually wins something under Ashton’s watchful and father-like eye, so that he can claim he moulded and developed the next Pep Guardiola.

Can see it forming in his head for his memoirs/autobiography.

Chapter 42 - “King-Maker”………

Edited by TomThumb84
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3 minutes ago, PHILINFRANCE said:

I tried to read the article itself, but it appears to be behind a paywall.

Is there any possibility you might be able provide a link or, alternatively, to copy and paste it?

Thanks in advance.

 

Tomorrow has long been earmarked as a big day for Ipswich Town. Almost 29,000 have heeded calls to “Pack out Portman Road” for the visit of Sunderland, a pre-Christmas gathering that has no place in English football’s third tier.

The anticipated presence of five Americans in the directors’ box only adds to the sense of occasion. Ed Schwartz, Brett Johnson, Mark Detmer, Berke Bakay and Mark Steed have been Ipswich’s owners since April but will be gathered as a quintet for the first time.

“We want to be brave and bold,” said chief executive Mark Ashton in his rallying cry for supporters to return last month. “We want to show the world that Ipswich Town Football Club is back on the map.”

They still take some finding in the middle of League One, though. This season has been the reset gone wrong at the halfway mark, with ambitions of promotion back to the Championship already badly frayed. Seven wins are all that have come from 22 games and the nine-point gap to the top six will take some clawing back.

The struggles cost manager Paul Cook his job this month after less than a year in charge and now it is Kieran McKenna tasked with resurrecting this ailing campaign. McKenna last night left his role as first team coach with Manchester United to sign a three-and-a-half-year deal at Portman Road. It is his first managerial role at the age of 35. “I strongly believe in the opportunity to build something here,” McKenna told the club’s website.

Ipswich desperately need a spark, after an embarrassing FA Cup second round replay loss to League Two strugglers Barrow on Wednesday night. That was an unedifying new low in a season that has already brought a Carabao Cup exit at home to another fourth-tier side, Newport County, and EFL Trophy elimination at the hands of Arsenal Under-21s.

Former England defender Terry Butcher, who won the old UEFA Cup (today’s Europa League) with Ipswich in 1981, was at Holker Street as a TV pundit, so had a ringside seat for the 2-0 defeat by Barrow — currently 87th on the 92-club league ladder. “We’re not a big club anymore,” he said. “We’re a small club, really, when you think about how far we’ve sunk. You can talk about this and that in the past, but it’s not the past that matters. It’s the present. And the present at the moment isn’t good enough.”

This visit of fellow fallen giants Sunderland is not nearly the occasion Ipswich hoped it would be. It might be an ownership coronation delayed by the pandemic but the excitement that accompanied the Suffolk club into this season has been badly diluted.

Ipswich, for all their vast changes, are as close to the third tier’s relegation zone, purely in points terms, as they are to its play-off places. Fans craved a fresh start after a decade of regression under Marcus Evans saw Championship mediocrity become relegation in 2019 to end 17 years in the second tier but are yet to see tangible differences between this season and last.

The frustration has been bubbling and came to the boil when beaten 2-0 at Charlton Athletic last Tuesday. Defender Toto Nsiala was at the centre of a regrettable confrontation with visiting fans after the full-time whistle and had to be pulled away by goalkeeper Christian Walton.

A contrite statement came within 24 hours.

“My intention was to acknowledge the supporters and tell them that we are doing all we can to put things right,” said Nsiala. “Unfortunately, this did not come across how I intended.”

TOTO-NSIALA-IPSWICH
Ipswich’s Toto Nsiala issued an apology after a frank exchange with supporters away to Charlton (Photo: Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images)

Good intentions have not yet taken Ipswich far under new ownership.

A once tired-looking Portman Road has been spruced up since the summer and investments in the squad have been significant, but Rotherham United, League One’s front runners, are 16 points above them despite having played a game less.

McKenna, who has joined a managerial alumni that includes two English football heroes in Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, will have his work cut out if Ipswich are to avoid spending a fourth straight season in League One.


The remedy to Ipswich’s ills this season was supposed to be Cook.

Promotions had been won in his three previous posts — at Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic — and his undoubted pedigree in League One made him a popular successor to Paul Lambert in March.

The appointment was made by Ipswich’s then-majority shareholder Evans but endorsed by the incoming Americans, who completed a £17.5 million takeover five weeks after Cook’s arrival.

An opportunity to reach last season’s play-offs had been meekly surrendered by then via a run of one win in eight matches, and the onus placed upon a drastic summer overhaul — out went 20 first-team players, in came 19 new recruits. Off-field changes were significant, too. Ashton, formerly CEO at Bristol City, effectively became the most influential figure at the club when made chief executive by the new owners.

“Ashton is running the show,” says one well-placed source. “The Americans gave him the keys to the city in the summer when he came in.”

The relationship between Ashton and Cook might have begun cordially enough as they worked together in a reconstruction of the squad, but The Athletic has been told it quickly deteriorated in the weeks that preceded Ipswich’s second managerial change of 2021.

They are understood to have clashed over the summer appointment of a performance team headed by Andy Rolls. Former West Ham United head of sports science Rolls had worked with Ashton at Bristol City but became a bone of contention with Cook, who was dissatisfied with the fitness levels of his squad.

Displeasure over transfer issues was made clear as the January window approached.

Ipswich transformed their squad in the summer without a recruitment department, and a formal structure to fill that void is still to be finalised.

Tensions had become apparent before Cook’s sacking but the timing of it was nevertheless a surprise.

No sooner had he faced the media to digest a flat goalless draw at home to Barrow in the original FA Cup tie on Saturday, December 4 than he was called in to see Ashton and chairman Michael O’Leary, where he was told his services were no longer be required.

Ashton later told the media it was a “unanimous” decision made by the board and cited “recent performances” as the trigger.

Those included a penalty shootout defeat against Arsenal Under-21s in the EFL Trophy’s last 32, having led 2-0 with 25 minutes to go, and league losses to promotion candidates Rotherham and Sunderland. However, overall the club’s League One fortunes had been much-improved since a miserable start that yielded just three points, and no wins, from the first six games. Cook’s remaining 14 league matches in charge earned 24 points.

“It was almost 50-50 among the fanbase with Cook,” says Joe Fairs from the Blue Monday Ipswich supporters podcast. “It’s happened early in his tenure, and as Ipswich fans we’ve been used to Paul Lambert and Mick McCarthy, who have outstayed their welcome by a season or two.

“By the time they went, the whole fanbase was united. With this one, it wasn’t the case at all. People were clinging on to the hope it was going to work but it was largely hope based on what he’d done previously.

“I don’t think anyone expected the start to this season to be as bad as it was. We’ve been behind the eight-ball from that point and never really got back into it.”

PAUL-COOK-IPSWICH
Cook was sacked this month but the fanbase was split on the decision (Photo: Hannah Fountain – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Cook had gone all-in with Ipswich, setting up home in Suffolk. He had taken a backroom team of trusted allies to Portman Road, including the former Everton, Arsenal and England striker Francis Jeffers, but was without key personnel that had helped create his previous successes.

Leam Richardson, who worked with Cook at Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan, declined the chance to join his old boss again at Ipswich in favour of keeping a lead role at Wigan, where he is now head coach. Anthony Barry continues to build up his glowing reputation as an assistant at Chelsea, after working with Cook for three years at Wigan before joining Frank Lampard’s Stamford Bridge staff in the summer of 2020.

The search for Cook’s successor has been led by Ashton, who is thought to have favoured a modern, dynamic head coach all along.

An “extensive” process has ended with Ipswich being drawn to McKenna, who has been coaching at Manchester United since 2016.

The Northern Irishman was part of the backroom teams working with Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and was kept on by Ralf Rangnick when he was named interim manager at the start of this month. Martyn Pert, United’s respected first-team coach, will be McKenna’s assistant as Ipswich and both will formally take charge on Monday.

The hope will be for a reaction as a new coaching team watches on at a near-capacity Portman Road tomorrow.

The added attraction is the unveiling of a new statue depicting late Ipswich great Kevin Beattie, a star of that iconic, Robson-led team for 13 years as they finished as top-flight runners-up twice, won the FA Cup in 1978 and then the UEFA Cup three years later. The bronze sculpture cost £110,000, paid in part by donations from supporters. Saturday would have been Beattie’s 68th birthday.

His statue, like the figures of Robson and 1966 World Cup winner Ramsey already immortalised outside of Portman Road, will be another reminder of what Ipswich used to be. History brings an inescapable weight of expectation.

The new ownership group is complex, with US investment fund ORG Portfolio Management owning 90 per cent of the club, but its long-term ambitions are clear.

The potential for Ipswich to rejoin the Premier League, a level they have not seen since 2001-02, has been highlighted. Another mid-table finish in League One this season is not part of the plan.

“It’s still pretty positive around the club and the ownership,” adds Fairs. “They’ve come in and said the right things and invested in the community. They’ve got a hell of a lot of credit in the bank but there’s a huge amount of work to do.

“There’s clearly pressure on the club to go up when you look at how Cook was sacked. This should be a top-six squad, no question.”

As club great Butcher said so succinctly up at Barrow, the offering is not nearly good enough right now.

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10 minutes ago, petehinton said:

Tomorrow has long been earmarked as a big day for Ipswich Town. Almost 29,000 have heeded calls to “Pack out Portman Road” for the visit of Sunderland, a pre-Christmas gathering that has no place in English football’s third tier.

The anticipated presence of five Americans in the directors’ box only adds to the sense of occasion. Ed Schwartz, Brett Johnson, Mark Detmer, Berke Bakay and Mark Steed have been Ipswich’s owners since April but will be gathered as a quintet for the first time.

“We want to be brave and bold,” said chief executive Mark Ashton in his rallying cry for supporters to return last month. “We want to show the world that Ipswich Town Football Club is back on the map.”

They still take some finding in the middle of League One, though. This season has been the reset gone wrong at the halfway mark, with ambitions of promotion back to the Championship already badly frayed. Seven wins are all that have come from 22 games and the nine-point gap to the top six will take some clawing back.

Excellent, Many Thanks.

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5 hours ago, Marcus Aurelius said:

What's funny to me, excluding the children on Twitter, I think our fans have been quite polite when warning them about Ashton. Yet have been met with a tirade of abuse.

True, I suppose no one wants bad news at the start of a regime..

Eventually someone has to win in the new manager lottery.....

Perhaps it's this guy.

Edited by B1ackbird
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5 hours ago, slartibartfast said:

 “We want to show the world that Ipswich Town Football Club is back on the map.”

 

 

Regret to inform you Mr Ashton, but the "world" doesn't give a flying **** about you or your poxey third division club !

 

 

40 plus pages on this forum says otherwise.

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8 hours ago, Davefevs said:

The story is the board (MA included) wanted Appleton, Lansdown wanted Johnson, Lansdown overruled them. Whether it’s true I don’t know.

Re Cotterill, I’m sure Lansdown brought MA back to do his dirty work for him.

As I remember Cotts did his usual Thursday pre match press conference and it was then announced later that evening that Cotts was sacked. 36 hours later on the Saturday morning Ashton was announced as COO.  Pretty clear what happened...Cotts refused to work under the new COO waiting in the wings and SL chose Ashton over Cotts.

With regard to LJ Ashton initially took credit (on 20man) for LJ's appointment but as soon as the losing streaks started I recall he referred to LJ on RB as " Steve's appointment" 

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