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

Sir Alf Ramsey’s last resting place

02/07/2014

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Today I visited cremation plot OC 194 in the old Ipswich cemetery. This is where the ashes of Sir Alf Ramsey are buried. I had heard from someone that he had never seen any flowers there and so I decided to take him a few from my garden. Sadly, the white flowers have all gone over and so I had to take pink and blue blooms. As it’s the World Cup finals at the moment, I wanted to thank the man who built the England team that won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, the most successful national manager of all time, who was also the man who transformed my team, Ipswich Town, from a provincial club to a renowned side that won the English football league championship in 1961/2. In fact, when I eventually found his plot, there were some flowers there, but it was good to be able to leave something on behalf of Turnstile Blues. To find his last resting place to be as modest and humble as the man was in life was very moving. Thank you, Sir Alf Ramsey, 1920-1999.

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Watching football is not a crime

27/06/2014

39_fans1992Police searching fans outside PR in 1992. Photograph by David Jameson.

By Susan Gardiner, who would like to make it clear that she hasn’t asked the rest of the Turnstile Blues group what they think.

I’ve had two experiences of serious violence which involved football supporters. Neither was anything to do with Ipswich Town and both were a very long time ago, in the bad old days when football supporters were given a certain notoriety by the actions of a minority who were up for a fight. One was when I was a very small child and my mother and I were trapped in an underpass near Molineux with Wolves fans coming one way and Stoke City supporters coming straight towards them from the other direction. I was terrified and had to press myself against the rather insalubrious subway walls as they met and started to punch the living daylights out of one another, oblivious to my existence.The second time was as a teenager in North London, waiting for a bus at Finsbury Park, a bus that was unfortunately full of Spurs fans who, spotting some Arsenal supporters, smashed every single window in the double-decker, indiscriminately showering us all with broken glass. That was pretty scary too.

I wasn’t at the infamous Millwall game, or at Elland Road when Leeds fans behaved disgracefully and attacked Town fans. My only experience of trouble in Ipswich was when there was a fight in Princes Street after we thrashed an already-promoted Portsmouth. When I reached the station, I had the privilege of having 2p coins thrown at me by Pompey fans who were presumably trying to make some kind of point about us having been in administration. Oh the irony.

I write these things to demonstrate that I’m not completely without direct experience of violence, nor unconcerned by it. I have also, unfortunately, seen violence in other contexts: a fully-fledged riot in the academic library that I worked in (it’s a long story) and I was present when an 19-year-old student (a rugby fan, as it happens) was stabbed to death at a disco. As far as I know, the authorities have never imposed draconian measures on indie discos.

This may seem like a slightly OTT response to the announcement that the police – yet again – want to move our Derby game against Norwich City from Saturday, 23 August to the following day. I’m not going to be very badly inconvenienced by this personally. I live close to Ipswich and even though I’ll have to catch a rail replacement bus service into town, and not be able to have a civilized lunch at a civilized hour with my friends, my day won’t be entirely ruined. However, the alteration is going to make it difficult for people who have to travel some distance.

The justification for making the change and for the early start of 12 noon is to avoid any potential trouble between opposing groups of supporters. Having travelled to very nearly every home match at PR for thirteen years on the Norwich-Ipswich train, I can’t say I’ve ever experienced any trouble – or even much hostility. There’s been a bit of muttering, occasionally the word “scum” has been uttered (on both sides), but nobody died.

Let’s look at some facts: the most recent Home Office figures – full details can be found here – for banning orders, by club, show that in 2012/3 Norwich supporters received 10 as compared to Arsenal (59), Chelsea (110) and Cardiff City (121). In the Championship, only 6 of our fans received banning orders. Only three clubs had fewer: Reading (5), Watford (4) and Yeovil (1). Similarly, arrest figures (for 2012/3) show Norwich among the best behaved, with only 12 arrests and Town were Champions – well, I’m taking it as a win! Only four Town fans were arrested in that season (all at away matches), well below Blackpool’s 11. Of the four, only one was for “violent disorder,” another for “public disorder” and the other two were for “alcohol offences.”

I’m really proud of these statistics, and yet, instead of being rewarded for having such top fans, it seems that the local police, with the agreement of ITFC, are going to continue to regard us all as potential criminals. There is no reason, in my view, that this game cannot be held at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon with normal levels of policing.

It’s not just having the game moved. When I used to come down from Norwich, we were often corralled, along with Norwich fans, and led down to Portman Road by the police. I ended up taking the earliest possible train to try to avoid this. I’ve never been able to understand why, having never been as much as cautioned by the police in my life, I should be treated as a criminal, merely for wanting to watch my team.

The arguments about an earlier kick off time being a way of reducing alcohol consumption don’t stack up either. The last time I travelled to a match on the train from Lowestoft, yellow and blue shirts all together in the same carriage, several supporters were drinking from concealed litre bottles of vodka. It was a train that reached Ipswich at about 10.30am.

Restrictions on alcohol consumption only appear to apply to football supporters. If you’ve been to a Test match, you’ll be aware that many spectators do not confine themselves to consuming fizzy lemonade. I once saw someone being carried IN to Trent Bridge at 11 o’clock in the morning (there’d been rain). My experience of obnoxious behaviour by cricket fans has been far worse but I’ve never come across any organized policing strategy at a cricket match.

There were a total of 34 arrests during Royal Ascot this year, according to one report, although the BBC reported 29, as an improvement on the previous year when there were 50. Once again, I don’t imagine that Her Majesty and her chums will be subjected to any restrictions on how they can travel to and from the race course.

So why are football supporters treated differently from those attending other events? It’s an authoritarian society that treats innocent people as if they need to be controlled. Perhaps the police lack the staff levels or ITFC don’t want to pay for the policing (they didn’t last time we played Cardiff City, with their highest number of banning orders, which doesn’t strike me as very logical, to be honest), but it’s still not a justification for assuming the worst about what are, on the whole, a very well-behaved and good-natured group of people. I’m all for the police dealing with people who have committed an offence or have form – but this is not yet the society depicted in the film Minority Report where people are arrested and punished for “PreCrime.”

A final concern. There is a possibility that the police might one day impose what is known as a “Bubble” on travelling supporters. This means that fans are only allowed to travel to an away game on designated transport, normally club coaches, from specified pick up points and bussed straight to the ground. This happened a couple of years ago to that notorious firm Hull City AFC, when they played Huddersfield Town. It’s yet to happen to Chelsea fans, I believe. An attempt to impose one when Sunderland played Newcastle last year failed when both clubs refused to back the idea.

It’s clear that many Town fans don’t feel that this is such an important issue. It’s just moving a game to the next day, after all. Except that I don’t believe it is. It’s an authoritarian approach to managing largely law-abiding crowds. It’s ill thought out and quite frankly, lazy. Lazy in its assumptions about football supporters, lazy in its approach to dealing with football supporters and not tackling the problem of genuine offenders, lazy in the lack of consultation of supporters.

Watching football is not a crime.

n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf
n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf
n designated transport, usually club coaches, from specific pick up points. – See more at: http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-and-players-unite-against-bubble-match#sthash.b8FhOETP.dpuf


Masculine Pursuits in Ipswich: Our Victorian Correspondent Writes

01/06/2014

Mr. Peregrine Cuttlefish at homeHere at Turnstile Blues we like to think that we present a different perspective on ITFC from that which you’ll find in the mainstream media. To keep up this tradition, we asked Mr. Peregrine Cuttlefish, society columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times from 1871 – 1903, to review this year’s Player Of The Year dinner and awards evening.

“It was a most welcome surprise to be invited to review the 2013-14 Ipswich Town Player Of The Year Awards evening via the medium of time travel. I had feared that my elaborate evening-wear and celebrated fulsome beard – quite the talk of the dinner-dance scene in late 19th century Woodbridge – might rather mark me out as a man out of place and time, but I was relieved to discover that a goodly proportion of the assembled gentlemen and players were also sporting fine sets of whiskers!

“The event was hosted by Mr Milton Simons, a jovial sort of a cove with a charmingly estuarine dialect. I am given to understand that Mr Simons had previously been an Ipswich Town player of some note himself, and much merriment was made of his shiny bald head. Mr Simons appeared to be suggesting that the primary culprit in this regard was some fellow called Banter, but I could see no record of such person amongst the list of guests.

“As the evening progressed, it was clear to note that many of the assembled company had attained a state of light-heartened relaxation. Several of the menfolk discarded their neckties and some even stepped out of their frock-coats. I was intrigued to observe the elaborate markings on the forearms of several of the Ipswich Town players. One can only assume it is a requirement of the modern factory that workers are required to ink themselves in company insignia, and can only be hoped that this does not interfere with the athletic regime of the amateur sportsman.

“It was a matter of some curiosity for the pan-temporal visitor to observe some of the customs of this strange modern era. There appeared to be a great deal of excitement around something called a ‘Chambers Fist-Pump’. Alas, your correspondent was unable to discern the precisions of this ritual, but we can perhaps safely assume that a gentleman’s chambers are no longer the stronghold of privacy that they once were. Such ‘Fist-Pumping’ may have become a necessity in this regard.

“One further noted the presence of a rangy young man by the name of Myrone Tings. Mr Tings was acting quite the philanthropist – tossing morsels of food from the windows to feed hungry-looking badgers, and organising a collection in aid of the local sailors’ refuge. It was a matter of some relief to this observer that Mr Tings was not a recipient of any award on the night. Whilst he may be a young man of most worthy character, such individuals are naturally prone to the giving of painfully long acceptance speeches.

“During the awarding of the prizes, there appeared to be quite the commotion around the antics of a well-fed looking fellow, who I was given to understand was a Club official of some sort. Said official had taken it upon himself to enliven the prize-givings with a colourful commentary of his own! Some lively chit-chat was observed as the gentleman loudly annotated the awards with what appeared, to this observer at least, to be some rather fruity observations about the recipients – including some noticeably odd comments about quantities of money allegedly being earned by each, which quite shocked the ears at such a gathering. A rather gruff-sounding Yorkshireman appeared to take a particularly dim view of the gentleman’s frivolity.

“I should say that it was most enlightening to spend some time in 2014 and to note the peculiarities of folk some decades distant from my own era. I will admit to my readers that by comparison to the assembled company, I did feel rather ‘senior’! But then I saw John Wark”.


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.

 

 


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