Tonight is a big moment for Ipswich Town and their chairman David Sheeps
Tonight is a big moment for Ipswich Town and their chairman David Sheepshanks. He has had plenty of ups and downs over the past few years with Ipswich winning promotion to the Premiership and beating Inter Milan in the Uefa Cup and then suffering relegation and financial hardship. He grants an exclusive interview as international football comes to Portman Road...
What is your favourite personal memory of watching England?
Two matches spring to mind, both of them where I felt privileged to be in the stadium. The greatest memory was being in the Sapporo Dome to see England beat Argentina 1-0 in last year's World Cup. I'm sure everyone remembers David Beckham scoring the goal with a penalty. It wasn't the greatest match but the atmosphere was incredible. To have such a big match played in an indoor stadium on the other side of the world, it was an incredible thrill to see it.
The other game I remember fondly was the World Cup qualifier in Rome when England drew 0-0 to reach the World Cup. We needed a draw in Italy and deserved to get it. It was my first away match attended in an official capacity as a member of The FA board. It was a tremendous eye-opener and very impressed by the whole spectacle. The disappointing thing was the way the Italian police undertook their own crowd control and there was some trouble.
Will it be strange turning up to Portman Road and cheering on a team other than Ipswich?
I will feel the goosebumps when the England team run out at Portman Road, it will be a very special moment in the history of the football club. It will be different to seeing Ipswich play, in one way I might be more relaxed because Ipswich games have had such financial importance recently, it has made us all nervous! Anyone who knows me will tell you Ipswich Town is in every sinew of my body. England is just as important but this is a friendly game so it might not personally have the strain of a relegation or promotion match.
In recent years England players like Richard Wright and Kieron Dyer have left. Do you envisage a time in the future when a player can stay at Ipswich and play for England?
We would certainly like to think so. Richard Wright was still with us when he made his England debut and Kieron Dyer made his international debut just a few weeks after he left for Newcastle United. In addition, we have had a considerable number of England under-21 representatives lately. Our intention is to return to the Premierhsip as quickly as possible in order to increase our chances of having full internationals. Matt Holland played for the Republic of Ireland last season while he was with us in Division One, it didn't seem to harm his international prospects.
Have you always been an Ipswich Town fan?
I was taken to my first Ipswich game by a friend of my dad's, Bill Dickie, at the age of 12 and I have been an avid supporter ever since. I followed them all the way through my school years until I was asked to join the board in 1987.
I still remember that first game well. We beat Leyton Orient 3-2 in 1965/66. Cyril Lee was captain and Billy Baxter was also in the side, a survivor of the Alf Ramsey championship side from the early 1960s.
Do you still see the great players from the 70s and 80s side?
We had a 25th Anniversary dinner in May for the 1978 FA Cup winners and a lot of players came to that, as did our former manager Sir Bobby Robson. We also had a reunion dinner for the 1981 side and were pleased to welcome back Arnold Muhren and Frans Thyssen, who are still involved in coaching and management in Holland. A lot of our old boys still do media work at our home games, people like Kevin Beattie and Mick Mills, so we see a lot of them.
Paul Mariner has gone a bit further afield. I bumped into him at that England-Argentina World Cup match and then had dinner with him in London. He is the assistant coach of the Harvard College soccer team in America!
David Sheepshanks was talking to Joe Bernstein
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