Marcus Evans big interview: ‘You can make it work on a conservative budget in the Championship’
PUBLISHED: 11:30 30 January 2019 | UPDATED: 12:06 30 January 2019
Ipswich Town owner Marcus Evans says he is frustrated by the ‘continual feeling that the club is under-invested in.’
After an initial injection of £12 million when buying the club in December 2007, the 55-year-old has covered financial shortfalls of, on average, around £6m a year over an 11 year period.
The club’s debt, which is all owed to him, has risen from £32m to £95m.
The financial landscape of the Championship has changed dramatically in recent years thanks to increased levels of parachute payments to those that drop down from the Premier League.
When it was put to Evans that his levels of investment don’t seem to be able to make the club competitive anymore, given the team is seven points adrift of safety at the foot of the table, he replied: “I question the idea that those levels of investment can’t be enough. I don’t think it is an absolute slam dunk that they are not enough.
“I do think that with a sensible investment in the academy, bringing through quality players that could be Premiership footballers with us, or who can be sold to bring value in that we can reinvest elsewhere, I think that can make a huge difference to our finances and make us be more competitive from a financial perspective.
“That’s not going to be available every season, so what I try to assume is that there will be a certain amount of money we can bring in from players that we have to sell on.
“The reality is that when a player wants to go... when I sit across the table from them, or they phone me up, they say ‘Marcus you’ve got to let me go, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity’.
“There is so many times I can say no to them before it starts to create an unrest in what is a really happy football team environment. So you do have to let them go from time to time.
“The academy will either produce players that can play and make a difference or be sold, if that’s where we have to go. That can bring money into the football club that can be reinvested. I think that can make us competitive.”
He continued: “You’ve got to make some decent decisions about the players that you bring in that you feel can make a difference. Martyn Waghorn was not that expensive for example.
“There are other Martyn Waghorns out there, you’ve just got to find them. You’ve got to find the Joe Garner deals that you can do, you’ve got to find the Tyrone Mings deals, the Aaron Cresswell deals, you’ve got to find a Cole Skuse, who has been a great player for this club who didn’t come on a transfer fee. They are out there.
“I think you can make it work on a conservative budget in the Championship.
“In the Premier League the teams at the top will be able to get players that are massively different to the players at the bottom. In the Championship the teams at the top can’t get players that are that much better because those players want to go to the Premier League.
“So I don’t believe that the difference in the squad that you can put together in the Championship at one level is that much different to that which you can put together at another level.
“There might be a difference between the very top and very bottom when you had clubs like Newcastle and Burton in the division at the same time. But within those middle 18 clubs I don’t think the opportunity is there, even if they want to spend the money, for clubs to get the best players – because those players are all going to end up in the Premier League.
“I still think that if you make the right decisions on the players that you bring in there is enough money available at this club to bring in players that can make a competitive squad.”
He continued: “I look at Sheffield United this year for example. The Sheffield United squad is pretty much a squad of experienced Championship players. There aren’t superstars in that squad who are going to jump up to the Premiership, like a (Ryan) Sessegnon from Fulham or something like that.
“It’s a good, consistent squad that you can see they have built up. Okay, they added David (McGoldrick) last year. But Billy Sharp has been up and down and they’ve got him playing in the way that perhaps Daryl Murphy ended up playing for us.
“I still think you can do it in the Championship by pulling together the right levels of experience and a little bit of youth. I don’t think throwing money at it necessarily guarantees you the same success that perhaps it would in the Premier League.”
Asked how much longer he would be prepared to inject £6m or so for, Evans replied: “What I’ve tried to say is that I’ve tried to provide a level of investment which means I can be here for as long as is necessary.
“I think if it became clear that my plan had zero chance of working then it would be pointless remaining just because I want Ipswich to become a Premier League club.
“That sounds like a difficult challenge with the situation we are in now, but there are plenty of others who have been in this situation, even gone down, which hopefully we won’t do, but there have been others who have gone down and a few years later they get themselves back into a much better position.”
Evans added: “The biggest frustration for me is this continual feeling that the club is under-invested in and that it means we have no chance, that we’re just going to keep going downhill. That’s peoples’ view.
“If I put £20million in every year for the next 10 years then I’m sure there’d be a greater level of certainty of us getting there (to the Premier League), but there wouldn’t be a 100% level of certainty.
“I wouldn’t do that though. I can’t do that.”