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.


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.


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.


Turnstile Blues 3 is coming out on Saturday

09/09/2013

TB3We are pleased and excited to announce that the third issue of Turnstile Blues, the ITFC fanzine, will be published on Saturday, 14th September 2013. Subtitled Children of the Revolution, it has as its theme the Academy: past, present and future.

This issue has been edited by Gavin Barber so you can expect it to be of high quality and of course it will be funny as well. There are articles on the Elite Player Performance Plan by Rob Freeman, Alasdair Ross remembers the youth system of his own youth, Susan Gardiner looks at the way that Bobby Robson cared for his young players,  Joe Fairs observes the Academy over the 2012-13 season and we are privileged to have a piece about youth teams in West Africa by writer, Nick Ames. Gavin has gone even further and contacted someone from beyond the grave to gain an insight into the foundations of the Football League.

The centre piece of this issue is, undoubtedly, Emma Corlett’s exclusive interview with a very popular former Town player. He talks openly and honestly about his time at the club and it is a “must read” for every ITFC supporter. Don’t miss out – buy Turnstile Blues from one of our sellers outside Portman Road on Saturday.

Sellers will be around the ground, including by the Sir Bobby and Sir Alf statues, from 2pm before the match. The fanzine costs only £1.

Turnstile Blues 3 will be available online. This time we will be charging £1 for a download and £2.50 for a mail order copy of the printed fanzine.

In addition, copies will also be available before the Boro match from the Greyhound pub on Henley Road where one of our group, Susan, will be selling (and signing, if asked!) copies of her new book, Ipswich Town: A History (Amberley, 2013. Price: £16.99).


PORTMAN ROAD RECOGNISED AS AN ASSET OF COMMUNITY VALUE

02/09/2013

PHOTO FROM DAVE KINDRED ARCHIVE.

Photograph © David Kindred www.kindred-spirit.co.uk . All rights reserved

 

Portman Road has joined Old Trafford and Anfield in being officially recognised as an asset to its local community.

ITFC 1st, the independent Ipswich Town Supporters’ Trust, has announced that – following representations it has made to Ipswich Borough Council (IBC)  – Portman Road has become an Asset of Community Value (ACV), recognising its importance to the town and its people. The ground is owned by Ipswich Borough Council and leased to the football club.

Colin Kreidewolf, the Secretary of Ipswich Town 1st, said “Supporters’ Trusts at Liverpool, Manchester United and Oxford United have recently been successful in having their club’s stadia recognised as ACVs, reflecting the value of those grounds to their respective local communities. Our view is that Portman Road is just as important to the people of Ipswich, and to Ipswich Town supporters generally, as Anfield is to the people of Liverpool. We’re delighted that the Borough Council agree – this is a fitting way to mark the 125th anniversary of Ipswich Town’s move to Portman Road on 1st October 1888”.

What does becoming an ACV  mean for Ipswich Town?

ACV status means that the ground cannot be sold without the local community being told about it, and that they will be given the opportunity to bid for it themselves. Today’s announcement means that any future IBC administration would be required to consult the local community before selling Portman Road, and allow six months for the community to raise the money to buy it themselves.

Mr Kreidewolf added: “We appreciate that the current IBC administration have no desire to sell Portman Road, and are pleased to see it remaining in public ownership. Having ACV status means that any future administration at the council wouldn’t be able to change that situation without involving supporters and local people. It helps to safeguard the future of Portman Road as a part of the Ipswich community. We hope that the current owner of Ipswich Town will also recognise this as a positive move for the football club”.

Councillor David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “The current council administration has no intention of selling Portman Road. We are very happy to support listing Portman Road as an Asset of Community Value to give supporters the reassurance they need that ITFC will remain in the heart of Ipswich.”

Tom Hall, Head of England & Wales at Supporters Direct, the governing body for supporters’ trusts, said: “Ipswich Town First should be congratulated in their work to make sure that Portman Road takes its place alongside Old Trafford and Anfield, and the first two, Oxford United and Nuneaton Town, in having stadia successfully listed.

“We are seeing this trend escalate, and many more applications are being lodged from across the pyramid. This and all other successful listings are demonstrating that our view that clubs and their stadiums should be seen as community assets and not simply as part of an investment portfolio is being widely accepted.”

Turnstile Blues welcome this development and congratulate Ipswich Town 1st and Ipswich Borough Council in recognising the importance of Ipswich Town’s historic home to the football club’s supporters and the people of Ipswich.


Pride and Prejudice: How Ipswich fans fought fascism, and how new prejudices arise

27/08/2013

A third article in the run up to the third issue of Turnstile Blues. This one was published in Issue 2: By Mutual Consent and was written by Stuart Hellingsworth. Perhaps out of all the articles we have printed in this fanzines, this one deserves a wider audience, including people who aren’t supporters of ITFC.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 18.29.28

In the 1970s and 1980s, racism in football was rife with players regularly receiving abuse. Ipswich Town fans were amongst the better. Standing up against this gained us plaudits. Other clubs stood alongside us.

Alasdair Ross stood on the North Stand in the mid 1970′s, when the lead singer was Goose Gladstone, a West Indian who later ran a chicken jerky van in the Old Cattle Market. Opposing fans used to send loads of abuse towards him with the main comment being ‘monkey’. He answered by singing the peanuts advert ‘Peanuts- Golden Wonder, stay jungle fresh’ which the North Stand would then join in with – turning the joke on the opponents.

One Town fan was amongst the travelling blue army when an infamous fascist organisation tried to portray themselves as Ipswich fans at Highbury in the 80s. The police decided to deal with all of the Ipswich fans. Fortunately, a number of Arsenal fans stood up and informed the police that they weren’t Ipswich fans but National Front. The Arsenal and ITFC fans then stood together as one against the right wing group on the terraces at Highbury. Another occasion where the National Front infiltrated the opposition fans saw their chants of “There ain’t no black in the Union Jack”, met with “Ipswich Town lives in racial harmony”.

Gavin Barber recalls reading in TWTD, an away fan’s experience at Portman Road via another club’s fanzine. It described how their fans visited Portman Road in that era. Upon noticing the multi-racial make-up of the home section, they began a chant at the Ipswich home fans with racist abuse of the “you’re just a town full of n****rs” variety. To the away fans’ surprise, the home fans responded with a defiant chorus of “Ipswich fans are black and white”, and loud condemnation of the racism. The author concluded that his team’s fans had been “taught a lesson” about what was and wasn’t acceptable in a football ground.

So not just did town lead with their on-field recruitment of foreign players, but off the pitch, our fans stood up against fascism. The message was clear, racism was not welcome.

Fast forward to 2012.

On a replacement bus service on the way back from London to Norwich, some town fans join the bus that is taking some of us between rail stations in Essex. Many of the people on the bus have enjoyed a day out shopping or caught a show. There are no colours or obvious signs of football fans aside from the several young town fans who board the bus.

As I wonder whether or not to fight the sleep that is engulfing me, I become more aware of the town fans at the back of the bus. The driver announces that this is the bus replacement for part of the London Liverpool Street to Norwich journey. The name of the City, Norwich, has excited the Town fans. Boos greet this announcement. At first, I consider this panto stuff and smile without acknowledging them. However, a few minutes later these so called town fans sing one of the sickest “football” chants; the one about Justin Fashanu.

The rest of the bus goes quiet. The group of middle aged women who were talking about the show that they’ve been to, look at each other in shock. The families look concerned. The idiots wearing the Ipswich shirts (let’s no longer call them fans) are proud. I am ashamed.

As I wonder whether or not to fight the sleep that is engulfing me, I become more aware of the town fans at the back of the bus. The driver announces that this is the bus replacement for part of the London Liverpool Street to Norwich journey. The name of the City, Norwich, has excited the town fans. Boos greet this announcement. At first, I consider this panto stuff and smile without acknowledging them. However, a few minutes later these so called town fans sing one of the sickest “football” chants; the one about Justin Fashanu.

The rest of the bus goes quiet. The group of middle aged women who were talking about the show that they’ve been to, look at each other in shock. The families look concerned. The idiots wearing the Ipswich shirts (let’s no longer call them fans) are proud. I am ashamed.

Regardless of the fact that this was cowardly, given who else was on the bus, this is a shameful vile ‘song’. Full of prejudice, celebrating the suicide of a poor man who was suffering due to persecution, the chant is despised by 99.9% of Ipswich Town fans. I can remember at a derby match against Norwich a few years ago, a small handful of fans tried to start that chant. Most of us in the North Stand turned on them immediately. The message was clear; rivalry is one thing, but that is too far, way too far.

Justin Fashanu was the first footballer to be openly gay and the first black footballer to move for £1million when Norwich City sold him to Nottingham Forest in 1981. Prejudice followed him throughout and depression followed. This lead to his suicide in 1998.
The Fashanu chant shows the ignorance of those that sing it. It shows a complete lack of understanding of prejudices. That is quite sad considering at least one of the group was of an ethnic minority and so it is not unlikely to expect that their family will have been the victim of racism.

And yet these people decide to mock a man who committed suicide.

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 18.34.11Whilst racism was a problem for Justin, homophobia was bigger. I cannot justify the actions of those in the 1970s and 1980s when attitudes were different. In this day and age though, it is worse that it still happens. Have we not learnt? The website, Unite Against Fascism http://uaf.org.uk/2012/11/unite-against-homophobia-and-fascism/ puts it so much better than I could:

“BNP leader Nick Griffin faced widespread condemnation for his recent homophobic comments about the gay couple who won their discrimination case after being refused a room in a Bed & Breakfast. His encouragement to a ‘British Justice Team’ to ‘give them a bit of drama’ was not only contemptible. Griffin’s comments also highlight an intrinsic feature of fascist ideology. It divides humanity into those that are classified as ‘normal’ and others who are ‘abnormal’: those who have full citizenship and those, who when fascists do gain power, have increasingly less, to the point where they are denied the right to even exist. In short, fascism leads to the annihilation of whole groups of people. Amongst its millions of victims it is estimated that the Nazis also killed up to 15000 gay men. All LGBT people in Nazi Germany faced persecution Holocaust Memorial Day Trust “Victims of Nazi Persecution (Gay and Lesbian).”

So to those who sang that awful chant, please realise that by laughing at the sad suicide of someone facing prejudice, you are undoing the proud work of Town fans in the 1970s and 1980s. Ipswich Town fans remain amongst the best in the world and those who sing the Fashanu chant cannot call themselves football fans or Town fans. By singing it, you too are being prejudiced. Please don’t let yourself be aligned with Nick Griffin and think twice before singing it. Lets never hear that chant song again. Your prejudice is not welcome at Portman Road. Ipswich Town supporters are multi-cultural, straight, gay and some like Fashanu, come with mental health conditions. We should all proud to be blue.


The Clegg Letters

23/08/2013

In the second of our series of articles from our first two issues – heralding the arrival of Issue 3 very soon – Turnstile Blues presents one of our most popular pieces by Gavin Barber. Our former CEO may have gone, but he hasn’t been forgotten.

                              In the name of investigative research, Turnstile Blues make it our business tblue painto scour local bars, restaurants and public transport for any carelessly discarded USB memory sticks. We found one on a train recently which appears to contain a series of draft emails from the Chief Executive of ITFC. In the interests of transparency, we felt it our duty to share them with you.

To: ITFC Public Relations Manager
From: Simon Clegg
Date: 12 July 2012, 15:38

Good afternoon,

Further to our recent discussions about engagement with the supporter base. I fully appreciate the business need to target the Ipswich Town supporter demographic in a public-facing context, as part of a strategic drive towards building business confidence in the brand.

I have consulted with the Owner of the football club, Marcus Evans. (When I talk to the owner I address him simply as “Marcus”: during the course of our time working together we have developed a business interface which supports first-name formatting during informal conversations). Marcus is fully on board with the plan and, indeed wishes to address the proletariat from his hollowed-out volcano issue a bright, encouraging statement to supporters, reminding them that he has put money into the club and wants to see the football team doing well, as a return on investment for the money that he has put into the club. Marcus has enjoyed putting money into the club and looks forward to the day when the money that he has put into the club works to the delight of all fans by getting the team promoted into the Premier League, a move which would generate a lot of money for the club.

(If you want to work this into a press release, please make sure you mention that Marcus has put a lot of money into the club).

With regard to other points raised when we spoke earlier: I must confess to being baffled by your suggestion that I should, and I quote, “never actually attempt to speak to the press or the fans out loud”. I believe you also referred to my communication style as an “omnishambles”, a word which I have instructed my PA to ascertain the meaning of, using any of the various lexicographic resources available online. On the contrary, my public relations skills were recently described as “extraordinary” by Suffolk Business Lunches magazine. I intend to continue acting as a communications interface between the brand and the customer base, combining as I do a robust business sensibility with an instinctive understanding of the Foot Ball supporting demographic.

Yours,
Simon

PS in your previous email you addressed me as “Smithers”. I am sure this was just a typographical error but please do not let it happen again.

To: Ricardo Blas, President, Guam National Olympic Committee
From: Simon Clegg
Date: 13 August 2012, 09:37

Ricardo,

What a Games for Guam! Perhaps next time they will be renamed the Olympic Guams! (I have constructed a “joke” or wordplay here, to indicate an appropriately light-hearted beginning to what remains a business email).

May I say that I was particularly impressed with the performance of your son Ricardo Blas Jr. in the Judo tournament. It was encouraging to see him refute any suggestions that favouritism had played a role in his selection. He was, I felt, unlucky to experience disqualification at such an early stage due to a technical infringement (who knew that steel-toecapped boots were prohibited?) but has, at least, the honour of remaining undefeated by any opponent.

The main purpose of this email is to debrief on our administrative arrangements. At an early stage of proceedings it became clear to me that a number of members of the squad were interested in pursuing agendas relating to “fun” in between their elite competitive sporting performances in the elite competitive Olympic sports of the Olympic London 2012 Olympic games. Whilst I appreciate that a certain amount of leisure time-zoning can be a component part of any elite competitor’s business schedule, I should advise you that the sight of a women’s freestyle wrestler wandering through the Athlete’s Village at 2am, singing “Delilah” with a traffic cone on her head, creates a poor impression of the Guam Olympic brand. Similarly, the swimming team’s late-night attempts to scale the Orbit tower using grappling hooks that they had liberated from an unlocked G4S van, are unlikely to impress the IOC.

All of that aside, I consider the Guam Olympic project to have been a well-executed exercise in partnering small Pacific islands with elite performance sport.

I remain your faithful attaché, and would be happy to talk to you about any luxury holiday opportunities which may become available.

Yours
Simon

To: Mrs Clegg
From: Simon Clegg
Date: 20 August 2012, 11:56

Wife,

Thank you for the Anniversary Card which you sent last week. I write in response to your enquiry, made earlier today at our regular catch-up session in the Breakfast Zone, as to whether I would be reciprocating in any way.

I am aware that Anniversaries are, to many, a vital component of the marriage chronology project and I am sensitive to that need. That said, it is my job as the partner with current business responsibility for the Husband workstream, to ensure that I am taking every opportunity to optimize the business model and reduce revenue costs. To that end I must inform you that, following careful consideration of the cost-benefit analysis, I will not be pursuing anniversary-related procurement on this occasion.

I realise this will come as a disappointment to you but I must bear in mind the wider business needs of the partnership, moving forward.

Thank you for your ongoing support of the Clegg family brand.

Regards
Simon

To: Milkman
From: Simon Clegg
Date: 29 August 2012, 20:04

Milkman,

You will be aware I am sure that we face a time of unprecedented financial challenge. Resource optimisation models are being reviewed at all levels domestically, in order to ensure that our current grocery position matches the needs of the business.

From a milk point of view, the key supply-demand relationship is played out during breakfast. Milk supplies must be optimised to balance a never-predictable arena of choice. Recent weeks have seen a move towards toast-based solutions for some key members of the team.

Whilst I personally remain committed to a corn flakes-based breakfast format, we must move with the times and recognise new opportunities as they emerge. I am therefore requesting that you supply just 2 pints of semi-skimmed at the time of your next business interface with my front doorstep.

Yours
Simon Clegg

To: ITFC Programme Editor
From: Simon Clegg
Date: 15 August 2012, 08:36

(I haven’t had chance to finalise my column for the programme this week. The basic structure is below. Can you please carry out some editorialisation processes in order to optimise the syntactical paradigm? Thanks)

Programme notes, 18th August 2012

Brand brand brand brand, business, business, owner Marcus Evans owner Marcus Evans owner Marcus Evans lots of money, his own money, all hail him. Optimise, strategise, consider new opportunities, brand, grow the brand, cost reduction, customer base.

Going forward, brand growth, risk avoidance, business strategy, sporting strategy, elite competitive Olympic performance interface, strategy going forward. Going forward, [token bit in here about football – just put the usual stuff about having absolute faith in the manager], strategise, brand growth, maximise, optimise, business growth, going forward.

Customer base, loyalty, loyal customer base [a few platitudes in here about being grateful for whatever it is I'm supposed to be grateful to the customer base for], going forward, new season, elite performance, elite brand, elite brand growth.

Yours,
Simon

 clegg word cloud


This club is different because it’s ours

21/08/2013

There’s going to be a third issue of our fanzine soon – coming out in mid-September – so to celebrate, we’re posting a few selected items from the previous two issues. Events have taken over some of the things we wrote about a year ago. Our discussion of the club’s decision not to try for Category 1 status for the Academy under EPPP and frustrations with ITFC’s communications seems to have been addressed and Simon Clegg has departed (although he may make a brief comeback via this site). This article by Mullet, who isn’t a member of our collective but kindly wrote for issue 1 of Turnstile Blues, is still a good read though.

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 19.51.40

If you’re reading this you probably have one distinctive thing in common with me and everyone else involved in this publication, as fans of Ipswich Town F.C. we all know the belle époque expected under the charge of Marcus Evans hasn’t quite materialised. What has happened since our salvation from CVAs and asset strippers is a sea change in the game with massive trickledown effects for everyone including you, me and the various supporters’ groups affiliated and unaffiliated to ITFC.

If we look at the top of the English game there are many common themes – exponential increases in ‘wealth’, massive expansion in the media and a sense that ‘real fans’ are rarer than hens’ teeth the higher up the pyramid you go. The relationship between football success and authenticity amongst the fan base are two strong, yet fluid perceptions which dominate and colour many discussions about supporting our club. Oddly there seems to be a direct contradiction between the desires for footballing success whilst shunning the ‘modern’ aspects of being a big club.

The influx of Sky money; American models of fandom, the all-seater stadiums, decline of the working man in favour of more family based ‘fun’ at games are all common bugbears and phenomena I’ve seen and heard, as reasons for fans falling out of love with the game, throughout my years as a Town fan. They are also things which have crept in. The game didn’t change overnight and as fans we’ve seen some changes happen quicker than others. Moreover, ultimately both the club and the fans have had to evolve and endure.

Just as when the offside law changes clubs must adapt and grow that little bit stronger, they must also do this when the implicit ‘rules’ which govern attendances and cash flow change too. With fresh investment in this season’s rivals, Town have announced lucrative sponsorship from one of the few admirable sources possible in the Co-operative. It might be time we not only take their cash but some of their better ideas of business too.

This summer has seen both Manchester United and Barcelona launch vast multimedia assaults to recruit and retain fans. Both are clubs that count fans in their millions. Way beyond the capacity of their huge arenas whilst cornering the wealth and numbers across global markets is possibly way beyond the realms of Town now or for the foreseeable. However I think lessons can be learned and applied to us at Ipswich without introducing an ITTV channel, especially as the concept is over a decade old.

The club has a strong and very dedicated fan base which has been shown in these leaner, recession hit years to be as resilient as any. For a town as small and geographically isolated as Ipswich is, to have competition from half a dozen or so clubs and still maintain reasonable levels of support is admirable. But there are fans out there like me, who have migrated across the country, there is a staunch generation across Scandinavia, Northern Europe and the Netherlands who still count amongst the faithful and have had sons and daughters to pass the mantle on and these fans should be integrated as fully as possible.

In this digital age the rise of social media in the short timeframe since MEG took over at Portman road is a trick I feel the club really misses all too often. As a community we have so much to be proud of. Our charitable trust, the junior blues, our players who appear so often at community events all contribute to a sense of pride and belonging which as separate threads could be drawn together into stronger ties for all fans.

There has been in the past season heavy, and justified criticism of the official supporters’ club. This conflict became a starting point for many of my own pieces on the matter of supporters’ groups at ITFC.  Their ill-judged address to fans soured the views of many who felt ‘attacked’ and this spilled over in turn to much unjustified criticism. However, it highlighted clearly how the effort and hard work of a few can be seen, scrutinised and discarded by the many all too often.

There are still a handful of supporters’ clubs both sanctioned and non-affiliated to the club. As someone who grew up with the Halesworth branch now chaired by my Dad; and run by a small band of people I’ve known all my life, it is a vehicle of support I hold dearly but fear for. Where other branches have come and gone, the Halesworth lot are steadfast but steadily declining. The halcyon days of two coaches to every home game during the Premiership and previous nearly-Premiership seasons are long gone. The fans that had once filled those seats are too, on the buses and at Portman Road.

Like Town’s support as a whole, the Branch’s numbers are made up of the older Town fans that still turn out day in day out as it were to follow the club. While they are not likely to be interested in a Facebook group or in need of cut price tickets due to existing discounts, there is a whole range of fans being glossed over or forgotten about in my opinion. Games where numbers are down such as night games could be the perfect opportunity to welcome local amateur sides who sacrifice watching Town at the expense of keeping up the game they love could be invited in with group discounts. Likewise so could other community groups with an interest enjoy a night out under the floodlights and enjoy the hospitality of the club.

As with the foreign fans mentioned earlier there are fans with different levels of involvement, interest and ultimately cash which can be channelled towards the club – the use of supporters groups to provide an intermediate between the club and these people is something I truly believe in. This process can only be started through as many points of exposure as possible.

These days the role and remit of fans over consumers, is getting harder to separate. Semantics can be thrown around all you like, but at the end of the day we all pay lots of money for 90 mins of football per week, per month, per year. That comes in addition to paying for everything from polyester shirts to insulate the beer guts of some of us, right through to maintaining them with our award winning pies (despite a lack of celebrity chef types at the club).

How can we incentivise those too young, too old, and too immobile to join in if they can’t get to games in the first place? How do we sucker them with their generational equivalent of worshipping a Chris Kiwomya, John Wark, Treacle or Guus Uhlenbeek as ITFC did to me all those years ago if they can’t get to games? The club does a sterling job of laying on Galloways coaches to away games but they leave to and from Portman Road in the bottom corner of a vast and rural part of the country. What if these coaches ran through and picked up fans in the larger towns of the region en route? I’ve driven down from Halesworth to Ipswich and back either side of an away day and adding two hours to the day and not being able to indulge in a drink does take the edge off it for me. I doubt I’m the only one.

If the emerging generation fans now are savvy on the internet, why not signpost more fan stuff there? I used to love events where we played footy, pool, darts, cricket etc against other branches for fun and had a few beers to fill the void between seasons. Why not organise events between fans that are more likely to check their Facebook feed, retweet it and then plan tactics via BBM rather than wait for someone else to arrange it all and give them a lift on the day?

Membership to the official supporters’ club is automatic when you buy a season ticket. This is both wrong and counterproductive. Until the infamous half time address most people didn’t really know they were a member. It excludes those who live away and by excluding them presents a barrier between them and the club. These little sticking points can soon become the pebble which starts an avalanche of reasons to walk away from Town for good. Driving through Halesworth this weekend on a visit back home I spotted a kid crossing in front of me wearing a Chelsea shirt. In all honesty I was tempted to flick on my wipers and ignore the red light.

I implore the club to rethink how it engages with fans. How it can take what it does and turn it from excellent to the model which all other clubs follow. Innovative practice doesn’t have to be expensive it just has to satisfy fans’ desire to be heard and valued. If the Official Supporters club went out and met with fans, invited them and shared ideas it could be the sounding board, the liaison and the voice for so much and so many more, with a sense of justified authority and influence through real representation.

By supporting those already out there working hard just so they and others can enjoy ITFC the club could do and be so much more. With small, but smart investments in the right areas, by raising awareness and cultivating links the club has the tools to produce some amazing results through their fans. We all know the lottery of looking for success on the field in football. We shouldn’t resign ourselves to the same mindset when it comes to coming together.


Disappointed (once more)…

15/08/2013

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a famous bit in Dickens’ Little Dorrit when the novel’s hero, Arthur Clennam, receives a letter from Flora Finching, the girl he was engaged to twenty years earlier, when she was seventeen and he was not much older. Despite the passage of time, he can’t help imagining her to be exactly the same as she was then and Dickens has a lot of fun describing his disappointment that she has turned into a much larger, more garrulous, silly, sentimental woman. But, being Dickens, the reader is left feeling a great deal of sympathy for both characters: Arthur, for his foolishness at expecting his love not to have changed at all in twenty years and Flora, because the changes in her have so obviously been caused, not merely by the passing of time, but by the disappointment of lost love.

I’m beginning to feel a little bit like that about Town. The new season has started me thinking about past glories, the fixture list is like a letter inviting me back to those good times, to forget the awfulness of recent years under Keane and Jewell. I know rationally that Matt Holland is no longer our captain but there’s a little bit of me that thinks he might run around the pitch applauding the fans. One more time.

It took Mick McCarthy about ten minutes – and this video – to remove any misgivings that I might have had when he was appointed. MM, our seventh manager since we were last relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2001/2 season, appears to have done an excellent job of assembling a competitive squad, spending very little money in the process. We may have lost at Reading but we weren’t outplayed in what must be one of our most testing fixtures this season and, although I’d have loved a run in the Carling Cup, the defeat by Stevenage has been easily forgotten after last Saturday when I enjoyed a match more than I’ve done for…. oh, ages.

But as it was for Dickens’ characters, my long-standing passion is beginning to be strained, the object of my affections has changed, is a bit blowsy, overblown, and full of contradictions. Expensive but also a little cheap. Nice but occasionally a bit nasty. I can still see the thing I adored but there are too many irritants. I may have to make my excuses and…. [ditches strained analogy].

We have written about aspects of ITFC that are a little disappointing here for example – and the independent supporters’ trust, Ipswich Town 1st, has issued a statement about the new ticketing policy here, so I won’t go over old ground. There are many views on the new ITFC and it’s hard to form a definite opinion when you’re not sure of the motives behind the decisions. The new Managing Directors, Symonds and Milne, along with Simon Milton, seem to have improved public relations exponentially. But still, there are things that annoy, nagging doubts… redundancies, bad experiences of customer service, rip-off prices, the tension between a football club as a business and as a club, with supporters who are part of the “family” or “community” according to the PR, but are also there to be exploited by the business, a multi-millionaire owner who is asking hard-pressed working people to stump up for the Academy and the fans, bless ‘em, don’t let him down.

Recently, the club has advertised for three part-time, unpaid “interns.” I’m disappointed once more (and possibly also, disillusioned encore) because I expect more from the club of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson. Yes, I know other clubs – bigger clubs, more successful clubs, richer clubs – do it too, but I only care about my club, ITFC. I understand the economics too. Unfortunately, for several decades now, we’ve been encouraged to look at the dismal science of economics as if it is a proper science and has inexorable, immutable laws, like the laws of physics (which as we know, ye cannae change). But economics can’t, in my view, be taken out of the context of morality and society which even the Prime Minister has admitted exists after all. And what is the morality of employing people but not paying them?

Apart from morality, there’s actually a rather compelling reason why people should be paid for their work which every devotee of capitalism should be arguing for. It’s obvious really – if people have no wages, or low wages, they can’t spend on the goods and services businesses are offering. It’s counter-productive and short-termism at its worst. Think, Mr. Evans, how many more shirts and ITFC-branded meerkats we’d all buy if we were all living in a high-wage economy instead of scraping around in the back of the sock drawer for the cash to buy that season ticket every year.

The arguments in favour are, of course, that a young person, seeking experience in a difficult labour market will be pleased to have the opportunity to work for nothing in order to gain a foothold into a career in football … and it’s football! Football, which as everyone knows is more important than life or death or affording to eat, itself.

After all, what’s the difference between being an unpaid intern on the American model and volunteering? Well, there’s a considerable difference. I volunteer for two organisations, but I’d never do any work that would or could be done by a paid employee. I’m a qualified librarian but I would never work unpaid in one of Suffolk’s libraries. It’s an insult to the paid workers and makes it more likely that redundancies will be made. Working for free (or for very low wages or zero hours contracts) undermines other working people’s jobs, their conditions of employment and their wages. It may be that many people no longer care about their fellow citizens and only see what will benefit themselves, but in the end, we’ll all suffer. Decent wages, working conditions, paid holidays and sick leave are taken for granted now – or at least they were until recent years – but they were won by the hard-fought campaigns and the real suffering of people in the past. Even the fact that football matches traditionally start at three o’clock on a Saturday afternoon goes back to the nineteenth-century Factory Acts which were the result of long campaigning by reformers to allow people a few hours off a week. Because before that, most ordinary workers laboured from dawn until night, seven days a week – and that isn’t living, it’s existing.

Of course, in a world obsessed by “choice” or the illusion of choice, it’s up to the individual to choose whether or not to work without pay – except that it isn’t. Only those with some other means of financial support – the Bank of Mum and Dad, perhaps – can do it. In that sense, it’s discriminatory. Lots of people, I’m sure would love to work for ITFC. Few are going to be able to afford to do so for nothing.

Oh, and according to this website, unpaid internships are illegal.

You can find more information here.

There are lots of difficult things going on in football at the moment, all the result of big business and faceless corporate owners who have little love for or knowledge of the game. Cardiff City, Hull City AFC [please consider signing their petition against the enforced change of their name to Hull City Tigers] and Coventry City all have their own problems. It’s making fans feel alienated from their own clubs, sometimes even causing such tensions that supporters are arguing and fighting one another. It’s not that bad at Portman Road. I sincerely hope that it never is, but there are signs that business and the interests of the owner and shareholders are paramount, more so than football. You may accept that this is right, or it’s part of the modern game and we have to be cynical about it if we want to “succeed.” But success can be measured in many ways.

Once we were highly regarded as a football club which, like our managers, Ramsey and Robson, showed the best side of football, decent, competitive, inclusive. When ITFC were last promoted to the Premier League on 29 May 2000, BBC radio commentator, Pat Murphy, welcomed us back to the top tier with genuine warmth, speaking of a club of “good football, good beer and good people.” I like that description and I’d like to be good again.


Ipswich Town: A History

11/08/2013

I am completely abusing my position as the editor of this website to promote my new book Ipswich Town: A History (Amberley Press, 2013 – Price £16.99), which is – er – about the history of Ipswich Town. You can buy it from all good bookshops or, if you wish, from Amazon. The Foreword to the book was written by former ITFC player, James Scowcroft.

642383 Ipswich Town CVR.indd

Ipswich Town has a long history and, since its foundation in 1878, has had a great deal of footballing success, including as Football League champions in 1962 and winners of both the FA Cup (1978) and the UEFA Cup (1981). Two of its managers, Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson, went on to achieve greatness in the game. As a result there have been many club histories. This book is intended to be different from the traditional history of Ipswich Town Football Club. It is both a history of Ipswich Town and a social history – recording and exploring the relationship between the football club, the town of Ipswich and the wider county of Suffolk. Covering the period from 1878 to the present day, it uses the voices of people involved with the club, including supporters, players and former players, owners, administrators and local writers, to describe the club’s history within its social context, how changes have affected the club and how developments in football itself have made an indelible impact upon both the football club and the local community.


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