ITFC: Marcus promises Premiership return
Mystery magnate Marcus Evans - the man who stays in the shadows - emerged to give Evening Star editor NIGEL PICKOVER an exclusive insight into his passion for, and commitment to, Ipswich Town.
Mystery magnate Marcus Evans - the man who stays in the shadows - emerged to give Evening Star editor NIGEL PICKOVER an exclusive insight into his passion for, and commitment to, Ipswich Town
HIS words may cost him an awful lot of money - and he knows it. But when you are worth an estimated three-quarters of a billion pounds, you can afford bold words and the millions of pounds which back them.
Enter the world of one Marcus Evans, the genial and secretive owner of Ipswich Town who has delivered fans one of the best Christmas presents they can dream of.
With Town still languishing in the lower reaches of the second tier of English football, and with fiery-eyed manager Roy Keane still to prove himself on the Portman Road stage set alight by illustrious predecessors, the commitment of Marcus is heart-warming in these cold days of winter.
“I'm staying with Ipswich Town until the club is back in the Premier League and I have high hopes for the future once we get there,” said Evans, who has been at helm for more than two years now.
In the national game, which is more than ever built on instant success, the man who employs thousands of people in 72 countries is showing remarkable patience and calm as his club looks to push up the Championship table after its worst-ever start to a season.
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From his plush Marble Arch office he's watched and listened as top managers, such as Manchester City's Mark Hughes last week, have been speedily axed...and he has vowed not to be rushed into any such hasty decisions.
So Roy Keane will be given more time - and the backing, at Christmas Eve, 2009, at least, is “100 per cent”.
Evans - and all the Ipswich hierarchy - believe their “calm in the storm” approach has been vindicated as the festive season approaches.
But don't think that an iron streak may not be shown if form dips in the next few weeks and Town are dragged back into the grimpen mire of a relegation fight.
On that score the name Hughes - and a few other top professionals (including one doing a sterling job 12 miles down the road at Colchester) might well have been jotted down on a mental in-tray. Just in case.
In our conversation, Evans, as likeable, considered and considerate a man as you are likely to meet in the world of football, stressed time and again how much he appreciates the fans of Ipswich Town.
“They could have turned on Roy, the club and myself at any time but they have been so loyal, so patient. I am determined to reward them with success and a return to the Premiership, however long it takes.”
While he will never open the club coffers to multi-million pound Keane spending sprees - money will be available for the right players and watch for activity in January.
Day-to-day Evans has left chief executive Simon Clegg and manager Keane to get on with their jobs. But he is in constant contact, via video link from London, or visits to the ground and has become “intensely interested in the whole Ipswich Town story - and the unique link to the community around the club.”
And the best way to reward the long-suffering fans is, he believes, that long-term commitment, so rare in today's soccer shifting sands.
While he will remain in the shadows, for the sake of his family and the “relative normality” of the life he leads when away from office or football ground, he met up with me as a continuing conduit between club and fans.
And I'll be one of the first to cheer on that fabulous day when Ipswich Town reach the pinnacle again - set to stay for an extended period.
I know now that when that day comes one Marcus Evans will not hold a cup, or medal, aloft as his players celebrate.
For him it will be a quiet drink - a chat with the boys later, a broad grin on the chiselled face - and not even a hint of a look at the Ipswich Town investment book which, by then will contain lots of ������ signs and lots of numbers and noughts after them!