Marcus Evans: First picture

IPSWICH Town manager Jim Magilton is, rightly, under the spotlight - and feeling intense pressure - today as the club's 2008/9 season drifts towards an unsuccessful, dull, conclusion.

IPSWICH Town manager Jim Magilton is, rightly, under the spotlight - and feeling intense pressure - today as the club's 2008/9 season drifts towards an unsuccessful, dull, conclusion.

Given many millions of owner Marcus Evans' money to rebuild the ITFC squad, for yet another, much-trumpeted, Operation Premiership, the Town legend that is “Magic” Jim has delivered anything but magic.

But as the Jim Magilton era lies in a football intensive care unit, hovering between life and death, it is unfair to heap all of the criticism at the fiery Irishman's door.

Yes, Jim will, sooner or later, walk out of Portman Road as manager for the last time. And there are those, within the club and outside, who will not shed a tear... that's the way of football things.

Casting back to the end of the 07/08 season, last May, Jim went on to the pitch to say he was ravenous for success - placing his own desire for promotion in tandem with that of the fans.

I thought then, as I listened to Jim's passionate speech, that he was addressing owner Evans, who was in the stands, just as much as the fans.

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Many observers thought it would be a tall order to keep the momentum that had seen the Blues march towards last season's play-offs. And, nine months later, so it has proved to be.

Putting aside the issue of Magilton - today our sister morning paper, The EADT, called for the manager to resign with dignity - I see a bigger problem for owner Evans to face.

And he has to look into the mirror to see it.

Today, in this special report, I'm sending Marcus a very clear message about what I see is the state of affairs at Ipswich Town Football Club.

I do so not only as a senior newspaper industry journalist and commentator, but also as a long-term ITFC season ticket holder.

Furthermore, I have met Marcus Evans on a couple of occasions and believe that as hurtful as this article may be for him, he will

listen to the growing clamour for change and react positively.

It's over to you, mystery man Marcus - and that's why I'll start with The Owner...

The owner:-

For the record, Marcus Evans shies away from both photographs and interviews - and I am one of a small group to have met the man - both at his Marble Arch offices and at Portman Road on a match day.

He is acutely intelligent, charming, brimmingly-confident, a great family man and nouveau football-savvy - having put himself on a steep learning curve after bringing Ipswich Town into the Marcus Evans Group camp a couple of years ago.

He explained his position on identity and I have stuck by a policy of not showing a face picture of the man so many want to see. Mystery Magnate Marcus has been as good for us as publishing a picture.

Even today, as The Evening Star uses a picture of the owner, taken during the dreadful 3-0 defeat at Swansea ten days ago, I have not revealed his identity.

One of Evans' early moves was to take away all vestiges of power from club chairman David Sheepshanks - a senior FA figure - and to place three of his own key London staff as a powerhouse trio of directors.

Sheepshanks, and his fellow directors, were marginalised to such an extent that one of the only roles now is to hand out the buns and glasses of wine to match-day visitors in the Portman Road boardroom.

So here's the first problem - an owner who works in London shadows...and nobody fronting up locally as a figurehead for Ipswich Town.

A community club like Ipswich Town needs a talisman figure to interact with fans and businesses in its catchment area.

It needs someone to act as a Blue Beacon and I believe it is a failing that Evans hasn't put anyone into that position during his time at the helm.

When Sheepshanks was the public face of the club, he was cheered or jeered in equal measure - but at least he was there for joy or jibe.

It's unfair to think that chief executive Derek Bowden could be the public-facing figure required.

Derek's many skills have helped ITFC in many ways, including the securing of the Evans rescue deal in the first place, but he doesn't sit comfortably in the limelight or as a powerhouse speech-maker.

So my message to Evans is clear - either come out of your secret world and be the public face yourself or find one.

Of course, a football manager can have a dual role as a public face - take the likes of former Blues boss Joe Royle, Reading's Steve Coppell, Tottenham's Harry Redknapp or the maestro himself, Sir Alex Ferguson.

If the owner thought manager Magilton could rise to the challenge of being ITFC's public face then the hope was dashed at a press conference last year.

Tough questions led to a bizarre Magilton walkout when appropriate exit words were not chosen. New assistant-manager John Gorman has taken up many press duties since then and the situation has improved.

So how much can the owner know of what is going on a Portman Road when he isn't based at the club?

Evans is famed around his worldwide empire for keeping in touch by tele-conferencing. But regular TV chats and flying visits by parachuting directors can never give a full picture of a football club, of training ground events and academy hope and dreams, for example.

Nor can it allow for relationships to build whereby members of staff, including players, can feel comfortable to “tell it as it is”.

My belief is that if you buy a club like ITFC, with all its proud traditions, and you insist on invisibility, then you need a full-time powerhouse figure to lead on the ground - and to call anyone to account, if necessary.

That bring me to my last Evans point - has the owner realised that many fans believe the fun has gone out of a trip to Portman Road?

That fact alone could come to haunt him when season ticket renewals are counted.