Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Evans, Clegg and Jewell: Stick or twist Ipswich?

With the Championship season now finally behind us, discussion among Ipswich fans inevitably moves from our thoughts on Town's results to the reasons behind them.

It all seems to come down to Portman Road's Holy Trinity: Marcus Evans, Simon Clegg and Paul Jewell.

But the last name seems to cause the most soul searching for the Blues faithful. This year I have literally seen the fan base split down the middle by this debate.

Though you may have sympathies for certain arguments from the other camp, it seems that, when it comes down to it, you're either 'Jewell In' or 'Jewell Out'.

This week I want to look at the debate in a little more detail and will be offering my own opinion on the matter (which is less Pro-Jewell than you might think!).

But first I have received this excellent two part blog from Mark (AKA @markypolo1). It investigates his own feelings on the matter and puts forward, what I feel, is a very sensible view of the situation.

As I mentioned before, though, in the case of Ipswich Town's top management - you can't have one without the other. And so Mark begins by discussing the factors that have influenced his opinions on Jewell's reign.

Our 2011\12 season is now officially over at ITFC! Our collective attention can now turn to a summer of promise; there is the Queen's Jubilee, with accompanying street celebrations, Summer Festivals, Wimbledon, Euro2012, and London's Olympics.

In typical ITFC fan style, my mind will start to wander, the pain of the outgoing season will diminish (yes it's been painful), and the hope and expectation will build for a new season. I will look to next season, but beforehand, I would like to address the rollercoaster that was the last 9 months.

Our 2011/12 season has been a season of significant ups and downs to state the obvious. It has been a season in which many inadequacies have been in full view, an embarrassment at times, and one in which social media really took off.

ITFC's season has been, and I know will be, analysed on many levels: Ownership and club strategy; management; coaching; player selection and tactics; player performances and the fans support.

I'm not going to look at all of these in detail, nor create a statistical argument; as when I started this a few weeks back the aim was to voice my opinion and add a little fuel to the on-going debate!

ITFC has long been a club with difficulties in the last years before Marcus Evans took over these were all too prevalent to see, however we are in the here and now. Evans, as majority shareholder, all but owns the club outright and, in my opinion, he has backed the club and recent managers. The view as to the relative good of ME's backing is open to some debate and it depends on which side of the fence you are sitting.

ME is not a traditional football man, but he has been on record expressing commitment to the future of Project ITFC and his more recent communications have demonstrated an increasing awareness that "you can buy players, but you cannot buy a team" (to steal a phrase).

'I like the fact Evans has provided ITFC with a stable financial footing'

No-one can predict the future and I am not enamoured by the fact that ITFC has an increasing debt pile owed to Evans. However, I like the fact that he has provided ITFC with a stable financial footing (albeit subject to a friendly creditor) and he offers the day-to-day running of the club to those that are close to the action.

He has also decided to back this current manager through the worst sequence of results anyone thought possible and probably the worst that anyone reading this will remember.

In such a situation where Evans is not going to micro manage day-to-day events, an even greater emphasis is placed on having the right off-field team to build and run the club. Basically this is what has been required, not tweaks but a total rebuild and some continuity to add to the mix.

I've really very few things to add on Simon Clegg (love or loath him). Our club has been looking for stability top-to-bottom, from an executive management team to team management, and also through the core of the playing team.

If Simon Clegg is considered to be the right man for the job at this moment in time by Evans, then that's his prerogative.

'Clegg took the helm at the moment ITFC was offered a golden ticket via Evan's millions'

In my opinion, Simon Clegg has probably made more wrong decisions than right so far and, arguably, he took the helm at the moment ITFC was offered a golden ticket via Evan's millions. That said, I am all for the forgiving and learning culture at ITFC since this is how our history has been written all the way back to "Mr John".

In Simon Clegg's defence he has probably made the right call on the EPPL: possibly the only call for a club in our position given the financial constraints under which we operate in the Championship.

The fact that ITFC will have to talk-up our commitment to youth to attract good young players has not changed and this should play into the hands of the fans that are rightly calling for youth to be given its chance.

In the years ahead we will probably have to blood more and more youngsters, or attract those that have not made the grade with other clubs; quality could be in question when the best are being sucked-up by Premiership clubs that apparently run "The Peoples Game".

You can probably tell that I fear the repercussions of what the Premiership has done to football past and future, even though teams outside the elite will do what they have always done: develop and sell. Young players will still have to make a big decision as to whether they go to a Premiership (Cat1) for their schooling, or someone like ITFC (Cat2). We will always have the advantage of being positioned to fast-track the best we have into the first team (subject to them actually being good enough), watch this space!

'Fans feel there is no on-going dialogue between them and the club, despite the various forums Cleggs is said to attend'

Back to Simon Clegg, obviously, in some fans opinion he could do more (much, much more) to demonstrate a willingness to listen and act in the interests of our fans. Some feel like there is no on-going dialogue between the club and fans, despite the various forums Clegg is said to attend.
This is all great if you attend or are invited, but many would say he needs to be seen to be talking and listening to more fans in order to build the relationship for the future.

The rise and rise of social media is worth comment at this stage as it has enabled #itfc fans to express often diverse and sometimes un-reconcilable opinions, especially on matters of club strategy at a time when getting things off your chest has not only been helpful it has been essential!

Season 2011/12 has at times divided and at others brought fans closer: including closer to some #itfc players. In social media, I am of course referring to twitter in the main. It offers so much to tweeps able to access the likes of ALB, Cressa, Tommy Smith, JET, and Chops.

Twitter has also provided fans in the outer circle, those that have a passion for ITFC but whom cannot attend matches as regularly as they would like (me included at times), with an opportunity to interact with fans pre and post-match. It's a whole new world and Simon Clegg could learn a thing or two about connecting with the fans from the players that are investing their time in those fans.

What are your thoughts? Do you have anything to say on anything Mark has mentioned? Leave a comment, get in touch with us both on Twitter (@tractorgirlamy8) or write your own piece about ITFC and I'll happily use it on here!

Mark and I have very similar views on this debate, so I'm especially keen to hear from anyone who is less sympathetic of Jewell, Clegg or even Evans.

Part Two of Mark's blog concentrates on his feelings towards Jewell himself: 'despite the deep low at the turn of the year, I was still optimistic that PJ was the right man to get us out of the hole and scale the mountain'.

It's another excellent piece that takes a very sensible approach to a very heated debate. Come back on Friday to see what he has to say!

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