My club, right or wrong?

31/03/2013

by Susan Gardiner

The news that the overrated Martin O’Neill has been sacked by Sunderland has meant that the Keyser Söze of modern football, Paolo DiCanio – a relatively recent addition to the managerial Usual Suspects – has been touted as his replacement.

Di Canio is a self-confessed fascist and admirer of Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist leader, describing him as a “principled person [who was] … much misunderstood.”

Fascism is a misused word and it’s not appropriate to discuss its meaning here, but it’s an ideology that is diametrically opposed to everything I believe in. Since Di Canio became a football manager at Swindon Town in 2011, I have often wondered how I would feel if he was appointed as manager of my football club. I have been forced to conclude that I wouldn’t be able to continue to support Ipswich Town although I’d return when he – inevitably – parted company with us. Of course, I don’t think it will happen. I hope it never does.

Thinking about this has brought a further question to the forefront of my mind. Is there anything else that could be a “last straw” when it comes to supporting Ipswich Town? Is there something – anything – that would make it simply impossible for me to carry on as a fan or would I persuade myself otherwise?

To be honest, it’s an issue that has been placed on the back burner since Mick McCarthy came to manage our team. What’s not to like about MM, after all? Ever since Jim Magilton brought Ben Thatcher into the side, however, I’ve been concerned about how far I would allow myself to equivocate. With Thatcher, I convinced myself that his reputation for thuggish behaviour – he was notorious for the vicious elbowing of an opposition player when he was at Manchester City – was something that we could not afford to be fussy about. He had, after all, apologised in writing to Mendes for his actions and Town sorely needed some toughness on the pitch at that time. Anyway, I told myself, I was probably just prejudiced by his name.

Paul Jewell brought other players in that I was not happy with, Lee Bowyer being one. I’d disliked him for all kinds of reasons to do with his behaviour, on and off the pitch. Yet again, I convinced myself that it was all right. After all, I believe that human beings can reform and redeem themselves. The actions that people take when they’re young are often foolish and not the result of deep-seated character flaws. I sought out newspaper articles that seemed to show that he was indeed a reformed character.

Once again, I found myself altering my values in order to accommodate a player or manager just because they were part of my club.

So I began to wonder exactly who I might object to. Who – if anyone – was such an affront to my personal morality that I wouldn’t be able to convince myself that it was all right? Marlon King springs immediately to mind. A talented player who was sentenced to eighteen months in prison in 2009 for sexual assault and grievous bodily harm against women, the court case revealed he had a history of similar behaviour. I often wonder whether the chants by opposition fans against him that are heard up and down the country now that he has returned to football are because those supporters actually detest what he did – or whether those same fans would – quite literally – change their tune if their own club signed him? Get behind the lads and all that.

There are several other examples of footballers and managers who have convictions for domestic violence or other criminal offences which make them seem pretty reprehensible to me. Generally, I’m not very interested in people’s private lives and I don’t like to be judgemental, but when it comes to racism or violence I feel that a line should be drawn. After all, what we’re actually saying here, by tolerating such behaviour, is that football’s more important. More important than racism, more important than violence against women, more important than ethics.

We continue to excuse players simply because they’re good at football.

Ched Evans, now serving a prison sentence for rape, is a good footballer. What would I do should Ipswich Town sign him upon his release? One look at the #justiceforChed hashtag on Twitter was enough for me but it’s a clear example of how our passion for football can overrule our logic. It’s not just moral relativism, it’s a form of self-deception. I’ve been guilty of it, but hopefully only to a lesser extent. I hope I could still do the right thing, despite my addiction to Town. Sometimes I wonder.

Away from individuals, I also wonder about other things that would perhaps be a turning point for me. In modern football, where teams can be owned by people who aren’t either knowledgeable or particularly interested in the game, stadia can be sold or moved, or renamed. Perhaps it won’t be very long until teams in the English leagues are named after their sponsors as they are in other parts of the world. I think that many fans would accept it as being part of the reality of the 21st-century game. Once again, I ask myself how much would I be willing to put up with before I decided to go and watch Stowmarket or Needham Market instead.

Of course, it’s necessary to adapt to the modern world. The game’s come a long way since the 19th century and the era of the Corinthian spirit – a leading light amongst those players, incidentally, was W. M. Cobbold, from Long Melford in Suffolk, apparently known as “The Prince of Dribblers.” The age of the amateur footballer and the public school ethos is thankfully long gone. It’s a mistake, anyway, to imagine that those amateurs were the only people who had a monopoly on fair play and decency.

Money has changed the game so much that many supporters seem to feel that winning, at all costs, is everything. I’m not sure that winning with a team or a manager that I had no respect for would feel very much like winning at all.


In which “Clem” gets very excited By Mutual Consent

29/03/2013

We’ve produced another fanzine, By Mutual Consent - on sale outside Portman Road tomorrow – and were hoping for some national publicity. Looks like Gavin Barber‘s found some…

PLUS HERE’S A COLLECTOR’S ITEM FOR YOU TO DOWNLOAD: A FREE CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP MARK “CLEM” CLEMMIT HORROR MASK!

Clem mask

With a new fanzine, By Mutual Consent, set to hit the streets of Ipswich on Saturday, we asked top reporter and friend of the stars, Mark “Clem” Clemmit from the Football League Show, to find out more by talking to its creators. Here’s his exclusive report…

CLEM: “Well today I’m here in IPSWICH, and as you’ll have noticed I’ve SHOUTED the name of the place that I’m in, as I always seem to do, as though the very existence of towns other than the one I come from is a constant source of surprise to both me and the viewers. I’m here to talk to the people behind a brand new fanzine, By Mutual Consent, which will be on sale prior to Saturday’s home game against LEEDS (look, I did it again).

“And here they are – the By Mutual Consent team! Guys! Guys! Hey, over here! It’s me! Great to see you again! It’s been too long! How are you?”

BY MUTUAL CONSENT: “We’ve never met before”.

CLEM: “Ha! Such jokers you guys! Listen, tell me about this new fanzine, while I lean too far into the lens like a man still trying to figure out how the camera works”.

BMC: “It’s a new Ipswich fanzine which has been put together by the same people who previously brought out Turnstile Blues earlier this season. The title comes from the fact that so many players (and one manager) have left Ipswich apparently “by mutual consent” over the last couple of seasons. And also because the theme of the fanzine is ownership and stakeholding – whose club is it anyway? That sort of thing. Sorry, am I confusing you?”

CLEM [looking blank]: “So you say it’s a fanzine, and it’s about Ipswich?”

BMC: “Yes, it’s very much an Ipswich fanzine. Do you need me to draw a diagram?”

CLEM: “Ha ha! Always messing around, you guys!”

BMC: “Look, is there any chance you could stand just a bit further away? This is starting to feel like some kind of nightmarish version of The BFG.”

CLEM [moving closer]: “Well listen, I’ve known you guys a long time…”

BMC: “I’m quite sure we’ve never met”

CLEM: “…and I know you’ll have put simply loads of stuff into this fanzine. What stuff? Tell me more about the stuff that’s in the fanzine. What stuff have you got in there?”

BMC: “Do you mean content?”

CLEM: “Yeah! Content and stuff”

BMC: “Uh, OK. Well there are some articles that Ipswich fans will hopefully find entertaining and funny. We’ve got some spoof adverts which link to the title of the fanzine, and also a few other satirical and – let’s be honest – fairly silly things in there which we hope will be amusing. We’ve also got some in-depth writing on subjects linked to the overall theme of the fanzine – the ownership of Ipswich Town, the relationship between the football club and the official supporters’ club, and some perspectives from elsewhere, including Wimbledon and Greece”.

CLEM: “Wimbledon isn’t in Greece”.

BMC: “Wimbledon AND Greece. Not Wimbledon in Greece”.

CLEM: “Oh man. You crack me up you guys. So listen, where can the fans of Ipswich get hold of this Ipswich fanzine?”

BMC: “It’ll be on sale around the ground from around 2pm on Saturday – you’ll find our sellers at the main entrance on Constantine Road as well as by the Sir Alf and Sir Bobby statues. We’ll also be going round a few pubs near the ground. If you can’t make it on Saturday, we’ll make some copies available on eBay shortly afterwards – details will be on the Turnstile Blues website and via the @Turnstile_Blue Twitter feed. We will make an online edition available later in the week, and if anyone downloads that we’d be very grateful for them to make a donation to the LegalWise Soweto Hope Academy in exchange.”

CLEM: “Great stuff. Well listen, best of luck with it, and let’s get together for a beer soon?”

BMC: “Please stop touching me”.


With Milts involved, fans might just ‘Be Part Of It’ again

29/03/2013

Once again, we’re privileged to be able to present a blog by top writer and ITFC fan, Dave Gooderham

One of the first things I learned in football journalism school was to expect criticism.

‘Clueless’, ‘gutter journalism’, ‘talking b******s’ were some of the many barbs directed at me – and that was just from Paul Jewell!

At the start, I had to placate my wife not to jump to my defence. Feisty one, she is. But it soon dawned on me that any backlash simply underlined why I love football.

Every supporter of every club has an opinion and everyone is entitled to that opinion. It would be a boring game if we all agreed that Lee Martin lacked an end product or Michael Chopra should do his talking on the pitch. Ah, bad examples, but you get my point.

So when I ended my brief writing hiatus by penning an opinion piece on this very website, it was inevitable that some criticism would come my way.

Tyrone Mings’ incredibly gracious gesture – in giving a hard-up Town fan some free tickets – had inspired me to share my thoughts.

But, I wondered, was Mings an exception rather than a rule?

I was too negative, some said, as I questioned whether role models still existed in football. I had allowed the fact that I had fallen a little out of love with football to cloud my judgement, it had been suggested.

Things have started to change. Problems remain at Portman Road, a number of them, but I have started to become more interested in Frank Nouble’s hamstring and the reasons behind signing a thirty-something keeper who last played for Aberdeen in January. A relegation scrap certainly refocuses the mind.

The club’s connection with the ordinary fan remains a big concern – something I hope a new Marketing Manager will help address.

But there remains hope and it comes in the shape of a six-minute, 28-second promo video:

http://www.itfc2013.co.uk/

 Asking fans to part with hundreds of pounds to watch football that has been mediocre at best in recent seasons can be a hard sell.

 There are those who will pay the money regardless – the real football fanatics.

 There are others, and I count myself in this number, that just want to see that their club is listening, that it is trying to be part of the community once again.

  The season-ticket promo video won’t win any Oscars – sorry Milts – but for a fleeting six minutes or so, I remembered why I will always be a Town fan.

 Cheesy at times? Of course. But then it should be. But the cast-list was ideal, with Carlos Edwards and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas likeable fellows off-the-pitch, however ‘relaxed’ they seem on it. Throw in a fans’ favourite, Luke Hyam, and one that is catching him up by the day, Tyrone Mings, despite the 20-year-old still not kicking a competitive ball in anger.

 Saluting the simply incredible support of George Stannard was a nice touch…

 … and then there is Simon Milton. The local boy made good who resonates with the everyday supporter. It is clear how much he loves his Ipswich Town.

 The club have realised that Milts plays a key role in relating to supporters – something Mr Evans and his two side-kicks probably never want to aspire to. In all, a massive congratulations to everyone involved. Last year’s ‘Tractor Boy’ promo was slick, but getting back to basics was, in my opinion, an excellent piece of PR but also a good bit of fun aimed at really connecting with supporters. I haven’t been able to say that about Ipswich Town many times in recent years.

 Of course, take a look at the ITFC strand on Twitter and you will find people criticising it. One said it was one of the worst things he had seen in a long time.

 There will always be opinions – and criticism – in football.


Marcus, Marcus give us a wave, Marcus, give us a wave

27/03/2013

Grant Bage is still, it seems, waiting for his man.

unrequited  People who regularly visit this website or follow  Turnstile Blues on Twitter [@Turnstile_Blue in case you don't - Ed.] may know that, six weeks ago and on behalf of our collective, I wrote an open letter to Marcus Evans [ In Name Only ] For new readers, Marcus is Ipswich Town’s ‘mystery millionaire owner’. My mates mocked but deep down and secretly, I hoped for a reply: did the owners of the Club care as much about the fans, as the fans care about the Club?

Much has happened since then of course: the chief executive’s post filled by a pair of Chelsea-supporting Tractor Boys, court appearances pencilled in for two of Town’s top players, season tickets held at current prices for anybody who donates all their organs via a ten year debenture to the Club; and by the way, some great results and gritty performances from a squad brimming with loan players. All of which undeservedly still finds Ipswich Town only four points away from ‘local’ derbies next season with Stevenage, Leyton Orient and Colchester United (if they stay up).

Are such events one-off coincidences, or symptoms of a deeper and more dangerous decline? I honestly still feel uncertain but sketched below is an update since that open letter was sent, followed by musings not only about ‘Marcus’, but about modern football.

Being a reasonably polite sort of guy, I e-mailed a link to the original open letter via the public contact for the Marcus Evans Group, as supplied on its website. Their reply is reproduced exactly below, in its full and robotic glory:

On 10 Feb 2013, at 19:46, gleave parsons <gleavep@marcusevansuk.com> wrote

   Dear Mr Bage

   Thank you for contact marcus evans

  ——————————————————–

  Our representative will get in touch with you shortly

Marcus’s representative did not ‘get in touch shortly’ so five days later and on Valentine’s Day I sent a reminder.  OK, my e-mail wasn’t exactly romantic, but it was heartfelt:

Date: 14 February 2013 21:30:39 GMT

To: gleave parsons <gleavep@marcusevansuk.com>

Subject: Re: marcus evans group enquiry

Hello there, whoever you are.

It is disappointing to have waited five days and not heard anything back yet, so I thought I should get in touch again. The reason I e-mailed in the first place was because Marcus Evans will be interested in an invitation from myself and a group of friends, to talk about Ipswich Town Football Club. Actually we have written that invitation at some length, around 2,000 words, and posted it on a public website. You can read it here http://www.turnstile-blues.co.uk/

If you want to leave a comment there is a section at the end and there are two comments already. But to be honest the invitation is more a personal one to Marcus Evans – to the man who owns the group which owns the football club that we all love. Marcus has put a lot of money and effort into his ownership over the last five years: it would be great to hear more from him directly, about his plans and dreams for the next five years.

We have sent the same invitation to the press office at Portman Road and unfortunately they have not replied yet either. It would be pleasant, and polite, if somebody could get back to us. We will be publishing the invitation in a magazine quite soon, bought by lots of Ipswich fans and therefore customers of The Marcus Evans Group.  We were also hoping that in this magazine, Marcus might reply in person. People would be very interested in what he has to say.

We look forward to hearing from you.

I will leave you to guess, over forty days later, whether there has been a reply. Yet oddly and promisingly, the programme notes for Ipswich’s next home game offered the unusual prospect of some thoughts ‘from the owner’.

Although these notes have been hilariously analysed on this website [Not From the Owner] to me at the least they read like they have been genuinely written by ‘Marcus’. In a style I imagine to be authentic amongst international multi-millionaires, paragraph after paragraph on the first page mused mostly about: money, business and financial fair play. Given that ITFC owes the Marcus Evans Group nearly £70 million, it may of course be a good thing that Marcus likes talking mostly about money. But deep amongst the financial foliage at last on page two there peeped out a reference to us: the Club’s customers, its lifeblood, loyal fans, the diehards … or are we just cash cows, and mugs? Marcus wrote:

   ‘I am … fully committed to … ensuring that we keep an open line of communication with our fans.’

I could not help but think, perhaps churlishly ‘well then it would be nice if you answered the letter we sent’. That is not just because 2,000 words take a long time to write. It is also that in good faith, the next issue of our fanzine (By Mutual Consent on sale at Portman Road before the match on 30th March – see here for details ) reserved two blank pages.  These were to set out the reply that we honestly expected from Marcus, or the Marcus Evans Group, or the new managing directors, or the press office or just from anybody at Ipswich Town football club who might have been listening, to the polite and sensible questions we thought we had asked.

I say ‘polite’ because many of us stand in the North Stand, and have done so for years. We could have just chanted, Marcus, in the brusque fashion of us football fans:

‘Who are ya, who are ya, who are ya..?’

We didn’t and instead we thought, we argued, we researched, we wrote, we published and now because we care passionately about the lifelong security and prosperity of Ipswich Town I (at least) am begging. Answer our queries and listen to our fears. Please understand why there is a larger movement coming together to question the way in which Modern Football works. People are joining the Football Supporters Federation [ http://www.fsf.org.uk/ ] Supporters Direct  [ http://www.supporters-direct.org/  ] and the Ipswich Town Independent Supporters Trust [  http://ipswichtownfirst.wordpress.com/ ]. They are campaigning for owners to charge lower and fairer prices for tickets [ http://wp.me/p2KvgD-4j ], for clubs to consider letting supporters stand, for fans to have a voice on the Board and shares in their club. Perhaps Marcus, you could actively and personally continue strong Ipswich traditions of encouraging fair play, good citizenship and a social conscience from the players you employ? With rewarding players fairly but sustainably, both to win games with style but also to lose them, with grace? You are the owner Marcus and for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, fans are married to the future of a Club that happens to be in your current care and under your leadership.  So please, prioritise the Academy. Encourage stewards to come down hard on violent, racist, homophobic or any other nasty and threatening behaviour. Equally tell them to stop nicking our beach balls, they are only a bit of fun.  Above all smile sweetly at Saint Delia, whilst making us better than Norwich.

OR if that sounds too radical Marcus, make just a small change right now. Ask somebody senior from the Club to recognise honest concerns and genuine questions, and to answer them. It really won’t hurt. Just take a deep breath of that bracing Orwell air, look left at the North Stand, stare deep into our eyes and imagine us singing:

‘Marcus, Marcus give us a wave, Marcus, give us a wave;

Marcus, Marcus, give us a wave: Marcus, give us a wave…’


Meet the new one-off fanzine same as the old one-off fanzine: By Mutual Consent

27/03/2013

BMC cover

A new one-off ITFC fanzine, By Mutual Consent – from the people who brought you Turnstile Blues, the ORIGINAL one-off fanzine – will be on sale outside Portman Road before the home game versus Leeds United on Saturday, 30th March 2013. Price on the day is a super, soaraway bargain: only £1.

Look for our sellers at locations around the ground including by Sir Alf and Sir Bobby.

The ‘zine will also be on sale by mail order and available from A. Ross, 58 Lonsdale Road, Ipswich, IP4 4HD. Please send a cheque for £2, payable to A. Ross.

Copies will also be available via eBay. Please look out for further information on Twitter @ByMutualConsent or this website: http://www.turnstile-blues.co.uk

A downloadable PDF of By Mutual Consent will be available from www.turnstile-blues.co.uk on the evening of Wednesday, 3rd April 2013. Once again, the download will be free, but we are asking people who access the ‘zine this way to make a donation to this charity: http://www.aishopeacademy.org/youth-football-academy-africa/soweto

A link will be set up via this website so that you can make a donation before downloading and don’t forget to follow @ByMutualConsent and @Turnstile_Blue on Twitter.


Letting daylight in upon magic

21/03/2013

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Alf Ramsey was a famously private and undemonstrative man. Rich Woodward wonders if we know a little too much about our heroes.

I’ve had relatively few brushes with professional footballers in my life. The first was Town goalkeeper Craig Forrest at primary school. The Blue’s towering stopper came to give out prizes at an end of term assembly. After doling out trophies and certificates, Forrest stayed to sign autographs for practically every child in the school. When my turn came, I politely thanked him for signing my scrap of paper, to which he replied “you’re welcome” in a rich Canadian baritone. My first autograph; my first Town hero!

In the intervening years the only real exposure to what sporting professionals were like was through local and national media. An interview in a magazine or paper; a sporting documentary or appearance on TV. That was as close as I got. That was as close as most of us got. An invisible bubble of separation and control, perpetuating the mystique and aura around the game. It afforded the pros some privacy, and reverence.

That’s not to say that all was well on Planet Football. Footballers got into trouble with the police and this would make the press eventually. But an arrest would typically be the first you heard of it, and the player in question would be face the consequences, with the support of the club, behind closed doors.

Fast forward to 2013. The age of social media, camera phones, desperate tabloids – stories regarding the actions and behaviours of celebrities, politicians, professional sports folk have never been so ubiquitous. Us ‘muggles’ are now behind the scenes with our heroes; we’re in on the pranks and banter; we get opinions straight from the horse’s mouth. We have access like never before – even the illusion of direct contact is there through messaging or Tweeting even if there is seldom ever a reply back.

But along with the good of breaking down barriers, this medium has too often exposed the bad. For the past year its been sadly too frequent an occurrence to see evidence of ‘A. Footballer’ going too far on a night out; ‘A. Footballer’ insulting supporters online; ‘A. Footballer’ getting arrested for public disorder. These stories often have their catalyst outside of football’s ‘bubble’ of protection, or at least grow from there. The general population have the power now, and through social media they can proliferate the story, with or without agenda.

That those in the public eye are under such scrutiny should be a challenge and a concern to football. But as always it seems to be a topic ‘the game’ is too slow to realise or perhaps not seeking responsibility for fixing. The fact that footballers are closing Twitter accounts or are being hauled in front of the media, or worse a crowded courtroom, for non-footballing reasons should be ringing alarm bells.

In a new world of public accountability and scrutiny – whether for MPs expenses or the media when it comes to hacking phones – why should football operate any differently? If supporters truly are ‘customers’ to football clubs, surely they have a right as a ‘stakeholder’ to query what its employees are up to, even if it is on social media? Regardless of whether this comes across as sanctimonious, society has largely moved beyond ambivalence to what those in privileged positions get up to. Football needs to respect that fact, preferably before another scandal unfolds.

Football clubs instigating internal investigations with no obvious culmination to those on the outside, or dealing with things privately to protect the players involved, is understandable. But it might be argued to be brushing serious human or personal (or personnel) issues under the carpet, serving no purpose aside from allowing business as usual. Important life lessons and realities are not dispensed and nothing changes. Football moves on, society evolves and the same patterns repeat.

If football was to stare down it’s failings and attempt to challenge and rectify them, I think society would be more likely to embrace the game which is quickly losing the love of the masses. Governing bodies and professional clubs should ask themselves whether standing by as their millionaire employees perpetuate negative and potentially damaging traits is negligent, regardless of who brings it to their attention. Should football open up to its flaws, it might find that an environment is fostered where the critical issues of depression, homophobia, sexism and racism are not only better acknowledged, but actually addressed by its professionals and the supporters that so revere them. Who knows, footballers could actually be role models – rather than names in tomorrow’s headlines or court proceedings.


When Saturday Comes: “Michael Chopra shows how detached players can be”

21/03/2013

To read Gavin Barber‘s latest writing for WSC Daily, please click here.


Tyrone deserves his tributes but is he the exception rather than the rule?

18/03/2013

Search for ITFC in Google News today and you’ll see both good and bad news:

news

 We’re very pleased to be able to post Dave Gooderham‘s reflections on recent off-field events at ITFC.

At the end of this year, I will have supported Ipswich Town for 20 years. Man and boy, good knees and bad.

I have my dear old Dad to thank for taking me regularly to Portman Road, first to see the likes of a young Ryan Giggs and Ian Wright and then, as I started going solo, to become more interested in Eddie Youds, Bontcho Guenchev et al.

In the subsequent 20 years, my Dad’s interest football has drifted, Giggs has gone on and on while my love of football, as a whole, has remained.

I am desperately trying to keep hold of that love, for my own sake and that of my two young boys, but it has grown increasingly hard in recent times.

Not for the first time, the last few days at Portman Road has encapsulated everything that is good and bad around the game.

I don’t need to go into details – and in some cases, i.e. the court variety, I can’t.

But having two players facing criminal charges within days of each other is terrible PR for any organisation.

For a team-mate, step forward Michael Chopra, to then get involved with a Facebook rant is ill-advised at best.

A few people on Twitter suggested it showed the right kind of team spirit – defending your mates, that sort of thing.

I should stress that both Paul Taylor and Guirane N’Daw are currently not guilty of anything.

But Michael, sometimes saying nothing is the best, nay the only, course of action.

But all is not lost at IP1.

Step forward Tyrone Mings. Someone I had never heard of at the start of the season. Someone who I thought would be able to play in the FA Cup Third Round for Ipswich because I didn’t even know he had played for Yate Town before signing for Chippenham Town.

But everyone now knows Mings’ name because of a simple, and all-too-rare, act of generosity. A fan casually says on Twitter he can’t afford a tickets for the match against Bolton at the weekend so Mings offers him a complimentary ones.

He is new to the professional game but the left-sided 20 year old’s gesture had an old-fashioned edge to it, a nod to when first-team footballers and loyal fans were one.

A week or so ago, I was asked by the esteemed editor of Turnstile Blues whether I would like to write something about ITFC.

I admitted at the time, I was a little devoid of inspiration.

But after a hiatus of just 61 days since leaving the good ship EADT/Ipswich Star, recent events at Portman Road have now compelled me to write about role models.

On Saturday, I asked a nine-year-old Town fan who his favourite player was – and he was lost for words. He seemingly didn’t have one.

There are some very good people currently in the first-team, but there are not enough players who connect with supporters for the right reasons.

This is nothing exceptional with Ipswich. It is a sad trait running throughout football. Has the game become so big and the distance between players and fans so huge that the majority of footballers are no longer role models? That their lives spent with too much free-time in stupendous luxury means they simply can’t connect with the ordinary fan on the street? Possibly.

When I told my Town-supporting mate why I was picking up my pen again, he said many footballers don’t know how to act as role models because of a lack of education – that they spend too much of their formative years on a training pitch rather than a classroom. Good point.

Supporters also have a role to play in this as well. We all see, in virtually every match, some act of vulgarity arising from the terraces and directed at a man simply doing his job. Yes many footballers get paid a good living, but that still doesn’t mean he should be subjected to a torrent of abuse on a weekly basis.

Then there are those fans who will excuse bad behaviour off-the-pitch as long as their man in blue is doing the business on it.

Some might think I’m being too harsh. Town players will congregate outside the reception, post-match, to sign autographs and pose for pictures. But that one act doesn’t make them role models.

Whether they like it or not, how they behave in their down-time in all manner of ways, is what really sets them apart.

Should they even see themselves as role models? I still maintain yes, if only because of the vast number of young fans who look up to them and want to be just like them.

So where does that leave us? Are role models in football becoming an increasing rarity in the modern game? Am I being too fanciful to even hope they still exist in great numbers?

I fear that it might be the case and that I can see why my Dad partly turned his back on the game he helped me fall in love with.

But there remains hope.  Right now, I would be delighted if my son one day says he wants a Town shirt with number 15 on it.

Tyrone Mings, you should be very proud.


How to win friends and influence people… or not

04/03/2013

I’ve thought of writing about ticket prices at Portman Road for a while. I’m particularly concerned about the cost for visiting fans, but I’d almost decided against it until today when I saw yet another complaint about our ticket prices, this time from a Bolton Wanderers’ fan on Twitter:

swfc tweet

When I first started supporting Town, I was surprised and a little bit pleased at the reaction of friends who supported other clubs. We had a reputation for being a decent club with a history of playing good, entertaining football and hospitality – I don’t mean the Mr. John type of boardroom largesse, but the generally warm and welcoming atmosphere at PR. I can remember Pat Murphy on 5Live waxing lyrical about ITFC’s return to the Premiership in 2000: “a town with good football, good people and good beer,” he’d said, having possibly enjoyed a couple of pints of Broadside first. We were a kind of anti-Millwall: “Everybody likes us and we’re feeling quite nonchalant about it.”

The Trotters’ fan’s tweet was by no means the first that I’ve seen complaining about ticket prices. It’s becoming quite common. And, let’s face it, we’ve hardly been offering much in return for their money. However much I enjoyed myself at the game on Saturday – and I really did enjoy it – it’s a long time since we’ve been the most attractive team to watch. I used to sit next to the away supporters’ area in the Cobbold and it’s not exactly the most luxurious environment either.

At a time when it’s tough financially for most football supporters, it seems wrong somehow to be acquiring a reputation for ripping people off. The growing area of empty blue seats in the away section means that people are staying away and the atmosphere at Portman Road will, in my humble opinion, be the worse for it.

SG


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