Let’s call the whole thing off

11/05/2014

Thanks to everyone for the fantastic response to our idea about having a Fans United day on 18 May. We appreciate that the very short notice and the expense of ticket prices at Wembley (plus, as several people have pointed out, that the revenue would go to the FA) made it a difficult proposition.

However, we still think that Tom Davies’ idea is an excellent one. We’re open to suggestions of alternative dates and venues for a Fans United day. It’s still vitally important that we work together to ensure that football supporters come together to protect the future of the game we love.

We want to work with Suppporters Direct, the Football Supporters Federation and all the groups that are “against League 3” to oppose the FA’s proposals about B teams and “league 3” and ensure a future for football at all levels, including lower league, non-league and grassroots teams.

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Fans United Day

10/05/2014

FansvL3

 Written by Gavin Barber.

Judging by the response that the FA Commission’s proposals for the creation of Premier League B Teams and a “League 3” have had since their launch, football fans seem almost unanimous in their angry opposition to the plans.

What can we do about it?

An organised collective called Against League 3 (@AgainstLeague3 on Twitter) has made a great start by starting an online petition which, at the time of writing, had almost 28,000 signatures. If you haven’t signed it yet, please do so now.

Leyton Orient fan and regular When Saturday Comes contributor Tom Davies (@tomdavieseE17 on Twitter) suggested a Fans United day at the Skrill Premier (Conference) play-off final, which is on Sunday 18th May at Wembley Stadium.

I think this is a great idea, so this article is an attempt to get it going.

What is a Fans United day?

It’s a day when football fans come together to make a statement or a protest about something which affects all those who care about the games. Previous Fans United days have usually centred around the plight of a particular club – the most famous example being the Fans United day at Brighton & Hove Albion in 1997.

By attending a game in a wide variety of club colours, and making a vociferous but good-natured protest, fans can make a powerful statement to those administrators who continually treat supporters with contempt and disregard.

We think that the FA’s plans are so dangerous to the culture of our game, the structure of the League pyramid, the integrity of English football and the lives of supporters, that a Fans United event is an appropriate response. The Conference play-off final seems a good time and place for it – the Conference is one of the leagues under direct threat from the proposals. Imagine Wembley Stadium filled with 80,000 passionate fans, making a bold and very public statement against the FA.

A Fans United day at the play-off final would not seek to disrupt or in any way undermine the day for the fans of the teams taking part, Cambridge United and Gateshead. It’s their day more than anyone’s. By coming along and showing support and solidarity, Fans United could make the occasion even more special and memorable for those teams’ supporters.

What do we need to do?

  1. Show your support by leaving comments under this article, by tweeting and following @fansutdvslge3 on Twitter, and by emailing fansunitedagainstleague3@gmail.com. It’s really important that we know how many people are prepared to get behind this. Without significant numbers, it won’t work.
  2. Buy a ticket for the Skrill Premier Play-Off Final at Wembley on 18th May 2014. These are being sold through the online ticket agency See Tickets.
  3. Get visual! Think of what you could do to make a bold “Against League 3” statement at Wembley. Wear your club’s colours. (Probably best not to wear Peterborough colours if you’re in the Cambridge section, but you get the idea). Banners? Balloons?
  4. If you can provide practical help, for example by producing a large banner, or t-shirts, or anything else that might draw attention to the cause, please get in touch.

Fans United days are organic – there isn’t an organisation behind them. They only work if large numbers of fans from all clubs are prepared to support them. There’s no money behind it and no-one will be asking for any. Any support that can be offered ‘in kind’ – e.g. by making banners or t-shirts, would be gratefully received.

The most helpful thing to do is to commit to attending the event. If there seems to be a big level of interest, we’ll put this out to the media to try and gain more publicity. But only if large numbers of people are prepared to get behind it!

It’s our game at stake. Let’s take it back.


The Turnstile Blues Alternative End of Season Awards

05/05/2014

cleggies

Naturally, we at Turnstile Blues had to hold our own end-of-season Alternative Awards ceremony, the Cleggies. The champagne flowed, the party went on into the small hours and the boys all looked fabulous in their glittery designer frocks. Or possibly we thought them up in the garden of the award-winning Greyhound after the last match of the season.

The Young Player of the Year Award

Goes to Luke Chambers’ son. Sign him up etc.

New Signing of the Season

The Big Mick Burger.

The Richard Naylor “Early Reducer” Award

Goes to Frank Nouble for a magnificently gratuitous clattering of Joey Barton just seconds after coming off the bench at Loftus Road. Such a thing of beauty that it almost compensated for QPR scoring their late winner from the resulting free-kick.

The Turnstile Blues We Love Him So Stop Slagging Him Off, OK? Award

Goes to the Hyamighty Luke Hyam. Want to make something of it?

The Danny Haynes Memorial Premature Celebration Award

Goes to Reading fans for their pitch invasion when they didn’t get into the play offs.

The Darren Currie Distinctive Ink Award

To Luke Chambers for having one complete tattoo sleeve and one arm bare of artwork. Daryl Murphy’s dual tattoo sleeves made him a contender but we like the bold artistic statement made by Chambers’ contrasting upper limbs.

Away Fans of the Year Award

Sheffield Wednesday.

The Tyrone Mings Example To Us All Award

Goes to Tyrone Mings!

The 1970s Revival of the Season Award

Goes to the industrial-sized toilet roll that was hurled on to the pitch from the away end at Huish Park. Great effort, guys. And it must indeed have been a great effort.

Best Pub Award

No contest here. For another fabulous season in which Dan wisely rotated his squad, brought in some innovative tactics and once again stayed at the top for the entire season: The Greyhound.

Beard of the Year Award

Goes to Mick McCarthy. We don’t care that Ando’s is better, we liked Mick’s. #bringbackthebeard mickmask

The Malcolm Tucker Omnishambles Award

To everyone at ITFC responsible for the opt-in / opt-out direct debit fiasco, setting the already-high Public Relations Cock-up bar at Portman Road to frankly Olympian levels. As the great man himself might have said: “This is like the Shawshank Redemption, only with more tunnelling through s**t and no f***ing redemption”.


Issue 5 on sale this Saturday, 3rd May

02/05/2014

TB5

The latest issue of Turnstile Blues will be on sale outside Portman Road before and after the final game of the season on Saturday. Our sellers will be by the statue of Sir Alf from 11 a.m. and again after the match. There will also be people selling around the ground after the game.

The fanzine costs £1 and has an international theme. It’s been edited this time by Alasdair Ross, well-known Town supporter and former editor of the legendary fanzine, Dribble!

In this issue: East to East by Graham Downes; Fair’s Fair (on FFP and the Championship) by Rob Freeman; a sideways look at some of our – er – less successful signings by Gavin Barber, who has also written amusingly about a youthful trip to Moscow; Grant Bage pays tribute to a woman who “never played football and very rarely went,” but was nevertheless an important part of his Ipswich Town experience; journalist Nick Ames writes about Town’s connections with players from the Balkans; Susan Gardiner has spoken to Shane Supple about his time at PR and considers “life, football and the pursuit of happiness,” and there’s the usual fun stuff.

Significantly fewer copies of this issue have been printed, and we anticipate selling out quickly, so make sure you buy your copy on Saturday. Any remaining copies – and a downloadable version – will be available from the Fanzines page of this website on Monday, 5th May 2014.

 


With A Little Help From My Friends

01/05/2014

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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