Portman Road, July 2014

06/07/2014

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.


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.


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.


Disappointed (once more)…

15/08/2013

coveralfThere’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.

 

You can read a review of this book by Gavin Barber on The Two Unfortunates website.


Twenty’s Plenty

10/04/2013

FSF logoThe Football Supporters’ Federation is campaigning to ask football clubs at all levels of the game to agree to a price cap on away match tickets of £20 (£15 for concessions).

We think that this is a great idea. We wrote something about the high ticket prices – especially for away fans – at Portman Road in March: http://wp.me/p2KvgD-4j

You can sign the petition here and find out more about it here.


How to win friends and influence people… or not

04/03/2013

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

swfc tweet

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

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

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

SG


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