The programme notes below were written by club chairman David Wilkinson, for the Ipswich Town edition of Our Town.
Good evening all.
A warm welcome to you all and especially our visitors from Ipswich Town for this first round EFL Cup tie.
It was at Portman Road in October 2006, the last time we were in the Championship, that our decline out of the Football League began. We had finished tenth in the previous season and were going quite well, coming off a 5-1 victory against Leeds at home, when our then full-back Sol Davis had a stroke on the coach on the way to Ipswich. Despite this it was ruled that the game should go ahead, and we were not surprisingly thumped 5-0.
We never recovered, winning only four more games out of the remaining 32 before being relegated at the end of the season. Thankfully Sol recovered, but momentum was lost and the process of players being sold to cover overspending by the then-management led ultimately to further relegations, administration and points deductions.
I mention this not wishing to harp on about the past, but we all see how generous the EFL are being to Bolton and Bury. There was no such generosity afforded to us, in fact very much the opposite. We would never have been allowed to start a season without proof of funding. There are many examples of clubs being punished over the past 11 years and none have been as harshly treated as us even where their actions were patently worse.
On the pitch we look for consistency from officials and we should expect it from our rulers. Everyone makes mistakes and we accept wrong-doing must be punished, but it should surely be even handed. If we were in any other business we would potentially have major claims against those who caused us loss, particularly as there are so many examples of clubs subsequently being treated more reasonably. The claims would be for many tens of millions of pounds, not just for the cost of being out of the League, but also the consequent diminution in value of our assets including players lost to other clubs because of it.
We believe it is right that the EFL seek to protect clubs and their communities, which is why we are still so bitter about what happened to us. We have recovered, but with no help from the authorities and at significant cost to ourselves – our only crime being to rescue a 125-year-old football club in the heart of its community. We could have been back at this level earlier, in a new stadium and have a team filled with quality home grown players.
Gary’s comprehensive notes in the last programme took most of the wind out of my sails for this one, so I thought we might consider a little more of the journey we have been on in the last 11 years.
Gary and I were chatting in the car on the way to Cardiff about exactly that. Which is the lowliest club now that we have played in a league game? Histon, Salisbury, Grays, Kettering, Altrincham, Eastbourne, Hayes & Yeading. Some have been reformed, but Grays and Histon are both at level eight in the Isthmian League.
One of our most vivid memories of the Conference years was the 2012 play-off final against York City. The misery we all felt after Matty Blair’s offside goal won the day. Having beaten us to promotion they are now in National League North, which is level six of the pyramid – a turn round of five levels in seven years.
We all have our different memories of the best and worst of the last 11 years, but the change has been rapid and dramatic. Momentum can be a powerful thing and as a Club we have as much experience of it as any, but it needs to be supported with positive thoughts and deeds.
On the final day of the transfer window we signed three players on loan from Manchester City, Chelsea and Aston Villa. It further demonstrates how far we have come that top Premier League Clubs recognise and will deal with us, whereas when we were in the National Conference we were hard pushed to get players from League Two. In a perfect world we prefer not to have to loan players, but in our current circumstances and to help us improve our quality at a price we can afford, it is a helpful additional tool.
We are all excited that they have agreed to join us and on behalf of us all I welcome Luke Bolton, James Bree and Izzy Brown to our football club. We all hope you have a happy, enjoyable and successful time with us.
Our signings in this window have added over 1,000 Championship games (and 100 in the Premier League) to our experience. Before this window we had only 365 Championship games under our belt, of which Kaz was 199 of them.
I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon having had a bit of time to reflect on our first two Championship games. Obviously, we were gutted with the way we lost at Cardiff, but I thought we acquitted ourselves very well having ridden our luck a bit early on. We have not looked out of our depth in either game and are playing some very attractive and exciting football.
It’s clear that mistakes are punished much more at this level and the quality at dead-ball situations is much higher, but these are all things which are controllable, and at which we can improve. I for one am more excited by the prospect of the season ahead after seeing those games.
Enjoy the game
Come On You Hatters