0 Alan Ferguson calls on Ipswich Town to spend £700,000 on Portman Road

"Alan Ferguson is one of the most experienced groundsmen in the country and I respect his opinion. But the bottom line is that the club doesn't have £700,000 to spend on the pitch at this moment in time.

It is factored into any promotion to the Premier League. While we are hoping for that eventuality, we still couldn't do it as soon as we go up, in that first close season, as it would take time to put the plans in place.

Our current thinking is that we would do the work at the end of our first season in the Premier League. It is definitely on our agenda but other things have greater priorities in terms of our funds available."

That is the message today from the man who made the Portman Road surface the envy of English football.

But Alan Ferguson - Groundsman of the Year an impressive seven times - fears such accolades could be a thing of the past unless Town owner Marcus Evans pays up to £700,000 on a "full reconstruction" of the pitch.

Ferguson, now head groundsman at national football centre St George's Park, said: "Portman Road is one of the oldest surfaces in the Football League and it is starting to become problematic.

"For my last three years at Ipswich, even in (former chief executive) Derek Bowden's last year, I pressed the club hard to change Portman Road and they didn't do it. They said it was a job for when they got back in the Premier League.

"I think a full reconstruction, costing the club £650,000 to £700,000, is probably seven or eight years overdue."

With manager Paul Jewell repeatedly saying the club now needs to "cut its cloth" accordingly in the transfer market, the expenditure advocated by Ferguson may not sit well with all Ipswich fans.

But the Scot, who spent 12 seasons in Suffolk before joining up with David Sheepshanks at St George's Park, has warned supporters that more postponements could follow unless serious money is invested.

He added: "I think sadly I had taken Ipswich as far as I could. The new owners, rightly or wrongly, are not from football but they put investment into the club when it needed it.

"But if you are a groundsman at our level, you need to have a constant input financially and you need to be maintaining pitches. I felt we had got to a crossroads.

"Now Marcus Evans needs to make a decision about the pitch, very much so.

"I managed to keep it going but I started to get the odd postponement, though I only had two in 14 years, but my successor had one in his first year.

"The club really need to get behind him and put it right."

Town fans were left bemused after the February home match against Middlesbrough was abandoned after just 37 minutes due to a frozen pitch - despite a brave effort from new head groundsman Ben Connell.

Article sourced from EADT24

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