Warren United

22/04/2014

In which our admirably-but-frankly-rather-surprisingly-uncorrupted-by-vast-amounts-of-free-beer-man-on-the-red-carpet, Gavin Barber, reviews ITV’s new animated football comedy, Warren United.

redcarpet

 I don’t know if “attend a West End premiere as an invited guest and get plied with free booze” is on any “things to do before you’re 40” bucket lists, but if it is then I managed it with hours to spare. My last few hours as a 39-year-old were spent, courtesy of the marvellous Socrates football bloggers’ collective and Baby Cow Productions, at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square, for a preview screening of a new ITV4 show called Warren United. And some free booze.

Such an event wouldn’t be cause for comment in the life of Mark Kermode or Grace Dent, but for someone whose previous nearest brush with media glamour had been an awkward conversation with Timmy Mallett at an Oxford United testimonial dinner in 1998, the idea that someone might care sufficiently about what the likes of me would think of their new TV show that they were prepared to shove Budweiser in my face for as long as I could stand up caused more than a frisson of excitement. In fact, when I arrived in Leicester Square I was greeted by a fleet of blacked-out limos, a screaming crowd and a red carpet, though it turned out they were for the Spider-Man 2 premiere at the nearby Odeon. Bet our seats were more comfortable though. I find those Odeon seats a bit scratchy.

Anyway, if the producers thought that by schmoozing the egos of easily-flattered geeks like me, they might get themselves some attention in the football blogosphere, they were of course absolutely right. So here goes with a review. Warren United is a perfectly decent and promising new animated sitcom. It has an impressive cast of voice performers, including Darren Boyd, Nitan Ganatra, Morgana Robinson and Johnny Vegas, and a fine comedic pedigree (Steve Coogan’s long-time collaborator Henry Normal is co-producer). It shows signs that it can survive the inevitable Simpsons comparisons to carve out its own niche in the annals of British TV comedy [note to self – can annals have niches? Check with Mark Kermode]. It has several good bits. On the basis of the preview screening, almost none of those good bits are about football.

The premise of Warren United is that the eponymous central character, voiced by Darren Boyd, is a well-meaning but hapless individual whose childlike self-centeredness leads him into trouble and brings frustration to his family and colleagues. This is all fine. The centre of Warren’s universe is his football team, Brainsford United. Of all Warren’s Achilles heels [note to self - can you have more than one Achilles heel? Check with one of the kids’ teachers], devotion to Brainsford is his most vulnerable. He neglects his family, his job and his health in pursuit of this addiction. Scrapes ensue. You get the picture.

Unfortunately, it’s the depiction of Warren as a man obsessed with football above all else that is the weakest element of the show. Particularly unfortunate because it’s being marketed as a football programme. The first episode is being shown immediately after a Champions League game on ITV, in the hope that viewers will switch straight over to ITV4 to see it. They may well do so, and they’ll be rewarded with some decent comedy – but not much in the way of football-related observation.

The opening episode, “July”, sees Warren reach the end of a season and determine that it’s his last as a Brainsford fan. He gives up his season ticket and devotes himself to healthier pursuits. He sees a psychiatrist. He attempts DIY. He spends time with his children. All of these are, of course, spectacularly (and amusingly) unsuccessful. You can guess where the story ends up. It’s Warren’s time away from football that provides the laughs.

The first and third episodes of the series are penned by Simon Nye. Nye is best known as the writer of Men Behaving Badly, a show about laddish wackiness which very sensibly kept football firmly out of its central characters’ world, despite what must have been strong temptation to include it. Men Behaving Badly had its good and its bad points, but when it worked it worked because it struck the right balance between outrage and pity at the actions of its knowingly inadequate central characters. When Warren United succeeds, it does so on the same basis, i.e. a well-observed comedy about a deeply flawed middle-aged man. It’s when the show tries to be hilarious about being a football fan that things become a bit one-dimensional.

Warren United has an admirably quirky ensemble of characters, including Warren’s co-worker Dillip (who’s bemused by football and tries to get Warren into cricket), his sex-obsessed mother and her smooth-talking boyfriend, and some talking police horses. Talking police horses might not sound funny, but they are funny in this. Certainly the funniest talking police horses I can recall seeing in a British animated sitcom. [Note to self- are there any other sitcoms with talking police horses? Google it later].

Context is everything. If Warren United was being presented as a new sitcom which happened to have a football strand to it, there would be no problems. It’s the fact that it’s being presented as a football programme – through its marketing and scheduling – which gets things off on the wrong foot. As a new piece of British animation, it’s fine – a nice combination of characters, scripts and sight gags. As something which purports to portray something that a football fan might find self-referentially amusing, it doesn’t quite work.

You can see why it’s tempting to present a programme which has football in it as a “football programme”. The game has blanket media coverage and a prominent place in the consciousness of the nation. Here’s the thing though: you can’t possibly make being a football fan funnier than it actually is. From the bloke behind you yelling incomprehensible abuse at the opposing full-back, to a striker missing an open goal, to a linesman falling over – none of these things can possibly be as funny in fiction as they are in reality. As it establishes itself, Warren United may well succeed as a sitcom, and I hope it does. The richer comedy in fiction will come from the characters and the scripts – the richer comedy in football comes from real life.

[Note to self – should probably email the producers and thank them for the free beer].

 

Warren United starts on 22nd April at 10pm on ITV4.


IP1: A Matter of Crust

03/04/2014

Narrator: There’s smog in the busy town of Ipswich this morning and the football club’s joint Bespoke Global Deliverance Provider, John Fletcher, has gratefully accepted a lift in David Hitchins’ Alfa Romeo Moltotraballante 4Ci. They’re off to a meeting with Rachel Tesco, entrepreneur and the brains behind one of Ipswich’s most exciting new businesses, Life of Pie, an artisan bakery, just relocated from London’s fashionable Haggerston district. Joining them to sample Rachel’s pastries is Head of Brand Experience, Graham Bobbins. Wendy Ramsey, Lead Business Logic Analyst and Mick Mack, Head of Performance have both sent their apologies.

John [striding into the bakery and vigorously shaking Rachel's hand]: Rachel! Good to see you again. I think you’ve met David.

Rachel: Yes, indeed. [Laughs] Well, you’ve been my best customer since I moved here, haven’t you, David?

John: And this is – er – Graham, Head of Marketing.

Graham [sulkily]: Head of Brand Experience, actually.

John: Good. … Anyway, let’s get on. I have to say I can’t wait to taste the product, Rachel.

Rachel: Well, no need to wait. Here you are… the Portman Pasty!

[She offers a plate of small pieces of pasty around and everyone tries them. Murmurs of approval.]

Rachel: So this is a hand-raised artisan-baked Suffolk pasty containing only traditional organic ingredients.

John: Oh, good. It’s a local dish. I hadn’t realised the pasty was an East Anglian delicacy.

Rachel: Oh yes. The recipe is absolutely traditional. It was the way that Suffolk tin miners were able to take their meals underground.

John: Fantastic. I didn’t know that. … And Graham, you have a rather – um – innovative idea for sales, don’t you?

Graham: That’s right, John. It’s called the Portman Pasty Promotion Pledge.

John: Good.

Graham: Every supporter who bought a season ticket pledged to pay the cost of a Portman Pasty at every game and… wait for it… the pasty will be delivered to that supporter’s seat for no extra charge!

David: Wow! Lucky supporters!

John: Good. So, how many season ticket customers do we have?

David: 12,000. Ish.

John: And they’ll all get a pasty delivered to their seat? Sounds a bit tricky logistically, Graham.

Graham: Well…

John: Keeping them hot, that might pose a problem?

Graham: Hot? Oh no, they won’t be hot.

Rachel: They’re supposed to be hot.

Graham: Oh yes. Totally.

David: And not everyone will want a pasty, obviously, so we’ll have to look at numbers…

John: Good point. No point in supplying pasties where they’re not wanted! Could be a lot fewer… Did they get a choice of whether they wanted to sign up to the Pasty Pledge when the money was taken, Graham?

Graham: [looking bewildered] Choice? We didn’t tell them about it.

John: Didn’t tell them?

Graham: I thought it would be a nice surprise.

John: So what happens if they don’t want a pasty?

Graham: Well … they have to opt out.

John: Sorry?

Graham: They’ll have to opt out. We’ve already taken the money, so they’ll have to apply for a refund. Otherwise… well, they get a pasty.

[John's mobile rings.]

John: Hello? Wendy. … Yes…. Yes. Good? … No, no, not good. OK, we’re on our way back to the office. Could you put an Out of Order sign on the vending machine? … Yup. Thanks.

[He ends the call.]

John: I think we need to look at this again. That was Wendy. It’s total pasty meltdown out there. We need to do some fire-fighting. … Rachel, we’ll get back to you.

David: Great pasties though, Rachel. Great!

Rachel: But the contract…!

[The soft sound of a very expensive car engine fades into the distance.]

 

 

 

 

 

 


IP1

21/03/2014

fanNarrator [a soft Scottish voice]: In a small office in the centre of the busy Suffolk town of Ipswich, a meeting is being held to discuss the financial strategy for the next football season. John Fletcher, joint Bespoke Global Deliverance Provider and his co-worker, David Hitchins, arrive in the car park almost simultaneously. John, casually dressed in cashmere sweater and jeans, is chaining his bike to a newly-painted blue railing, while the more urbane David, sporting a smart blazer unbuttoned over his crisp white shirt, prefers to travel in a classic Alfa Romeo Moltotraballante 4Ci. Joining them in the boardroom are Head of Brand Experience, Graham Bobbins and Lead Business Logic Analyst, Wendy Ramsey. Head of Performance, the gruff, tell-it-like-it-is Yorkshireman, Mick Mack, has sent his apologies.

John: I haven’t got much time. I’ve got a video conference with the Bermuda branch of the supporters’ club in fifty minutes, so shall we… ?

Wendy [tentatively]: Sorry, John… Just wondered if anyone would like a frothy coffee or an iced bun…

 John [irritably]: I don’t think…

David: Great idea, Wend. Do they do pasties?

 John [even more irritably]: I think we should just get on… [Wendy leaves the room]… Graham, we’ve already decided on the price structure for next season based on a demographic analysis of Cambridge. Graham, as Head of Brand Experience, you’re going to have a key role in convincing the people of this fine university town that their increased contribution is essential to the future progress of the brand. How do you think you’re going to achieve that?

 Graham [looks thoughtful]: Well…

 John: David?

David: Well, we need to convince people that they’re getting value for money. Which of course they are.

John: Good.

David: Obviously people in Cambridge can’t expect that to mean the same as people in – say – Chelsea do.

John [nods]: I know where you’re coming from.

David: What I mean is, it’s all very well, people going on all the time about what a historic city Cambridge is. I mean, it has been historic, I grant you that, but it [floundering a little]… isn’t all that historic any more.

Graham: Because that’s totally like living in the past, isn’t it?

Wendy [coming back into the boardroom with several paper bags]: I could only get you a sticky bun, David. With pink icing. I hope you don’t mind… And I got you a Florentine, John. I know you didn’t say, but…

John: Thank you. That’s really kind.

Wendy: If anyone wants a sandwich for later…

John: I think we need to press on now. So we have to persuade the people of Cambridge to stop living in the past. Good. How do we do that… Graham?

Graham [staring at his iPhone]: Er…

Wendy: Ipswich.

John [irritably]: I’m sorry, Wendy but we are going to run out of time soon.

Wendy: This is Ipswich.

John: Ipswich?

Wendy: Ipswich. This is Ipswich. Not Cambridge.

John: Shit.

David: Shit!

Graham: Totally.

Wendy: But you must know that.

John [vaguely]:  Of course. … Good. So, Graham, how do we persuade the people of Ipswich that it’s the future they should be interested in?

Graham: We’ve got some really good Ipswich Town Keep Calm key rings. Just in.

John: Good. But I was really thinking more of how we get across to people that it’s worth their while continuing to spend money, more and more money, year upon year, on something that is becoming less and less enjoyable.

Wendy: Faith? Loyalty?

John: Woolly. Thinking more of…. ?

David: FFP?

Graham [consulting Google]: Fresh Frozen Plasma? Flexible Food Packaging? Fairly Frequent Penalties?

David: Financial Fair Play.

John: Good. Go on.

David: We say something like this: in an ideal world we’d have liked to have held prices across the board but with Financial Fair Play coming in, it’s meant we’ve had to review the pricing.

John: Good. Go on.

David: We tell them we’re listening, yeah? We’ve met quite a few people from supporters’ groups. We’ve taken what they’ve said about ticket prices on board but we have no choice.

John: I’m liking this.

Wendy: This is great.

Graham: Totally.

David [feeling he's on a roll]: We feel it’s very fair when you consider what you get for it.

Wendy: What do the supporters get for it, David?

David: Hold on, Wendy. That kind of detail can be sorted out later.

John: This is good. Carry on.

David: Progress. Success. Positivity. Achievement. Excitement. Wobble.

John, Wendy & Graham [in unison]: Wobble?

David: Yes. Wobble. Or, to be exact, no wobble.

Graham: Yeah, no wobble. Duh!

John: Right. Of course… . Expand on that a little if you will, David.

David: We say to our fans ‘this is not the time to wobble.’ “

John: Brilliant! Superb. OK, people, let’s call it a day. Get on to the usual contacts in the local media and let’s get that message out there. From now on, this is a wobble-free football club.

Wendy: Just one thing, John. If this whole FFP thing gets kicked out because of the current legal action by other Championship clubs, does that mean we can bring ticket prices down again?

John: I really am a bit pushed for time now, Wendy. Maybe you… [Gets out of his seat.]

Wendy: And – just a thought – if a relatively small number of people decide not to renew their season tickets because of the price rise – it’s a small rise, I know, but I think some supporters are feeling a bit fed up and finances are tight – so, if say about two hundred season ticket holders decide not to renew, won’t that wipe out any extra income that we’ll derive from charging an extra nine pounds or so? Just a thought, as I said.

John: Perhaps you could drop me a memo on that one… ? [Moves towards door.]

Wendy: Oh, and – sorry, this is a small point, I know, but it might be important. What effect will this – along with other factors like the years of decline, the quality of the football, the succession of players on loan, the high prices for away fans – have on the crowds, and the atmosphere? Almost seems as if we’re in some kind of vicious circle here. People might start finding other things to spend their hard-earned money on and it could be hard to win them back once their support has been lost.

John [holding his mobile to his ear]: Ah, I think that’s Bermuda now. Must take this call.

by Susan


Welcome to Rainbow Tractors

16/02/2014

rainbowThe FA is backing the Football v Homophobia campaign and so is Turnstile Blues. We’ve published an article by Rob Freeman about that very subject in our most recent issue and another piece by Stuart Hellingsworth in our second issue which you can read here.

We welcome Rainbow Tractors who can be followed on Twitter @RainbowTractors, and on Facebook. They can be contacted by e-mail: rainbowitfc[at]gmail.com

They’re trying to build up support for a campaign against homophobia and transphobia. Like them, and the FA, we believe that “football is for everyone. No exceptions.” So please contact them if you can help in any way or just to offer them some solidarity and support.


Turnstile Blues 4 for sale

29/01/2014

TB4cover  A new issue of the Ipswich Town fanzine Turnstile Blues was published on 1st February, prior to the home match against Bolton. It will be on sale again today outside the King Power stadium before the match against Leicester City.

The theme for the fourth issue of Turnstile Blues is co-operation and community: values which have always been closely associated with the club and its supporters. The fanzine focuses on the importance of co-operation and community in building a successful club, both on and off the pitch.

The previous three issues of Turnstile Blues have sold very quickly amongst Town supporters, both at games and online, and have drawn praise from supporters, the local media and ex-Town players alike.

In the new issue, Susan Gardiner, author of the highly successful Ipswich Town – A History which was published last year by Amberley Press, writes a moving and insightful appreciation of Dale Roberts and his importance to the club’s success under his close friend George Burley.

Grant Bage puts forward a lively and humorous argument about why football – despite its essentially competitive nature – is a co-operative enterprise at heart, and Emma Corlett, this issue’s editor, reflects on Town’s role in the local community.

There’s also an enlightening contribution from Hull City fan Mark Gretton, a leading figure in the No To Hull Tigers campaign, as well as the usual satire and silliness.

Turnstile Blues is priced £1.

For those who can’t make it to the game, the fanzine will also be available to buy via download or mail order from www.turnstile-blues.co.uk, soon afterwards.


Way Out West

24/01/2014

Moving from a club like Ipswich to a “big” Premier League side is one thing, but how do you prepare a young player for a move that could take him across continents? Town fan Nick Ames visits West Africa, and finds that Premier League stars’ involvement in youth development is raising as many questions as answers.

diambars

You don’t get too many casual football supporters in Saly. Its resorts – eerily quiet as the rainy season closes in – are best known for beaches and ‘bumsters’, and the few curious local folk corralled into the stand behind me are matched in number by furrowed brows from the Iberian peninsula and Scandinavia, all of whom have their eyes on a footballing bargain rather than a good time.

I sit on the end of the Diambars bench, two places along from coach Boubacar Gadiaga, as their players slalom around the 3G surface and pass, pass, pass their way through a lumpen Port Autonome de Dakar – proceeding safely to the top of Senegal’s Ligue 2 for the first time. “Vivacity, rhythm, mobility and speed – we constantly preach them,” smiles Gadiaga after precisely those virtues have put Port to the sword twice. The visitors’ average age, he estimates, is about 28 – gnarled semi-pros who’ve been round an attritional dogfight of a domestic game longer than anyone can care to remember. Diambars’ lads – shorter, sharper, struttier – are typically nine years their junior.

Two years pass, and a steady rise has become a force of nature. Gadiaga is now assistant manager of the national team alongside Alain Giresse; the goalkeeper who kept Port at bay, Ousmane Mane, has faced Team GB at Wembley. Most astonishingly of all, Diambars, having narrowly been pipped to the Ligue 1 title – and a place in the African Champions League – in their maiden top-flight season, now sit two points clear with a single game remaining of their second tilt at the big time. An academy whose senior, professional side was created in order to provide a rough-and-tumble finishing school for its most promising late-teens could very well be on the cusp of outgrowing its own domestic league.

Diambars is best known in England for Patrick Vieira’s considerable involvement. Invited on board by inceptors Jimmy Adjovi-Boco and Saer Seck in 2003, the ex-Arsenal midfielder lends kudos, gravitas and no small amount of hands-on assistance to an academy setup that operates sides from Under-13 to ‘professional’ (generally Under-20, in their case) level. Trials are held around Senegal to select each year’s new brood – 20 of around 2,000 hopefuls typically joining – with the lucky few packing their bags before moving into accommodation blocks flanking Diambars’ smart, cream coloured headquarters.

Facilities are as impressive as the grass-verged, tree-lined approach to the main building would suggest. The academy’s stated aim is to promote education through football, and students want for little. Classes rarely number more than ten; multimedia aids are plentiful; students typically study for six hours, finishing at 2pm, before concentrating on their football later in the afternoon. Once a month, they return home to their families.

“School is obligatory here, and bad discipline or poor motivation will not give you a future at Diambars even if you’re our best, most top-class player,” Seck tells me over what turns out to be a lavish dinner with his extended family.

“That’s the situation and we won’t move from it. Each boy’s personal development, his own project, comes before any focus on professional football. If a boy will not make it as a footballer, we’ll give him all the tools we can to help him in business, or whatever career he wishes, after he leaves.”

Diambars tend to keep to Seck’s word. They have sent boys to higher education courses in Europe and elsewhere in Africa. They have sent promising footballers to top-flight clubs in Spain, France, Norway, Poland and several other European countries. Some have succeeded – Kara Mbodj, now at Belgian side Genk via Tromso – and others, some of whom I meet during my visit, return empty-handed to be looked after once again, hopeful of catching watching scouts’ eyes a second time. Some re-establish themselves in Diambars’ professional side – Mignane Diouf, unsuccessful in Norway and Canada, is now 24 and by some way their oldest player, but has picked up full international caps for his work in this year’s title charge. Mane, 22, hasn’t needed to leave at all in order to appear at the Olympics. While Seck is quick to stress that there’s no ambition to be a top African professional side, there’s little doubting that Diambars boast a cadre whose technical quality leaves domestic rivals in the shade.

It leaves them in a slightly ambiguous position. The apex of the academy’s footballing achievements is reached when a product thrives in Europe, but when Seck says that “If Arsenal, for example wanted to sign our star player and we were playing the African Champions League Final the next day, we’d let him go”, his countenancing the very possibility of the latter tells a tale. It leaves them ripe to be shot at on a national level. The lack of a fanbase, of emotional connection to a local area, has drawn plenty of criticism from rivals who are, themselves, clinging onto some kind of meaning amid the often hard-to-watch (literally, as Senegal’s top flight averages little over 1.4 goals a game) decline of the domestic game. The
academy’s name, meaning ‘Warriors’, is little more than an abstract concept – so are they anaesthetising good, honest local competition? Few expected them to be topping Ligue 1 so soon after their ascension – Seck recently told local media that they were five years ahead of schedule – and their current rate of knots breeds the thought that they may, before long, outgrow the competition that was intended as a mere finishing school.

It begs the question, one that will be left open in this short article, of what academies in developing countries are actually ‘for’ in footballing terms. Johnny McKinstry – at 28, the most impressive young coach I have ever met – is currently in charge of the Sierra Leone national side on a short-term contract, assisted by the similarly dynamic Tom Legg. Both men work for the Craig Bellamy Foundation (CBF), whose facilities an hour outside Freetown rival Diambars’ in heart if not yet in scale. In their short time concurrently heading up the national setup, they have sought to implement the high-tech performance analysis with which their young charges benefit on the Monday morning after every match. Sierra Leone’s fully-capped professionals – ex-Norwich forward Kei Kamara among them – can now benefit from a level of attention to detail and rigour matched by few, if any, top-level sides on the continent. The stencil adopted at CBF – one that assists its 16 year-olds in beating youngsters three years their senior week in, week out – is already being replicated at a far higher level, seemingly years ahead of schedule.

Neocolonialism? Carts being set off before horses? CBF and the largely French-funded Diambars have been accused of both, usually by conservative factions with existing regimes to protect. But, with domestic football structures in the region in danger of falling apart (Sierra Leone’s national league started three months late this season) and the scourge of age cheating ruining many an outfit’s credibility, academies can hardly be faulted for coming at the issue at hand – developing outstanding players for the country’s eventual benefit – from a different angle. The rises to primacy of Diambars and CBF in their respective countries are simply a reflection of the failing structures that they have effectively hurdled. The young west African footballer is better set than ever for a fast track to the top – but it will be in their academies’ appetites to help reshape what lies in the middle that the long-term future of this region’s game is defined.

Nick Ames is a journalist and Ipswich fan with an interest in African football development, who’s worked and travelled extensively in Africa. In August 2013, shortly after this article was completed, Diambars won the Senegalese Championship.


Adam Tanner: the one who got away

24/01/2014

Adam Tanner has a place in Town history: at just 21 he became the first player to score a winning goal for Ipswich at Anfield. Five years later, off-field problems led to his release from the club, and by the age of 27 his professional career was over. Emma Corlett wanted to find out how the Ipswich youth system had prepared him for life inside and outside of football, and what help he’d had in dealing with his problems.

Adam Tanner Panini

Adam warmly welcomes me into his smart, modern house on a development on the outskirts of Chelmsford, and I am surprised by how nervous he appears to be. He admits to being a little apprehensive about having agreed to the interview, but is hoping to be open and honest. We start off by talking about how he first got into football…

Adam Tanner (AT): I grew up in Witham and I was into football from a very early age. I was playing for a local team and a Tottenham scout approached my Mum and Dad, so I spent a year training with their schoolboys up at White Hart Lane two nights a week.

I left there to go to Arsenal. I was at Arsenal for two years, right up until I left school. They offered me an apprenticeship, but it would have meant me leaving home and going to live up in Islington, and I wasn’t too keen. The Youth Development officer at the time at Ipswich was Tony Dable. They came up with an offer that meant I could still live at home in Witham, and get the train in every day. At 16 it would have been a massive step to move away. I obviously don’t know how things would have worked out, but I think I made the right decision.

Turnstile Blues (TB): So things went OK for you at Ipswich: you were captain of the Youth Team. Who from your contemporaries made it through to the first team?

AT: Well, there were 2 years. From my year Lee Durant played a couple of games, Neil Gregory was a year above me, then coming through was Tony Vaughan, James Scowcroft the year behind me. From my actual year there was Leo Cottrell from Cambridge and Bam Bam. We certainly weren’t prolific. So nothing like the peak when we had Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer, Scowy, Tony Vaughan, that was quite a peak period.

TB: So then you made the step up to the first team yourself, making your debut in January 1995?

AT: Yes, that started all under John Lyall, he was brilliant. He was a real idol and father figure. I’d been travelling with the squad under John Lyall, helping to carry stuff. He wanted me involved. George Burley took over, and he threw me in at the deep end. He just said to me the day before “you’re starting tomorrow”. That was against Leicester, and I scored. The week after we played Wrexham away in the cup and I gave a penalty away in the last minute, and we went out, then the following week it was the Liverpool game when I scored. That was my first three games!

TB: You mentioned about John Lyall being a fatherly figure. How much do football clubs take an interest in supporting and educating young players through the tricky things, like having more money than your peers, managing relationships, unwanted attention, alcohol, drugs, that kind of thing?

AT: Everything, all that stuff, comes at you very fast. John Lyall was someone you could always go to. He treated everyone similar, from the first team to the youth team. His door was always open. There weren’t any great workshops as such, to give you advice, but if you had a problem you could go to him.

. After talking about the drinking culture during his time at Town, Adam went on to describe the consequences of testing positive for cocaine. Talking about this is clearly still very difficult for Adam, and for the first time in the interview he is visibly emotional, as he talks about the impact on his parents.

TB: How did they react?

AT: They were devastated. Really absolutely devastated. But again, they showed me unconditional love. My biggest fear was that I was going to get the sack. This was different to when I was 17 because I’d been playing and in the team, so there was more press coverage. I had to make a statement outside the front of my parents’ house. The press had been banging on the windows and everything. My mum and dad live in a little cul de sac, and you had all these TV vans with satellite dishes all coming round, and I had to stand outside. It wasn’t good, but it was my own fault.

TB: I guess it’s the impact that it has on other people close to you, and dealing with the guilt?

AT: Yes, but again I got support. It was a Friday, and Sheepshanks rang me. He said “where are you?”, so I told him I was round my mum and dad’s. He advised me not to open the door because he’d heard that the press were on their way round. We compiled a statement between us, that I then read outside Mum and Dad’s front door at about half past five. He was first class, he said “it’s happened, we just need to get on and deal with it”.

TB: What was the local press coverage like?

AT: I remember the Evening Star had the billboards, blacked out with “Tanner Cocaine Shame”, but I decided not to read it all. The club gave me a suspension for two weeks so I was away from Ipswich for two weeks. That paid part of my ban too. The club needed to be seen to be doing something, they couldn’t say we’re backing him but not taking any action against him. It was tough. I hadn’t bought this place and was still living with my Mum and Dad. The thing you love has been taken away from you, and you’re hanging on by your fingertips to not lose it.

TB: What help or support did you get from the PFA?

AT: I think Neil Thompson was our rep. I spoke to the PFA at the time, but because it was an isolated incident rather than a problem and something I was doing all the time they didn’t do much. Gordon Taylor was there at my hearing with Brendan Batson. We went in to the room, and there was three older men. Reg Burr the old Millwall Chairman fell asleep during my hearing. I looked up and he was just asleep. I thought oh god, you’ve got my career at your fingertips here and you’re asleep. Someone gave him a nudge and woke him up. It was a horrendous day to be honest.

TB: Did you have any inkling what the likely outcome would be?

AT: None at all. I was one of the first to get to a hearing. I’ve heard so many rumours about other players, about it getting hushed up but that was definitely a route that Sheepshanks wasn’t going to go down and he made that quite clear. He said “I’ll back you, but we cannot brush this under the carpet”, and you have to respect that. I got a three month ban, and had already done a month so I think it was quite lenient really.

TB: Do you keep in touch with people at the club?

AT: I’ve still got contacts at the club, I speak to Milts, and I speak to Edwina who is the receptionist. …  I gave the club some really bad press, but whenever I go back they welcome me with open arms, and I can’t fault them.

There’s always an ex-players dinner, but I never went. But I went two years ago. Burley and Sheepshanks were there, they shook my hand, I had a good laugh with them. There was no bitterness at all from them. I won’t have a bad word said against Ipswich as a club, or Sheepshanks or George Burley. The club is first-class.

You can read the full, exclusive interview with Adam Tanner in our printed or downloadable fanzine.


Everything you always wanted to know about… ITFC Italian Branch

04/12/2013

Susan Gardiner asked ITFC Italian Branch chairman, Simone Longo a few questions about how they came to support Town and this is what he wrote for us.

Simone Longo In my family we’ve supported ITFC for a long time. My big bro Claudio in 1981 was 14 years old and he remembers very well the epic period of Sir Bobby Robson’s Superblues! I was born a year later but I heard a lot of about that team.

My love for ITFC blossomed definitely in 2001 when the Blues beat Inter (I’m an AC Milan fan!) at Portman Road in UEFA cup. At the return match at the San Siro (I live in Milan) I went to see the game with the blue army in the away stand. That was an amazing experience.

I started as Italian branch chairman in March 2011 and now we are circa 40 members. We are based in Milan but we have some members also in other places in Italy. Some of us already knew one another before, others no, but it’s more important now that we share our passion and spend a good time together when it’s possible. A mention goes to Frank, he lives near Milan and he is English (was born in Dulwich). Frank and his sons are members and we are very happy to have them with us. In Italy there are a great number of fans of English teams and we are proud to support and make Ipswich known.

In our branch, our members also support mostly the big clubs of Italian football:  AC Milan, Inter, Juventus and Roma.

We organize and take part in different events: we have founded our football team and we have a partnership with ITFC Charitable Trust (now Inspire Suffolk); we raise money for them every time that we play. Usually we play against the Italian branch of other foreign teams. Moreover, we watch together the ITFC games when they are transmitted on TV, and we meet often only for talk about blues and drinking a good beer in one of the English pubs in Milan!

When we are in Ipswich, usually for the supporters’ day, we have the time only to watch the match and visit the town: we like every place in Ipswich; the centre, the waterfront and the Christchurch park. We would like to visit also the other places in Suffolk and one day we will stay more than a week-end and we will organise a Suffolk tour.

At the games we had the honour to meet some ITFC personalities, players and legends: especially Carlos Edwards (top pal!) and Simon Milton (always very kindly) but the Legend of the Legends for us is the mighty John Wark! We met him for the first time two years ago and when we came back last year at Portman Road he came to say hello to us and was amazing! We considered each other to be friends and this is the symbol of how ITFC is not a club like others, it’s a family. Supporters from all over the world, players, and club…we are one team, a big blue family… is fantastic for us this football idea in this modern world (and modern football).

CE with Italian shirtCE in Italian shirt 2

About the current team we say that in Mick we trust. For this season will be good to stay near the play offs and try to enter in the top six. We are not the best team in the league but we are better than the latest seasons, the Championship is strange and all is possible. The hope is to see as soon as possible ITFC in Premier League, but if it does not happen the important thing is that the club is solid and will try to be promoted every season.

See you at next supporters day Saturday 15th March 2014 for the match vs Wigan!

Forza Town!

There are more photos of the ITFC Italian Branch, generously supplied by Simone in our Gallery.


Michael Kemp RIP

10/11/2013

It was with sadness that we have learned of the sudden death of Ipswich Town supporter, Michael Kemp, after the match against Blackpool yesterday.

Turnstile Blues contributor, Alasdair Ross, has written a tribute to his friend on his own site, From Portman Road to the San Siro which you can read here.

 


Celebrate good times, come on…

07/11/2013

A piece of unashamed fan love by Susan Gardiner

stewie Marcus Stewart. It’s his 41st birthday today. I may as well warn you now that I’m one of his greatest fans – and I’m sure he has many. In a squad that contained some of my other all-time favourite players, Matt Holland: all high cheekbones and decent values, Scowie, underrated (although very highly rated by my knowledgeable-but-non-ITFC-supporting Dad), and Magic Jim, Stewie was the most exciting player I’ve ever seen play for Ipswich Town.

Even before he arrived, I watched clips of him scoring goals for his previous club, Huddersfield and noticed that goal celebration – a proper celebration, not the calculated act of the footballing poseur that has been adopted by subsequent generations of all-too-TV-aware players – and took to him immediately. Better still, Huddersfield fans were posting insults on fans forums, telling us how pleased they were to be rid of the fat, alcoholic waster. That’s always a good sign (especially when it isn’t true). Very few supporters make the effort to slag off the indifferent players. It’s disappointment that most often arouses the keyboard warrior.

Oh yes. The goal celebration – the almost-modest little gesture with clenched fists as he darted around the goal mouth after scoring what was very often a special goal. And the gloves. The ITFC gloves with the short-sleeved shirt. Will we ever see his like again or are we exiled from that particular Wonderland forever by The Way Football Is Now?

For those who are too young to remember him – poor things – it’s on record. The promotion season, the play-off semi-finals against Bolton, the play-off final at Wembley, the first year in the Premier League when he became the highest English goal scorer in that league with 19 goals and would have been the highest if it hadn’t been for one Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (23 goals), the egregious piece of rolling around on the ground by Ian Harte for dirty Leeds which had him sent off, with an ensuing three-match ban, and who knows? – Stewie may have scored more goals that season and Town might have ended up even higher than fifth.

Has anyone ever evaluated the impact of that particular piece of gamesmanship on ITFC’s future, by the way? I think it might be interesting.

Then it all went wrong. We were relegated, we were in administration, and he was off to play for Sunderland. My only solace was his failure to score that penalty against us at Portman Road. Not because I wished him ill but because I genuinely believe he didn’t have it in his heart to score against his old club. I might be wrong but I’m never going to see it any other way.

Was it really only 37 goals in 75 appearances?

I know that ITFC, with its glorious history (£16.95 from all good bookshops or The Greyhound, Henley Road) has had greater players. I wouldn’t even try to argue his relative merits against the Crawfords, Mariners and Kiwomyas of this world, but his goal against Bolton in the play-off semi–final (first up on the clip below) is my favourite ever Town goal. I only saw it on a distant TV after elbowing my into a sardine-packed Ipswich pub on a baking hot afternoon in May 2000 but I’ve watched it innumerable times since. Take a bow, William Marcus Paul Stewart.


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