Roy Keane Ha Ha Ha (or The Snapper)

07/10/2014

 

gloria

Roy Keane has written about his time at Portman Road. Susan Gardiner took a quick look and these are her first impressions.

I did wonder whether Roy Keane would say very much about Ipswich Town in his new autobiography, The Second Half, co-written with Irish novelist, Roddy Doyle. I enjoyed his previous book with Eamon Dunphy (with whom he later fell out. Obviously.) and I felt some sympathy with him when he came to Ipswich – here’s a man who will never be able to build a career away from the cameras, journos and their tiresome ringing mobile phones, and keyboard warriors high on male pheronomes – but that has been severely strained by a quick glance at the relevant chapter of the new book. Given that I don’t have the context of the entire book, it wouldn’t be fair to comment too much on Keane, the man – although it’s hard not to.

It’s quite obvious that Keane regards his whole time at Portman Road as a mistake. He claims that he and Ipswich were a “bad fit” and the omens were there from the start: hardly anyone came to his first training session which was open to the public, he says. Oh, and he hates blue: “I don’t like fuckin’ blue. City were blue. Rangers were blue. My biggest rivals were blue? Is that childish?”

Yes, Roy. It is.

I’m quite glad that I was unaware of that level of irrationality when he was our manager. Although this book was written with hindsight, it’s a curious method of self-justification and that particular bit doesn’t ring true. I wonder why he says it. It’s not particularly edifying. He goes on: “I couldn’t feel it. Me and the club. I get annoyed now, thinking that. I should have been able to accept it.”

This is the tone of the section I’ve read: slightly regretful, mea culpa, I should have accepted the situation and have done my best with it. But I don’t buy it. It seems to me that, at Ipswich, he felt like Gloria Swanson, playing the ageing Hollywood star, Norma Desmond at the end of Sunset Boulevard (“I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”) He moans about his office, “like a school prefab,” and it makes me long for the humility of an Alf Ramsey or the pragmatic cheeriness of a Bobby Robson (“good fits”).

The question springs to mind: why was Roy Keane appointed at all? What was in Marcus Evans’ mind when he (presumably) decided to sack Magilton and replace him with this man? Magilton was not doing particularly badly. In retrospect, it seems very harsh that he was sacked and, although we’re happy to have Mick McCarthy, I do wonder how well Magic Jim would have done, had he had the time to build a team. The only explanation that I can come up with for the arrival of Keane is “publicity.” And he definitely created huge opportunities for a certain grey and white logo to be displayed all over Britain’s press and TV screens.

Keane is certainly self-deprecating at times: “I made another mistake. I should have looked at the bigger picture.” He writes of what he describes as “the dreaded conversations with the owner” during the close season. It’s interesting to see that, for all his anonymity, Evans is not averse to interfering with managerial decision-making. Perhaps Town fans became too used to the completely hands-off approach that the Cobbolds took for decades, although it seemed to work for us. I was most surprised by the picture Keane draws of sitting with ME discussing tactics, with a tactics board. Perhaps this explains a lot:

ME: “Well, why can’t he play there?”

RK: “Because he’s this and he’s not that.”

ME: “Let’s go with the younger players.”

So, according to Keane’s book, he was told to go for youth rather than experience against his better judgement. “The average age of a promoted team is twenty-eight or twenty-nine.”

Keane puts the failure to recruit (33-year-old) Sean Derry firmly at the feet of the club. He wanted an experienced pro, which is understandable, but whether Derry was the right “fit,” we’ll never know. He’s respectful towards Town fans, says some kind words about Connor Wickham but what he says about some of his other players demonstrates an absence of rapport to say the least. When shaking their hands and wishing them luck going on to the pitch “sometimes I’d wonder what they were putting into my hand.”

He wanted to physically attack Pablo, and his bust-up with Walters is the stuff of legend (vomit selfie, anyone?) but what he says about selling Rhodes is interesting, at least to me because I always suspected that was a club decision rather than Keane’s and he confirms it.

Most interesting of all are his revelations about CEO Simon Clegg. And that there was never an occasion when he, Clegg and Evans were ever in “the same room together.” His comment on Clegg (“This is the face you have got”) being answerable to Marcus Evans rather than working with the manager rings true and it’s perhaps one thing that we can be sympathetic with Keane about.

While I find him surprisingly unanalytical and lacking in self-awareness (that ego gets in the way too often), I think he’s right about not being a good fit with this club. I despair that he compares us unfavourably to Sunderland and even more when reading these words: “Chris Kiwomya was there, and Bryan Klug, and Steve McCall was the chief scout. They’d all played for Ipswich. It has the feel of a family club that didn’t need breaking up. But that was exactly what it needed.”

Ultimately, it was the wrong appointment at the wrong time and for questionable reasons. Keane clearly found it onerous to “discuss mobile phones for hours” when Wickham has been thrown out of his digs. I was struck by the comparison with our great managers of the past, Ramsey and Robson, who patiently performed far more menial administrative tasks for the club and had a genius for good relationships with their players and other staff, well documented elsewhere. As Kevin Beattie recalled of Bobby Robson: “It didn’t matter if you were the best player in the team or the worst player, he treated you the same and got the best out of you. He could make an average player into a good player and a good player into a great player. It was uncanny ability and that made him stand out as a manager. Wherever he went, he seemed to get the best out of his players. I know at Ipswich, we all just wanted to play for him.”

Roy Keane wasn’t blessed with players of the ability of Beattie, Mariner, Wark or Mills, and it’s arguable that things may have been different if he’d had a different kind of owner and chief executive to deal with. In many ways, Keane was a symptom of the changes made to our club’s character in recent years rather than the cause of our problems. Let’s hope that in Mick McCarthy we now have someone able to deal with that, yet retain respect for the nature of our club.

 

The Second Half by Roy Keane and Roddy Doyle (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2014). Borrow it from your local public library, they need your support.


Family entertainment

21/08/2014

 

Half Time

 After a short cessation of hostilities, the derby match is back at Portman Road this Saturday and we’re all excited about it – except for one thing…  by Susan Gardiner

Embarrassing relatives. We’ve all got them.

Whether it’s an uncle who makes off-colour jokes and is a little too free with his hands or the aunt who only drinks on Christmas Day and, after two sherries, insists everyone watches a war film instead of the great comedy show on the other channel, then promptly falls asleep and starts snoring at seismic levels… OK, this analogy might be getting a bit too personal.

I feel like that about some of my fellow Town fans sometimes. We all have the same interests at heart, but – naturally enough – have different views about how to go about achieving our aims. We argue, we fight, we agree to differ, it doesn’t last long, we argue again… . It was ever thus. In many ways, it’s that kind of thing that makes football supporters comparable to a real family, rather than the trite, happy-clappy, “football family” of the clichés that are trotted out by the media, Barclays ads and football club PR departments.

Perhaps the rivalry between the two major East Anglian clubs is a bit like a confrontation between the Montagues and the Capulets in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, except that fortunately, for the most part, the sword fighting has been replaced by verbal abuse and bragging in musical form.

This is clearly an improvement, and anyway the police will no doubt deal with anyone on either side who allows the rivalry to spill over into anything worse. However, there are aspects of some of the chanting that Ipswich fans aim at their rivals that aren’t acceptable. If they ever were acceptable – and I doubt it – they aren’t any longer. Stuart Hellingsworth wrote about that, with particular reference to the appalling Justin Fashanu song. I don’t know any Ipswich Town supporter who isn’t embarrassed and ashamed about that being sung and I hope that I never hear it at Portman Road again. It does, of course, contravene the law and our own club rules and anyone caught singing it will, quite rightly, be thrown out of the ground and banned.

There’s another song that crosses the line of acceptability though, and one of the Turnstile Blues group unfortunately heard about twenty fans singing it in the North Stand in the match against Fulham recently. It’s the one about Delia. I’m not going to quote the words as they’re well known. The objection here isn’t to “bad language” though. The issue is that people are singing a song that is intended to be offensive about the Norwich City “joint majority shareholder” (that’s what she’s officially called and that is silly. Perhaps someone could come up with a song?) They’re singing it for one reason alone, because she’s a woman. Whatever our views on Delia, her gender isn’t really relevant and shouldn’t be an issue. The only conclusion that anyone can reluctantly come to is that the song is sung because there’s a – hopefully small – element in the Ipswich Town fan base that is sexist and/or misogynistic and this is a manifestation of it.

Football has grown up a lot over the last few decades, but it’s quite clear from the revelations about TV presenters Richard Keys and Andy Gray, Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League, no less and – as recently as yesterday – allegations about former Cardiff City manager (and Norwich player), Malky Mackay, that there’s still a long way to go. Recent advertising campaigns by The Football Paper, and Conference sponsors, Vanarama, are depressing in their out-dated attitude to women. It all seems to be based on an outmoded view that “lad culture” is the norm and that this kind of thing appeals to most football supporters. That’s as insulting to men as it is to women when you think about it.

Look around most football grounds now and you’ll see lots of women, you’ll see families, you’ll see men with daughters (and sons) who don’t want to hear things like the Delia song.

It’s disappointing that sexism and misogynistic behaviour don’t seem to be taken as seriously as racism and homophobia, but it’s just as bad. Denigrating someone because of what they are rather than who they are, or because of a stereotype, is exactly the kind of thing that leads to worse: hatred, abuse, violence. Denigrating someone just because they’re female, apart from being quite weird and ridiculous, is pernicious.

We’re all hoping to see our status as the Pride of Anglia restored on Saturday. Whatever the result, let’s hope that the most embarrassing members of the ITFC family stay at home or keep their malignant songs to themselves.

You can report any offensive chanting or language using the Kick It Out app or the club’s STAMP IT OUT text number 07834 439429.

 

 


Portman Road, July 2014

06/07/2014

With A Little Help From My Friends

01/05/2014

This tribute, written by Susan Gardiner, to the late Dale Roberts, ITFC player and coach, first appeared in issue 4 of Turnstile Blues which was published in February 2014.

DaleThe writer George Eliot once asked ‘“What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?” In an age which elevates the individual beyond all reason and devalues co-operation, which celebrates “celebrities” without quite explaining what there is to celebrate about them (erm – Joey Essex, anyone?), it’s easy to forget the contributions of those who work quietly in the background, often selflessly allowing others to take the credit for their achievements.

 

Football – stating the obvious – is a team game. It’s only been in relatively recent years that individuals have been picked out and transformed into superstars. Of course, supporters have always had favourites – Town fans adored George Sherrington, Ernest Kent and Ernie Bugg long before the club had moved to Portman Road or become professional – but it was only between the First and Second World Wars that players like Stanley Matthews, Tommy Lawton and Dixie Dean became national stars, winning media attention and adulation from fans all over the country. Later, the England cricketer, Denis Compton – who also played football for Arsenal between 1936 and 1950 – took it on to the next level, winning lucrative advertising contracts and presumably earning quite a lot of money in the bargain.brylcreem

Over the last few years, Ipswich Town fans have had their fair share of the notoriety that tends to come with the “star” player of the 21st century – the Jimmy Bullards and Michael Chopras whose undoubted natural ability brought us such great expectations – only for it to be dashed, leaving us with an empty feeling of unfulfilled possibilities and disappointment. What a waste, as Ian Dury sang. If only we could learn to appreciate the contributions of those who quietly work away at making Ipswich Town the club it is, without the newspaper headlines or the “incidents” at nightclubs. There have been many players, coaching staff, groundstaff, cleaners and secretaries, who have given ITFC so much over the years and have never – not that I know of, anyway – posted a photograph of a large amount of cash on Twitter.

Now it’s not only the footballers who get the attention. Since the inception of the Premier League skewed football further in the direction of money and big business, other participants in the sport have been picked out as stars, especially the managers. Alf Ramsey, Bob Paisley, Matt Busby and Bobby Robson won deserved acclaim and attention for their achievements in the game, but in the last 20 years the ever-present cameras have panned to the face of any PL club’s manager after every trivial incident, whether it’s a superlative goal or a bit of handbags involving some of his sillier players. Every unedifying spat between the likes of Wenger, Mourinho and Ferguson has been elevated to back page headlines as if they were speaking with the wit of Oscar Wilde and the wisdom of Eric Cantona when mostly it’s about the level of a school playground bragfest. More recently, the supposed importance of the corporate side of top-level football has drawn media attention to the owners and chief executives of football clubs, particularly if they’ve done something to really piss their own fans off. Now the cameras stray, all too frequently, to the rather unprepossessing figures of Vincent Tan at Cardiff City and Assem Allam at Hull City AFC. I suppose you could describe it as “the money shot.”

There’s nothing wrong with football having stars; the glamour of a Beckham or the sheer breathtaking ability of a Ronaldo or Messi are part of football’s appeal but one of the problems with this media-led cult of the individual is that a lot of people who contribute to the success of a club are ignored. I’m not talking about the many “unsung heroes” that exist at every club, although they too should be acknowledged of course, but most football managers don’t work alone. They have a whole array of coaches, physios, and other staff – and some of them contribute a great deal. Occasionally, a manager will have a coach that he works so closely with that they are identified as a partnership and one of the most famous examples of this is, of course, Brian Clough and Peter Taylor – although I’ve no idea whether the reality was quite as it was portrayed in the slightly fanciful, but very enjoyable film, The Damned United. At other clubs, it may well be that managers owed more to their assistants than fans and journalists ever realised: Bobbies Robson and Ferguson are a case in point, although often an assistant is never quite able to achieve the same success on his own.

In the recent history of Ipswich Town, one partnership stands out – although I’m hopeful there may be another dynamic duo at the club, you never know – the ultimately very successful pairing of George Burley with Dale Roberts, and whereas I wouldn’t ever wish not to give Burley “all credit” for what he achieved, I’ve always felt that Dale must have been an integral part of that sublimely successful period for Town at the beginning of the 21st century.

Dale Roberts was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1956. He began his football career at Portman Road when he joined as a schoolboy in November 1972. He became an apprentice in January 1973 and turned professional in September 1974. He was a member of the squad that won the FA Youth Cup twice in 1973 and 1975 – a remarkable achievement. It’s clear that the young central defender had great promise. Among his teammates in that first Youth Cup winning team was fellow 16-year-old, George Burley, and the two boys, both far from home, formed an enduring friendship. In the squad that won the youth trophy in 1975 were David Geddis, Russell Osman and one John Wark. Roberts’ problem as a player for Ipswich would be that it was a time when there was an “embarrassment of riches.” Bobby Robson’s youth team policy combined with his brilliant network of scouts meant that competition was fierce and Roberts was competing with players of outstanding quality.

Former ITFC Chairman, David Sheepshanks, recalled: “I can remember watching him as a player in the mid-70s where he was an understudy to Allan Hunter and Kevin Beattie. He was a top quality centre half but was also unfortunate to be at the club at a time when we had Russell Osman and Terry Butcher coming through…. Dale was a hard, totally determined and dedicated tough-tackling, no-nonsense player.”

He ended up only making 24 full appearances for Town before moving to Hull City AFC for a reported figure of £50,000 in February 1980, although it seems he spent a very brief time playing in the North American Soccer League in 1979. Roberts made nearly 200 appearances for Hull in Divisions 3 and 4. Manager Brian Horton described him as “popular… enthusiastic… a player’s player.” Matthew Rudd, a Hull City supporter and journalist, says he was a “popular player. Talkative, quick and hard as nails. Played in both City’s best and worst sides of the 1980s. … Partnered Peter Skipper through the best times until injury got him in 1984/5, and he went to Ferriby. By then he was playing at right back as Brian Horton preferred Skipper and Stan McEwan in defence. All three of the managers he played for seemed to rate him, especially Colin Appleton, who put him in the side at the start of 1982/3 after an opening day defeat and never looked back.”

Roberts’ career at Hull ended prematurely when he suffered from a serious injury to his pelvis. It looked as if his days in football were over and he was training as a driving instructor – while playing for non-league side Bridlington Town – when he was given the chance to rejoin Colin Appleton at Hull City as youth team coach. He was there from 1989 until 1993 when he teamed up with his old friend George Burley at Ayr United, later joining up with him again in what would prove to be a controversially short spell at Colchester United. Burley was doing well at Colchester when – after only 20 games – he was lured back to his old club, Ipswich. It was a move which resulted in acrimony, legal wranglings and the payment of compensation. Colchester’s chairman at the time, Peter Heard, said that he offered Roberts the chance of the manager’s job at Layer Road: “We asked Dale to stay on and take over but he was very gentlemanly about it and said no. He had great loyalty to George, who had brought him in and wanted to stay with him. … I felt he was very much the unsung person behind the amazing run.”

David Sheepshanks: “He was the perfect foil to George [Burley], someone who never sought the limelight but played an invaluable role…. He was the ultimate professional at whatever job he was given.”

It’s never going to be possible to know the extent of Dale Roberts’ contribution to the success that Town enjoyed in the Burley era or how much he was responsible for the promotion to the Premier League in 2000. He was certainly liked by players and coaching colleagues alike. Matt Holland described him as “a terrific guy…. I can’t speak highly enough of Dale,” and another first team player from that time told me: “I had a lot of contact with Dale, probably as much as any coach. He was the main organiser for training, travel, etc. They [DR & GB] worked very closely together, they were very good friends and complemented each other.They obviously knew each other from their playing days, as in most manager-coach relationships. I can’t ever remember them falling out. Dale was very loyal to George.I think it [DR's illness] had a big impact on George and players that had worked with Dale for a while.In my opinion a manager is only as good as his number two, right-hand man. A good coach won’t always agree with the manager, but he’ll always back him up and be very loyal. A coaching role can often be a link between the players and manager. Dale did this very well.”

The partnership between George Burley and Dale Roberts became part of Town legend in May 2000 when they were filmed celebrating on the touchline at Wembley stadium after Martijn Reuser scored for Town in the play-off final, taking us up to the Premier League. (You know the one: “Reuser – Premiership!“) Dale and George danced and hugged while the rest of us went bananas.

Despite being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Dale Roberts went on to take Town’s reserves to win the southern section of the Premier Reserve League Championship in 2001-2. It was a prestigious title to win. His captain, Justin Miller, then only 21, said: “Dale is the reason I made it. … Even when he was going through the toughest of times, he was there for us.”

Dale Roberts died on 5 February 2003, aged only 46. Sir Bobby Robson, who felt close to him as someone from his native north-east, said he was distraught. The funeral, at St. Augustine’s church on Felixstowe Road, Ipswich, was attended by many players, past and present, as well as youth team players dressed in their Town tracksuits. George Burley read the eulogy. There is no doubt that this was a deep personal loss for him. As well as losing someone with whom he’d worked closely for many years, he had lost one of his closest friends.

So back to George Eliot. At the end of Middlemarch, she wrote “the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts.” It is the quiet work of those who are not celebrated that in the end counts the most. Ipswich Town should always remember Dale Roberts.

 

 


A light that never goes out

29/04/2014

 

FA Youth Cup Final 2005

As issue 5 of Turnstile Blues is coming out very soon – and is on sale at Portman Road on Saturday, 3rd May 2014 – I’m posting some of my favourite pieces from the previous four issues in an effort to show you what we’re about. First, a particular favourite from our first issue, by Gavin Barber.

A few years ago, Heinz announced that they might have to stop making salad cream because everyone was buying mayonnaise instead. “Imagine that!” exclaimed a woman I worked with at the time, “no salad cream in the shops!”. “But hardly anyone’s buying it”, I replied, “do you actually buy it yourself?”. “Well, no”, she admitted, “but it’s nice to know it’s there”.

There was, of course, a subsequent mad rush on the purchase of salad cream and the product was saved. The whole thing was probably just a clever marketing ruse by Heinz, tapping into a basic truth: there are some things that comfort us simply by their continued existence in the background of our lives, whether it’s the presence of a condiment on the supermarket shelves, the smell of the coffee stall we pass on the way to work or the continued international career of Dennis Rommedahl. They don’t make much real difference to us, but we’d miss them if they weren’t there.

Does Ipswich Town fall into this category? I started thinking this when I was challenging myself to work out exactly why the bloody hell I had been so determined to pass the Portman Road habit on to my son. Was I handing down a precious gift, a timeless expression of parental love with value beyond measure? Or was it more like one of those irritating hereditary quirks such as premature baldness or eczema?

My Dad was a much better and more responsible parent than I am. He followed Ipswich himself and would respond cheerfully to all my questions about them, but never made any particular effort to foster my interest, perhaps sensibly deciding that if I wanted to open myself up to the same lifetime of frustration as he’d had, then it was my own lookout. Of course, it wasn’t long before I was pleading with him to take me along: the idea of actually going to Portman Road held the sort of allure for me that Disneyland had for other kids. Even then, I think Dad was a bit surprised, and not really convinced that I’d like it as much as I thought I would, but of course, when I eventually did make it through the turnstiles I was irretrievably hooked.

I wasn’t allowed to go every week but I’d mark on the fixture list the games that Dad had said I could go along to (this being the early 80s, these were mostly determined on the basis of having the lowest hooligan risk) and these, like Prufrock’s coffee spoons, would become the punctuation marks of my young life, each one as eagerly and as long anticipated as the last, regardless of how Town were playing at the time. Often we’d go with my extended family – my Grandpa, who always seemed to think it was cold and who judged each new signing according to whether or not they were as good as Tommy Parker (they never were), and my Uncle, who loved the Dutch players and whose own moustache I imagined to be his personal tribute to Frans Thijssen. I could disappear at this point into a quicksand of clichéd reverie, but I’m sure you get the picture: the boy in a man’s world; the always-lingering cigarette smoke; above all, the excitement of Christmas fixtures and the massed ranks of pocketed hands afterwards as the crowd shuffled, heads bowed against the biting winter wind, towards their trains and buses and cars and the New Year.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I’m faced with the chubby cheeks and enquiring mind of my own progeny. By now I am located far from Portman Road, living in Oxford. Do I take my Dad’s wise, calm, dignified approach, allowing my son to plough his own footballing furrow and hope it leads him to the same field? Of
course not. The poor child has ITFC-branded tat shoved in his face from day one. Babygros, teddies, woolly hats, the lot. His baby bouncer pointed towards the screen for televised Ipswich games, in the hope that some formative connection will be made. Ostentatious attempts at bonding, even while the child is still in nappies: “Daddy’s off to football now! At Ipswich! I expect you’ll be wanting to come with me soon? Won’t you? Won’t you? Won’t you?” It was the sort of evangelistic approach that the Jesuits might regard as being a bit extreme.

In any case, it worked: he did start wanting to come along and now, at the age of 8, he’s a season ticket holder with me in the West Stand. We make the long journey by train, we have fun on the way, meet up with friends for lunch, watch the game, and then relax again on the train home. By that stage, the effects of a long day’s travelling and socialising can be taking their toll, but he usually wakes me up when we get to Liverpool Street.

But – that question again – why? Why was I so determined to bring another sacrificial lamb to the altar of underachievement? Is Ipswich the background music to my life, a comfort blanket that I wanted my offspring to grasp so that he can carry it for me when I’m too old and bewildered to remember the full name of Eric
Lazenby-Gates? Is it something that provides reassurances just because it’s there? If so, all well and good, but couldn’t I have kept it to myself?

I think the answer is that it’s more. It’s about maintaining a family tradition, but not just for it’s own sake – it’s because there is something about Ipswich Town as a club, as an entity, that can – in amongst all the frustration – bring moments of great joy and community. One of the things that always impressed me as a child about matchdays was that, no matter how mundane the fixture, the game was always, unquestionably, the most exciting and important thing happening in Ipswich that day. And in that way it brought people together and was a force for good.

There are many other football clubs whose fans would say exactly the same, and they’d be right too. Change, like death, taxes and the UK’s annual poor showing at Eurovision, is inevitable. Over time, players, managers, kits and even the physical structure of the ground itself are altered until they’re almost unrecognisable from those you grew up with. But something remains at the heart of the club that transcends all this. It’s the fans, basically – the togetherness, the humour, even the traditional Portman Road moaning – that make our club a special one: and that’s why we want to hand it on to our kids. We’re not only giving them a gift, we’re preparing the way for them to take their own turns at its stewardship, just by being there.

I’m not at all sure that Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg [This was first published a couple of years ago. - Ed.] get this. Their approach seems distant, a sort of “you let us get on with running the football club and we’ll paint the turnstiles occasionally so that you know we haven’t forgotten about you”, missing the point that we – like our parents and grandparents before us, and hopefully our children after us – are the football club. Clegg and Evans are people who happen to have functional roles for the moment, but one day they’ll be gone and we, the fans, will still be here.

But I think I can still justify my zealous approach to my son’s upbringing. That stuff that made me want to share it with him in the first place – the spirit of community – is still there. These days it’s not just in the pre-match pubs and in the ground itself, but it’s on Twitter and the message boards too, and is all the more fun for that.

This isn’t, then, about tradition for its own sake. It’s not like the outraged howls of protest at proposed changes to the Radio 4 schedule, made by people who never listen to Radio 4. It’s not just sitting in your favourite seat on the bus to work. It’s worth preserving because Ipswich Town stands for something. It’s up to us to do that preservation and right now it feels like we’re doing it in spite of the owner and the Chief Exec, rather than with them.

My uncle remained a season ticket holder in the West Stand until he died last November. On the day after his funeral, Town threw away their game against Reading in spectacularly slack and incompetent style, turning a 2-1 injury-time lead into a 2-3 defeat. Leaving the ground, my mind still laden with the grief of the previous day’s events, I was furious, feeling an irrational but unavoidable sense of affront at what I’d just seen from Town, in addition to the obvious annoyance that we all shared. Muttering to myself in fury, I heard my son’s voice cutting
through the discontented hubbub. “Never mind, Dad”, he said. “It was good to see Josh Carson score for us, wasn’t it?”

Without meaning to, he’d pulled me round in an instant, from a rapidly darkening mental state to a realisation that actually, yes, if we can only see the world through a child’s eyes then there is always something to take comfort in, whether it’s seeing your favourite player scoring or simply that there’s another game next week. When it comes to ITFC I’ve got big concerns about the present, but I’m learning to put my faith in the future.


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.


Turnstile Blues 3: Children of the Revolution

12/09/2013

TB3A new issue of the Ipswich Town fanzine Turnstile Blues is coming out on Saturday, prior to the home match against Middlesbrough.

Subtitled “Children Of The Revolution”, the third issue of Turnstile Blues has as its theme the Ipswich Town Academy: past, present and future. The fanzine focuses on youth development; how this has changed at Ipswich over the years, how well the Academy system prepares young players for a life inside and outside of football, and what the future could hold in the light of the club’s intention to become a Category One Academy.

The centrepiece of the issue is a moving and at times startling interview with former Town player Adam Tanner. Tanner, who in 1995 scored Town’s first-ever winning goal at Anfield on only his third senior appearance, talks candidly about his life at Ipswich and how a career that promised so much was over at the age of just 27. He talks about the support he received from the club during troubled times in his personal life, and the experiences of playing under John Lyall and George Burley.

Elsewhere in the issue there is a look back on how Bobby Robson looked after young players during his time at Portman Road, and an analysis of what Category One status really means for the club in practical terms. There’s a report from a Town fan who visited West Africa and experienced the new generation of Academies in Senegal and Sierra Leon, and a review of last season for Town’s young sides.
 
Turnstile Blues is priced £1 and will be available from sellers around Portman Road from about 2.00 onwards. Copies will also be available in the Greyhound pub on Henley Road at lunchtime, where Turnstile Blues contributor Susan Gardiner will also be selling and signing copies of her new book, Ipswich Town: A History (Amberley Press, £16.99).

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

For more information contact Gavin Barber, 07720 543 929 or email gavin.barber@tiscali.co.uk. Gavin will be talking about the fanzine on BBC Radio Suffolk’s “Life’s A Pitch” programme on Saturday lunchtime. The show is on from 12.00 – 2.00.


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