The thoughts of Chairman David

AN INCREASING number of Ipswich fans appear to favour a change at the top. As Town chairman David Sheepshanks prepares to face his critics in a public meeting, we publish a selection of the things he has said over the past year.

By Mel Henderson

AN INCREASING number of Ipswich fans appear to favour a change at the top.

One has only to scan the readers' letters pages in The Evening Star and our sister paper the East Anglian Daily Times over the past few weeks for the proof.

There has been similar evidence on the busy Those Were The Days website message board, where fans pour out their frustration and offer what they see as viable solutions to a variety of problems.

Since the club's slump into administration eight weeks ago, chairman David Sheepshanks's popularity seems to have been on the wane, though he still has his backers, of course, as he struggles to retain control.

Some have even compared him to Peter Ridsdale, who presided over the decline and fall of Leeds before bowing to fan pressure. After insisting he was going nowhere, the Elland Road supremo this week buckled and felt there was no alternative but to resign.

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The call for change at Portman Road may or may not be in evidence tonight when Sheepshanks voluntarily faces the fans. He will address them and answer their questions in what promises to be a lively session that could go a long way to deciding whether he has a future at the club.

Sheepshanks has admitted that the thought of resigning crossed his mind in the wake of taking the club into administration, undeniably its darkest hour.

But only fleetingly – he would far rather right the wrongs and lead the club out of its financial turmoil and back on to the straight and narrow.

Should the administrators succeed in obtaining the Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) that holds the key to Town's immediate future, Sheepshanks's hand will be strengthened. But that would not automatically guarantee that he and his boardroom colleagues would resume control once the club exited administration.

And they will be well aware of events elsewhere, with previous regimes moving aside to make way for new directors.

Tonight's meeting will be a useful barometer to gauge the level of support that Sheepshanks enjoys among the rank and file.

Some have recently bombarded the website message board with claims that he has issued misleading statements during the administration and beyond.

Is that a fair accusation? Is Sheepshanks a master of spin? Or is he simply a fan-turned-chairman who wears his heart on his sleeve and merely wants an opportunity to redeem himself?

Tonight we publish a selection of his quotes, dating back to last May, when the club's Premiership status was hanging by a thread, to enable supporters to make up their own minds.

"Relegation may be a disaster for many clubs but we will not allow it to be for us." May 8, 2002, speaking at the annual Boxholders and Sponsors Association Player of the Year lunch at Portman Road.

"This will not spell the devastation of Ipswich Town. On the contrary, the club is stronger than it has ever been. It has the best playing squad it has ever had. It has a remarkably talented group of people who work for the club, who make Ipswich Town what it is. It has a much improved stadium and it has the infrastructure necessary to support a successful football club in the Premiership. Relegation is a bitter pill but is also a salutary experience and we have to use that to bounce back all the stronger. I have no doubt we will. Our objective is to win the First Division at our first attempt." May 13, 2002, in the wake of Town's relegation from the Premiership.

"It is a decision for myself and fellow directors to secure the best manager for the job. We secured George seven years ago and just because we have now been relegated doesn't change anything. George is the right man to bring Ipswich Town back to the Premiership in 12 months." May 13, 2002, discussing the future of manager George Burley, who was dismissed five months later.

"I want to make it very clear that the responsibility for relegation is a collective one. I take as much of the blame as anyone. Ultimately the buck stops with me and my directors." May 13, 2002, after Ipswich's return to the First Division had been confirmed.

"We must cut costs, not people. We have a very professional staff with no fat on the bone." May 15, 2002 – but 18 staff members were made redundant in January 2003.

"We are at a level now where it is necessary and prudent to separate the roles for the future to do

justice for the business. We will carry on to work very much as a team and take the club on to the next stage, which is back into the Premiership and upwards." June 20, 2002, after the appointment of Derek Bowden as chief executive.

"We've enjoyed tremendous support from the local business community, which is extremely important to us. You know how two years in the Premiership has benefited your business; hopefully we can keep giving you value for money and continue the win-win relationship." August 13, 2002, calling on local businesses to keep supporting the club.

"If we do not win promotion the consequences could be awful." September 5, 2002, on Jonathan Pearce's Football Night, Channel 5.

"We have looked for multiple solutions all of which are to cover our shortfall and stabilise our finances. There is more to do but we are a long way down the road. A very tight situation is now under control. Now it is our job to concentrate on what we do on the field. We have removed the pressure of needing to sell players, hopefully even in January when the transfer window opens again, although I cannot rule that out." September 16, 2002,

after the majority of staff at Portman Road voted in favour of a wage deferral.

"In contrast to clubs like Leicester City and Derby County, we have by hook or by crook managed to

stabilise our finances. We will not now have to sell players in January, although we would not rule out players going as somebody may want to leave. But there will be no pressure to sell." October 14, 2002, addressing fans at a roadshow in Clacton.

"The result of these various endeavours is that our finances are now stabilised for the season." November 3, 2002, in his report to shareholders ahead of the annual general meeting.

"I don't suppose I'll be chairman of Ipswich Town forever. I'm sure they'll find a better man for the job in due course. I've always said that I'm a proprietorial chairman. I'm here because I was asked to do the job and I will carry on doing the job as long as people want me to do that." November 16, 2002, commenting on speculation linking him with the role as chief executive of the Football Association.

"We have made the managerial change and there are lots of positive signs for the future under Joe Royle's management. I still believe there is a real chance for us of at least getting to the play-offs." November 18, 2002, following Town's exit from the UEFA Cup.

"I have led from the front and feel accountable for virtually everything that happens here, whether it is under my control or not." December 5, 2002, speaking at the club's annual general meeting, when he was re-elected without opposition.

"We hope to be out of administration in four to eight weeks." February 11, 2003, 24 hours after the administrators were called in.

"Then the club goes into a deeper administration and it would probably involve a disposal of the assets like a Leicester situation. It would probably mean that the existing structure of the club would be broken up, the existing shareholders would lose their entitlement and I'd be gone, the board would be gone and somebody would have to create a new company to build it up." February 18, 2003, reacting to questions about what would happen if a CVA were not forthcoming.

"This was firmly rejected and I wish to reiterate that there is neither pressure nor reason for any cut-price deals being done for our best young players, irrespective of our current plight." February 19, 2003, writing in the match programme for the home clash with Wolves and referring to the £3million offer from Newcastle for both Darrens, Ambrose and Bent.

"These sales are necessary in our current situation and the matter was largely out of our hands." March 22, 2003, after Ipswich had agreed deals for Ambrose and Hermann Hreidarsson.

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