Magilton breaks silence to answer critic

IT has been a difficult season for Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton with currently no progress made 14 months after being handed �12million by club owner Marcus Evans to strengthen his squad.

Elvin King

IT has been a difficult season for Ipswich Town manager Jim Magilton with currently no progress made 14 months after being handed �12million by club owner Marcus Evans to strengthen his squad.

In his first major interview for several months Magilton answers his critics with answers to 20 topical questions posed by Ipswich Town correspondent ELVIN KING:-

EK: You must have been left frustrated many times this season. What has been the lowest point - and why?

JM: The defeat at Norwich was hard to take. The fans are expectant, local pride is at stake but we didn't compete on the day and that left me feeling very flat. The home defeat against Southampton was another. We went into the match on the back of two good performances and were in a very positive frame of mind. What disappointed me most about that game was that Southampton showed a greater desire to stay in the division then we did to get out of it.

EK: On the other hand, there have been many positives. What has given you the greatest pleasure?

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JM: We are now competitive away from home. I feel we can go anywhere and get a result and we have proved that this season. It was something we had to put right and we have done.

EK: You would have liked to have been higher in the table in your third season in charge no doubt. What do you see as sufficient time for a new manager to build a side that brings success?

JM: I don't set timescales, other people do that. What I would say is that this is my first full season under the Marcus Evans' ownership. When Marcus came in, my job remit changed. Every facet of the club was scrutinised - on and off the pitch - and improvements were asked for. We all want to get in the Premier League as quickly as possible but it's vital that all the foundations are put in place that mean we can be competitive when we get there. That has meant changes at all levels at the club, bringing in new players, letting players go, coaching, scouting, the Academy, and it all takes time. The important thing is that the structure is in place to take this club up and keep it up.

EK: Who do you look upon as your best signing? And why? And which one - and explain the reasons - has disappointed you most?

JM: I'm not going to pick out individuals. Everyone will have their opinions on who has been a success and who hasn't. I said a while back that I have not made a bad signing which the press made into headlines. I stand by that. When we sign a player they are right for this club but as happens in football, sometimes it doesn't work out. Look at Robbie Keane at Liverpool this year, a top-class striker who has scored goals in the World Cup finals. Shevchenko at Chelsea is another example. They weren't bad signings, they are world-class players but for one reason or another, the move didn't see the best of them.

EK: Up to a dozen players are out of contract in the summer. What size squad do you see as being most efficient in 2009/10? When will you be making decisions on out-of-contract players? And how many players have you earmarked to bring to Portman Road in the close season?

JM: Ideally I'd like a squad where we have two players for every position, 20 to 22 players who are all capable of coming in and doing a job. We have said for a while now that we will make decisions on all the out of contract players at the end of the season and nothing has changed. Alex Bruce was offered a new deal in January and I'd like him to stay but he has turned the contract down which is entirely his right and we respect that.

EK: You have already stated that everybody - from media to those who pay to go through the turnstiles - have a right to their opinion on the performance of your team. Will this season's experience in handling criticism hold you in good stead in the years ahead?

JM: Criticism, good and bad is part of the game. No one is more self critical than myself anyway but of course, I'm the first to admit that I'm on a learning curve and that it's important to gain something from every aspect of this job.

EK: A big talking point this season has been your walking out of a local media press conference. Can you give your side of the build-up to this, and whether on hindsight (a wonderful thing!) you would have acted any differently?

JM: No, I would not have done anything differently. If you remember the lead up to that day, much had been made in one of the local papers about a private meeting I had with some of my players. The report implied that a player had spoken to a local reporter and said how the meeting had caused unrest in the camp. That simply wasn't true. No player spoke to the reporter and there was no divide in the camp. I have meetings every day with players and staff, they are all private as well. I made my point to the journalist concerned at the press conference and then went and did the radio and TV interviews for another 15 minutes, so I didn't just get up and walk out of the press conference. What really disappointed and angered me after that was that an editor then went and released the audio of my discussion with the journalist on a website and printed a transcript. They wanted to give the impression that I had gone into a rant - which I hadn't and I'm sure anyone that listened to it would have felt very disappointed! A breach of trust was made with that action though. I'd also add that I have never missed an after-match press conference in my time in charge and have always offered honest opinions, perhaps too honest on occasions.

EK: You have turned a dreadful away record into a very creditable one. You will no doubt be working hard to maintain this, but what do you intend to do to bring things at home back to last season's level so that promotion can be clinched.

JM: It's a work in progress. We're much more competitive away from home and have the third best away record in the Championship but clearly our home form has not matched last season. The players have felt under more pressure at home and obviously our record is highlighted every week in the local media, which doesn't help but we have to deal with that. We are not the only side that has struggled at home this season but I'm confident that with some new additions to the squad we can get the balance right at home and away.

EK: John Gorman has come in and you have confirmed this was your appointment. Can you see this partnership working long-term? And how do you view Bryan Klug's position with it appearing to be a backward move for him once John arrived?

JM: I wanted to bring in someone with a lot of experience when I first became manager but we weren't in a financial position to do that. When Marcus came in, things changed and eventually we brought John in, who has been another voice around the place. He has worked at every level in the game and has been a great asset for the club. I'm enjoying working with him, just as I am with Bryan who has probably a more significant role at the club now than before. He's responsible for the development of every player at this football club, young and old. He is a top-class coach who is aware of the type of player we want to bring to this club and develop at this club.

EK: I know that former youth coach Richard Hall was a friend of yours. How do you view his departure, and the other changes that have taken place on the coaching side at all levels of the club?

JM: Hally is a friend of mine. We were team-mates at Southampton and I enjoyed working with him but he knows, like I know, that things change in football. His time working here has been added to his CV and he knows we wish him every success in the future, just like the other people that have left the club recently. But our Academy is one of the most expensive to run in the Championship and the changes that have been made are all part of the extensive look into how it can be run more efficiently.

EK: It would be fair to say that you have put great store in every department at the training ground - medical, coaching, scouting, fitness etc - running at its maximum efficiency. In your opinion are things in place now to make 2009/10 a memorable one for Blues fans?

JM: As I said we are work in progress. We are exploring every avenue to find that extra one per cent that can make all the difference and my staff and myself are totally committed to bringing success to this wonderful football club.

EK: This great club has benefited from some excellent managers and enjoyed considerable success. Coming up to three years into the job have you got what it takes to fill the shoes of your illustrious predecessors?

JM: This club has a wonderful history and indeed had some wonderful managers at the helm. I have total belief in my own ability to bring success to this club and I will work as hard as I can and do everything possible I can to achieve that success.

EK: The club has changed dramatically since you took over following the arrival of owner Marcus Evans. You should know; are the ideals and traditions that made Ipswich Town special under the Cobbolds and during the David Sheepshanks/George Burley era still in place? Or as it is now in the 21st century is Ipswich Town just 'big business' with Mr Evans running the club as he does his other businesses?

JM: Part of those ideals still exist through me and we will never lose that affinity with the local people. Times change, yes, but the challenge remains the same. Rest assured, Marcus is totally dedicated to bringing success to this club. He may not be at Portman Road every day but he is in constant contact with me and every other area of the club. He's caught the football bug; he's caught the Ipswich Town bug.

EK: How 'safe' do you feel in your job, given the events of this season and the trend within football to change managers so quickly. Have you had any conversations about your long-term future with Mr Evans?

JM: I get on very well with Marcus. We share the same philosophies, the same desires. How safe do I feel? I'm very aware that we're in a results driven business and people want success. That's the nature of the beast.

EK: Can you understand the frustration of the local media in terms of the limited access to players this season? Is it something you or the club may consider relaxing in the future?

JM: I have to say that I don't feel we have received 100 per cent backing from some sections of the local press, it's almost as though they want us to fail because it makes better copy. They have a job to do, I understand that, but sometimes it feels as though if there is a negative angle they can take, they will. When I came into the job the press had a free rein to speak to whoever they liked, whenever they liked. All I've done is set down some club policies that tighten things up a bit, much in line with certainly the Premier League clubs and many of the Championship ones as well. Players are still pumped up after a game and it's very easy when a microphone is thrown into their face to get carried away and say something which they later regret, especially young players. We've limited the chance of that happening. That said, at the end of every season all aspects of the football side are discussed and that includes dealing with the media.

EK: What are the main things you have learnt during your three seasons in management? Has the job been harder than you expected and how steep a learning curve has it been?

JM: I came into the job with my eyes wide open. It's been nothing more or less than I expected. I've learnt how to deal with certain situations, on and off the pitch; be a bit more patient; how you have never completed a transfer until the player is in the building and got the shirt! But nothing has really surprised me. The only thing in football that surprises me is when people are surprised.

EK: One of the suggestions made at times this season is that you have fallen out with players, meaning good ones appear to disappear off the scene (Bruce, Harding, Schumulikoski). How would you respond to that - is it a fair or false accusation?

JM: I totally refute that. Alex Bruce turned down the offer of a new contract at the start of the year, which as I said earlier, was his right but he has still played games for me. I brought Dan Harding in at Crystal Palace and Shumi has been in virtually every squad. If I don't pick a player it's because I feel someone else is better for that game. I've had players knocking on my door asking why they are not involved and I have no problems with that. In fact I'd have more of a problem if they weren't knocking on my door. But the 16 I pick are the 16 I feel are best equipped to get us three points, end of story.

EK: How have you found and coped with your extra 'exposure' as a manager. Your already high-profile has obviously risen, as has the responsibility on your shoulders - is that something that's affected your everyday life as well as your professional life? How easy or hard is it to switch off and leave football behind?

JM: It's never easy to just switch off from the game and the pressure is obviously there. It comes with the job but I try not to get too carried away when we win, nor too down when we lose.

EK: Being brutally honest, were there ever times when you considered resigning this season, either on the back of a poor result(s) or some of the fierce criticism levelled at you?

JM: For a few fleeting seconds I've thought 'do I really need this?' It's not particularly nice to have people shouting abuse at you but again, it goes with the job. Football is in my blood, just like it is for people like Joe {Royle}, eagerly taking up a new job back at Oldham or Sir Bobby Robson, wrapped up against the cold watching Newcastle play on a freezing night in January. It's addictive.

EK: Nurturing young talent has always been essential for Ipswich Town. Losing last week to Needham Market in the Suffolk Premier Cup suggests that there will not be many youngsters come through from the current crop. How do you see this? How highly do you rate the likes of Jordan Rhodes and Connor Wickham and are there any other names you predict might come into first-team contention next season (or even this one?).

JM: That game showed the young lads we have here about the hunger and dedication it takes to make a career in the game. It was a cold night but Kevin Horlock, a former team-mate of mine here and for Northern Ireland, was out there helping Needham Market to get to a cup final. He's still in love with the game and you have to have that to have a chance. Our youngsters will learn from that defeat and be better for it and on the night, they were beaten by the better team. First-team wise, I'd like to get Connor Wickham on the bench before the end of the season if I can and Jordan is a better player for being out on loan this season and I'm expecting him to really be pushing for a first team place here at the start of next season.

Editor's Footnote: We thank Jim for his response and remind readers this was a press conference and all we did then was to report what had happened and played our tape of proceedings.

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