Wembley is 'huge' but promotion will be Jewell in crown
Sunday 23 January 2011
From the statue of Sir Alf Ramsey on one corner, past the Sir Bobby Robson Stand to the photographs in reception of Robson's teams with the FA Cup and Uefa Cup, Ipswich Town are a club happy to celebrate their past.
Traditionally, too, they like to give their managers time, so having sacked Jim Magilton on his second day as chief executive, Simon Clegg was reluctant to dispense with his successor, Roy Keane; even when the start of last season stretched to 14 games without a win. In a folder on his desk are charts in blue and red of the points total and League position week by week. It records the horrible start to the last campaign, with a gradual improvement to finish 15th. This season began with an excellent win at Middlesbrough, and early in November the chart confirms the Town were as high as seventh.
By the beginning of this month, however, Clegg and owner Marcus Evans had decided it was time for a change. The imminent transfer window was a factor, as were cup ties against Chelsea and Arsenal. Keane's assistant, Ian McParland, oversaw a 7-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge in the FA Cup, then devised a plan to get in behind Arsenal's defence and bring a deserved 1-0 win to take into the second leg of the Carling Cup semi-finals on Tuesday. Since then he has left and Paul Jewell has been appointed along with Chris Hutchings.
No wonder Clegg calls it "an emotional roller-coaster" of a month. Of Keane he says: "Everyone's got this illusion about Roy being a very difficult individual. I enjoyed the professional relationship we developed over 18 months. I'm disappointed he's gone and when you work to a common goal and don't achieve it, we bear a collective responsibility for that."
As recently as George Burley, Ipswich kept the same manager for eight years – Keane's stint of 21 months being their second shortest since the war. So they hope Jewell is in for the long haul.
"Paul has outstanding qualities and experience," Clegg says. "You only need to look at his track record, particularly taking Bradford and Wigan into the Premier League. He did that without the benefit of parachute payments and had over six years at Wigan. He's not a man who jumps ship easily. We'd very much like him to be here for the long term to help us achieve the goals we have for this great club."
Which are? "The stated ambition, without a timescale, is to take us back into the Premier League at the earliest opportunity. We need to recognise there are 23 other clubs in the Championship with the same ambition and we've got to make sure we work harder and are smarter than the others. We're in a solid financial situation, though I don't think there's any club in the Championship making money. Clubs are dependent upon wealthy benefactors to support them and we're fortunate to have an individual who's ambitious and will support the manager in trying to achieve that goal."
Clegg, who was previously the chief executive of the British Olympic Association, joined the club in April 2009, 16 months after Evans – who provided significant funding for Team GB at the Beijing Olympics – became the new owner. Evans's image has been that of a recluse, one news-paper considering it something of a coup to have snapped a picture of him attending an Ipswich game at Selhurst Park.
Anonymity would be difficult to preserve with an appearance at Wembley, which Clegg suggests, without wanting to tempt fate, would be "absolutely huge". In the first hour that 9,000 tickets for the Emirates went on sale, Ipswich received 27,000 phone calls; the game will be sold out. "We're really excited about playing in that great stadium, against one of the greatest teams in the land, carrying a 1-0 advantage.
"There's something special about the fans in this part of the country. I can't believe that there are many fans being beaten 7-0 at Chelsea who are still singing: "Bring on the Arsenal." The time to do so is almost at hand, and Suffolk cannot wait.
Arsenal versus Ipswich Town is on BBC2 on Tuesday, kick-off 7.45pm
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