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3 December 2020

Marcus Evans on safeguarding the Academy; the challenges ahead; a silver lining to recent setbacks and a thanks to the supporters as he looks forward to their return...

From the owner
I am looking forward to welcoming our supporters back to Portman Road against Portsmouth next weekend.  

It’s nine months since we last enjoyed each other’s company against Coventry back in March. What a different world we are in compared to that spring day when none of us had any real idea as to what was coming just around the corner.

I know that all of us have much bigger issues currently to worry about than football, however I truly hope that a return to the debates (fractious or not) as well as the pleasure and pain of watching our team will bring some much needed distractions from the economic and health issues that surround us.

The team at ITFC from groundstaff to cleaners as well as players to coaches have been incredibly supportive in keeping the Club afloat during these very hard times and like yourselves we have had to dig deep to get through what has often seemed like a  never ending series of obstacles.

From the farce of the EFL/PL rescue package that has finally materialised to the stop/start of the fans’ return, the odds have been stacked firmly against clubs without the TV income safety net but now with supporters back, although initially in very small numbers and a vaccine around the corner, we can start to look forwards with some hope and optimism.

I am truly humbled by the support of our fanbase over this period with many supporting the Club, and I know many others who would have done so if economically possible, with season ticket purchases despite the Government stadia restrictions. I thank all of you for this assistance which has been absolutely vital for the Club’s finances.

We will be looking to get as many of you as possible into matches as quickly as we are safely able to do so.

I am also pleased to report that our ITFC Community Trust infrastructure continues to grow (even during COVID) in and around the local area. This is helping us build our relationships with businesses and charities as well as schools and we are currently working with more schools than ever.

On the football side it’s been very difficult to really get a feel for matches on I Follow and I look forward to fans getting back into Portman Road to see for themselves what I believe are the green shoots of a style that will reap its rewards in the years ahead.

After a strong start to the season we have stumbled a little over the last few weeks but that needs to be put into the context that we currently have an entire team of players who are potential starters on the injury list.

It’s not a coincidence that our early run was achieved with few injuries and as always seems to be the case; our sick list grew as we entered a run against what are expected to be some of the best teams in the league.

That said there is always a silver lining and on the plus side it has provided earlier than expected first-team game time for the next promising group of Academy products whose performances have strengthened my resolve to ring fence the funds needed to keep our excellent Academy running during these hard times.  

A good percentage of the first-team squad are homegrown, which is great, but we also need external recruitment and the double whammy of Covid and the very late salary cap introduction made this harder than normal but we still brought in the additions we felt were needed. We also could have easily sold players during the transfer window but decided against it.

I am sure that the combination of the promising young homegrown players that we have - and of course they are still learning the game - combined with the players we have added to the squad plus the desire to hold on to our best players will over the course of the season - as injuries subside - put us in a strong position.   

To get out of this league a lot of hard work will continue to have to be done with those younger players, as well as first-team regulars, by drilling our playing styles and patterns of play into everyone at the Club as we look to improve both individually and collectively.

We are a big club in the division but that means nothing now with financial fair play rules basically putting everyone on the same footing. We will progress through skilful team management; Academy development; financial stability and soon the much needed return of fans as our 12th man.

The manager, coaching staff, captain and players are all doing everything that I have asked of them in building a foundation for the future and as long as I see progress being made I will not be swayed into making the mistakes neatly summed up by the term ‘be careful what you wish for’ which caused our demise a couple of years ago.

I have a detailed view of all of the facts as to what is best for the Club, both financially and team development wise and I will use that unique and privileged access to make the decisions which I believe to be in the best long term interests of Ipswich Town.

Everything I have seen close at hand, behind the scenes and on matchdays this season gives me confidence that, despite what is always a bumpy path, we are on the right track.

We have a tough but I hope enjoyable season ahead of us but it’s just not the same without you being here for the ups and downs and I look forward to seeing some of you - 2000 at least - back at Portman Road next weekend.

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