Today I visited cremation plot OC 194 in the old Ipswich cemetery. This is where the ashes of Sir Alf Ramsey are buried. I had heard from someone that he had never seen any flowers there and so I decided to take him a few from my garden. Sadly, the white flowers have all gone over and so I had to take pink and blue blooms. As it’s the World Cup finals at the moment, I wanted to thank the man who built the England team that won the Jules Rimet trophy in 1966, the most successful national manager of all time, who was also the man who transformed my team, Ipswich Town, from a provincial club to a renowned side that won the English football league championship in 1961/2. In fact, when I eventually found his plot, there were some flowers there, but it was good to be able to leave something on behalf of Turnstile Blues. To find his last resting place to be as modest and humble as the man was in life was very moving. Thank you, Sir Alf Ramsey, 1920-1999.
Here at Turnstile Blues we like to think that we present a different perspective on ITFC from that which you’ll find in the mainstream media. To keep up this tradition, we asked Mr. Peregrine Cuttlefish, society columnist for the East Anglian Daily Times from 1871 – 1903, to review this year’s Player Of The Year dinner and awards evening.
“It was a most welcome surprise to be invited to review the 2013-14 Ipswich Town Player Of The Year Awards evening via the medium of time travel. I had feared that my elaborate evening-wear and celebrated fulsome beard – quite the talk of the dinner-dance scene in late 19th century Woodbridge – might rather mark me out as a man out of place and time, but I was relieved to discover that a goodly proportion of the assembled gentlemen and players were also sporting fine sets of whiskers!
“The event was hosted by Mr Milton Simons, a jovial sort of a cove with a charmingly estuarine dialect. I am given to understand that Mr Simons had previously been an Ipswich Town player of some note himself, and much merriment was made of his shiny bald head. Mr Simons appeared to be suggesting that the primary culprit in this regard was some fellow called Banter, but I could see no record of such person amongst the list of guests.
“As the evening progressed, it was clear to note that many of the assembled company had attained a state of light-heartened relaxation. Several of the menfolk discarded their neckties and some even stepped out of their frock-coats. I was intrigued to observe the elaborate markings on the forearms of several of the Ipswich Town players. One can only assume it is a requirement of the modern factory that workers are required to ink themselves in company insignia, and can only be hoped that this does not interfere with the athletic regime of the amateur sportsman.
“It was a matter of some curiosity for the pan-temporal visitor to observe some of the customs of this strange modern era. There appeared to be a great deal of excitement around something called a ‘Chambers Fist-Pump’. Alas, your correspondent was unable to discern the precisions of this ritual, but we can perhaps safely assume that a gentleman’s chambers are no longer the stronghold of privacy that they once were. Such ‘Fist-Pumping’ may have become a necessity in this regard.
“One further noted the presence of a rangy young man by the name of Myrone Tings. Mr Tings was acting quite the philanthropist – tossing morsels of food from the windows to feed hungry-looking badgers, and organising a collection in aid of the local sailors’ refuge. It was a matter of some relief to this observer that Mr Tings was not a recipient of any award on the night. Whilst he may be a young man of most worthy character, such individuals are naturally prone to the giving of painfully long acceptance speeches.
“During the awarding of the prizes, there appeared to be quite the commotion around the antics of a well-fed looking fellow, who I was given to understand was a Club official of some sort. Said official had taken it upon himself to enliven the prize-givings with a colourful commentary of his own! Some lively chit-chat was observed as the gentleman loudly annotated the awards with what appeared, to this observer at least, to be some rather fruity observations about the recipients – including some noticeably odd comments about quantities of money allegedly being earned by each, which quite shocked the ears at such a gathering. A rather gruff-sounding Yorkshireman appeared to take a particularly dim view of the gentleman’s frivolity.
“I should say that it was most enlightening to spend some time in 2014 and to note the peculiarities of folk some decades distant from my own era. I will admit to my readers that by comparison to the assembled company, I did feel rather ‘senior’! But then I saw John Wark”.
Narrator: There’s smog in the busy town of Ipswich this morning and the football club’s joint Bespoke Global Deliverance Provider, John Fletcher, has gratefully accepted a lift in David Hitchins’ Alfa Romeo Moltotraballante 4Ci. They’re off to a meeting with Rachel Tesco, entrepreneur and the brains behind one of Ipswich’s most exciting new businesses, Life of Pie, an artisan bakery, just relocated from London’s fashionable Haggerston district. Joining them to sample Rachel’s pastries is Head of Brand Experience, Graham Bobbins. Wendy Ramsey, Lead Business Logic Analyst and Mick Mack, Head of Performance have both sent their apologies.
John [striding into the bakery and vigorously shaking Rachel’s hand]: Rachel! Good to see you again. I think you’ve met David.
Rachel: Yes, indeed. [Laughs] Well, you’ve been my best customer since I moved here, haven’t you, David?
John: And this is – er – Graham, Head of Marketing.
Graham [sulkily]: Head of Brand Experience, actually.
John: Good. … Anyway, let’s get on. I have to say I can’t wait to taste the product, Rachel.
Rachel: Well, no need to wait. Here you are… the Portman Pasty!
[She offers a plate of small pieces of pasty around and everyone tries them. Murmurs of approval.]
Rachel: So this is a hand-raised artisan-baked Suffolk pasty containing only traditional organic ingredients.
John: Oh, good. It’s a local dish. I hadn’t realised the pasty was an East Anglian delicacy.
Rachel: Oh yes. The recipe is absolutely traditional. It was the way that Suffolk tin miners were able to take their meals underground.
John: Fantastic. I didn’t know that. … And Graham, you have a rather – um – innovative idea for sales, don’t you?
Graham: That’s right, John. It’s called the Portman Pasty Promotion Pledge.
Graham: Every supporter who bought a season ticket pledged to pay the cost of a Portman Pasty at every game and… wait for it… the pasty will be delivered to that supporter’s seat for no extra charge!
David: Wow! Lucky supporters!
John: Good. So, how many season ticket customers do we have?
David: 12,000. Ish.
John: And they’ll all get a pasty delivered to their seat? Sounds a bit tricky logistically, Graham.
John: Keeping them hot, that might pose a problem?
Graham: Hot? Oh no, they won’t be hot.
Rachel: They’re supposed to be hot.
Graham: Oh yes. Totally.
David: And not everyone will want a pasty, obviously, so we’ll have to look at numbers…
John: Good point. No point in supplying pasties where they’re not wanted! Could be a lot fewer… Did they get a choice of whether they wanted to sign up to the Pasty Pledge when the money was taken, Graham?
Graham: [looking bewildered] Choice? We didn’t tell them about it.
John: Didn’t tell them?
Graham: I thought it would be a nice surprise.
John: So what happens if they don’t want a pasty?
Graham: Well … they have to opt out.
Graham: They’ll have to opt out. We’ve already taken the money, so they’ll have to apply for a refund. Otherwise… well, they get a pasty.
[John’s mobile rings.]
John: Hello? Wendy. … Yes…. Yes. Good? … No, no, not good. OK, we’re on our way back to the office. Could you put an Out of Order sign on the vending machine? … Yup. Thanks.
[He ends the call.]
John: I think we need to look at this again. That was Wendy. It’s total pasty meltdown out there. We need to do some fire-fighting. … Rachel, we’ll get back to you.
David: Great pasties though, Rachel. Great!
Rachel: But the contract…!
[The soft sound of a very expensive car engine fades into the distance.]
Narrator [a soft Scottish voice]: In a small office in the centre of the busy Suffolk town of Ipswich, a meeting is being held to discuss the financial strategy for the next football season. John Fletcher, joint Bespoke Global Deliverance Provider and his co-worker, David Hitchins, arrive in the car park almost simultaneously. John, casually dressed in cashmere sweater and jeans, is chaining his bike to a newly-painted blue railing, while the more urbane David, sporting a smart blazer unbuttoned over his crisp white shirt, prefers to travel in a classic Alfa Romeo Moltotraballante 4Ci. Joining them in the boardroom are Head of Brand Experience, Graham Bobbins and Lead Business Logic Analyst, Wendy Ramsey. Head of Performance, the gruff, tell-it-like-it-is Yorkshireman, Mick Mack, has sent his apologies.
John: I haven’t got much time. I’ve got a video conference with the Bermuda branch of the supporters’ club in fifty minutes, so shall we… ?
Wendy [tentatively]: Sorry, John… Just wondered if anyone would like a frothy coffee or an iced bun…
John [irritably]: I don’t think…
David: Great idea, Wend. Do they do pasties?
John [even more irritably]: I think we should just get on… [Wendy leaves the room]… Graham, we’ve already decided on the price structure for next season based on a demographic analysis of Cambridge. Graham, as Head of Brand Experience, you’re going to have a key role in convincing the people of this fine university town that their increased contribution is essential to the future progress of the brand. How do you think you’re going to achieve that?
Graham [looks thoughtful]: Well…
David: Well, we need to convince people that they’re getting value for money. Which of course they are.
David: Obviously people in Cambridge can’t expect that to mean the same as people in – say – Chelsea do.
John [nods]: I know where you’re coming from.
David: What I mean is, it’s all very well, people going on all the time about what a historic city Cambridge is. I mean, it has been historic, I grant you that, but it [floundering a little]… isn’t all that historic any more.
Graham: Because that’s totally like living in the past, isn’t it?
Wendy [coming back into the boardroom with several paper bags]: I could only get you a sticky bun, David. With pink icing. I hope you don’t mind… And I got you a Florentine, John. I know you didn’t say, but…
John: Thank you. That’s really kind.
Wendy: If anyone wants a sandwich for later…
John: I think we need to press on now. So we have to persuade the people of Cambridge to stop living in the past. Good. How do we do that… Graham?
Graham [staring at his iPhone]: Er…
John [irritably]: I’m sorry, Wendy but we are going to run out of time soon.
Wendy: This is Ipswich.
Wendy: Ipswich. This is Ipswich. Not Cambridge.
Wendy: But you must know that.
John [vaguely]: Of course. … Good. So, Graham, how do we persuade the people of Ipswich that it’s the future they should be interested in?
Graham: We’ve got some really good Ipswich Town Keep Calm key rings. Just in.
John: Good. But I was really thinking more of how we get across to people that it’s worth their while continuing to spend money, more and more money, year upon year, on something that is becoming less and less enjoyable.
Wendy: Faith? Loyalty?
John: Woolly. Thinking more of…. ?
Graham [consulting Google]: Fresh Frozen Plasma? Flexible Food Packaging? Fairly Frequent Penalties?
David: Financial Fair Play.
John: Good. Go on.
David: We say something like this: in an ideal world we’d have liked to have held prices across the board but with Financial Fair Play coming in, it’s meant we’ve had to review the pricing.
John: Good. Go on.
David: We tell them we’re listening, yeah? We’ve met quite a few people from supporters’ groups. We’ve taken what they’ve said about ticket prices on board but we have no choice.
John: I’m liking this.
Wendy: This is great.
David [feeling he’s on a roll]: We feel it’s very fair when you consider what you get for it.
Wendy: What do the supporters get for it, David?
David: Hold on, Wendy. That kind of detail can be sorted out later.
John: This is good. Carry on.
David: Progress. Success. Positivity. Achievement. Excitement. Wobble.
John, Wendy & Graham [in unison]: Wobble?
David: Yes. Wobble. Or, to be exact, no wobble.
Graham: Yeah, no wobble. Duh!
John: Right. Of course… . Expand on that a little if you will, David.
David: We say to our fans ‘this is not the time to wobble.’ ”
John: Brilliant! Superb. OK, people, let’s call it a day. Get on to the usual contacts in the local media and let’s get that message out there. From now on, this is a wobble-free football club.
Wendy: Just one thing, John. If this whole FFP thing gets kicked out because of the current legal action by other Championship clubs, does that mean we can bring ticket prices down again?
John: I really am a bit pushed for time now, Wendy. Maybe you… [Gets out of his seat.]
Wendy: And – just a thought – if a relatively small number of people decide not to renew their season tickets because of the price rise – it’s a small rise, I know, but I think some supporters are feeling a bit fed up and finances are tight – so, if say about two hundred season ticket holders decide not to renew, won’t that wipe out any extra income that we’ll derive from charging an extra nine pounds or so? Just a thought, as I said.
John: Perhaps you could drop me a memo on that one… ? [Moves towards door.]
Wendy: Oh, and – sorry, this is a small point, I know, but it might be important. What effect will this – along with other factors like the years of decline, the quality of the football, the succession of players on loan, the high prices for away fans – have on the crowds, and the atmosphere? Almost seems as if we’re in some kind of vicious circle here. People might start finding other things to spend their hard-earned money on and it could be hard to win them back once their support has been lost.
John [holding his mobile to his ear]: Ah, I think that’s Bermuda now. Must take this call.
The FA is backing the Football v Homophobia campaign and so is Turnstile Blues. We’ve published an article by Rob Freeman about that very subject in our most recent issue and another piece by Stuart Hellingsworth in our second issue which you can read here.
We welcome Rainbow Tractors who can be followed on Twitter @RainbowTractors, and on Facebook. They can be contacted by e-mail: rainbowitfc[at]gmail.com
They’re trying to build up support for a campaign against homophobia and transphobia. Like them, and the FA, we believe that “football is for everyone. No exceptions.” So please contact them if you can help in any way or just to offer them some solidarity and support.
Adam Tanner has a place in Town history: at just 21 he became the first player to score a winning goal for Ipswich at Anfield. Five years later, off-field problems led to his release from the club, and by the age of 27 his professional career was over. Emma Corlett wanted to find out how the Ipswich youth system had prepared him for life inside and outside of football, and what help he’d had in dealing with his problems.
Adam warmly welcomes me into his smart, modern house on a development on the outskirts of Chelmsford, and I am surprised by how nervous he appears to be. He admits to being a little apprehensive about having agreed to the interview, but is hoping to be open and honest. We start off by talking about how he first got into football…
Adam Tanner (AT): I grew up in Witham and I was into football from a very early age. I was playing for a local team and a Tottenham scout approached my Mum and Dad, so I spent a year training with their schoolboys up at White Hart Lane two nights a week.
I left there to go to Arsenal. I was at Arsenal for two years, right up until I left school. They offered me an apprenticeship, but it would have meant me leaving home and going to live up in Islington, and I wasn’t too keen. The Youth Development officer at the time at Ipswich was Tony Dable. They came up with an offer that meant I could still live at home in Witham, and get the train in every day. At 16 it would have been a massive step to move away. I obviously don’t know how things would have worked out, but I think I made the right decision.
Turnstile Blues (TB): So things went OK for you at Ipswich: you were captain of the Youth Team. Who from your contemporaries made it through to the first team?
AT: Well, there were 2 years. From my year Lee Durant played a couple of games, Neil Gregory was a year above me, then coming through was Tony Vaughan, James Scowcroft the year behind me. From my actual year there was Leo Cottrell from Cambridge and Bam Bam. We certainly weren’t prolific. So nothing like the peak when we had Richard Wright, Kieron Dyer, Scowy, Tony Vaughan, that was quite a peak period.
TB: So then you made the step up to the first team yourself, making your debut in January 1995?
AT: Yes, that started all under John Lyall, he was brilliant. He was a real idol and father figure. I’d been travelling with the squad under John Lyall, helping to carry stuff. He wanted me involved. George Burley took over, and he threw me in at the deep end. He just said to me the day before “you’re starting tomorrow”. That was against Leicester, and I scored. The week after we played Wrexham away in the cup and I gave a penalty away in the last minute, and we went out, then the following week it was the Liverpool game when I scored. That was my first three games!
TB: You mentioned about John Lyall being a fatherly figure. How much do football clubs take an interest in supporting and educating young players through the tricky things, like having more money than your peers, managing relationships, unwanted attention, alcohol, drugs, that kind of thing?
AT: Everything, all that stuff, comes at you very fast. John Lyall was someone you could always go to. He treated everyone similar, from the first team to the youth team. His door was always open. There weren’t any great workshops as such, to give you advice, but if you had a problem you could go to him.
…. After talking about the drinking culture during his time at Town, Adam went on to describe the consequences of testing positive for cocaine. Talking about this is clearly still very difficult for Adam, and for the first time in the interview he is visibly emotional, as he talks about the impact on his parents.
TB: How did they react?
AT: They were devastated. Really absolutely devastated. But again, they showed me unconditional love. My biggest fear was that I was going to get the sack. This was different to when I was 17 because I’d been playing and in the team, so there was more press coverage. I had to make a statement outside the front of my parents’ house. The press had been banging on the windows and everything. My mum and dad live in a little cul de sac, and you had all these TV vans with satellite dishes all coming round, and I had to stand outside. It wasn’t good, but it was my own fault.
TB: I guess it’s the impact that it has on other people close to you, and dealing with the guilt?
AT: Yes, but again I got support. It was a Friday, and Sheepshanks rang me. He said “where are you?”, so I told him I was round my mum and dad’s. He advised me not to open the door because he’d heard that the press were on their way round. We compiled a statement between us, that I then read outside Mum and Dad’s front door at about half past five. He was first class, he said “it’s happened, we just need to get on and deal with it”.
TB: What was the local press coverage like?
AT: I remember the Evening Star had the billboards, blacked out with “Tanner Cocaine Shame”, but I decided not to read it all. The club gave me a suspension for two weeks so I was away from Ipswich for two weeks. That paid part of my ban too. The club needed to be seen to be doing something, they couldn’t say we’re backing him but not taking any action against him. It was tough. I hadn’t bought this place and was still living with my Mum and Dad. The thing you love has been taken away from you, and you’re hanging on by your fingertips to not lose it.
TB: What help or support did you get from the PFA?
AT: I think Neil Thompson was our rep. I spoke to the PFA at the time, but because it was an isolated incident rather than a problem and something I was doing all the time they didn’t do much. Gordon Taylor was there at my hearing with Brendan Batson. We went in to the room, and there was three older men. Reg Burr the old Millwall Chairman fell asleep during my hearing. I looked up and he was just asleep. I thought oh god, you’ve got my career at your fingertips here and you’re asleep. Someone gave him a nudge and woke him up. It was a horrendous day to be honest.
TB: Did you have any inkling what the likely outcome would be?
AT: None at all. I was one of the first to get to a hearing. I’ve heard so many rumours about other players, about it getting hushed up but that was definitely a route that Sheepshanks wasn’t going to go down and he made that quite clear. He said “I’ll back you, but we cannot brush this under the carpet”, and you have to respect that. I got a three month ban, and had already done a month so I think it was quite lenient really.
TB: Do you keep in touch with people at the club?
AT: I’ve still got contacts at the club, I speak to Milts, and I speak to Edwina who is the receptionist. … I gave the club some really bad press, but whenever I go back they welcome me with open arms, and I can’t fault them.
There’s always an ex-players dinner, but I never went. But I went two years ago. Burley and Sheepshanks were there, they shook my hand, I had a good laugh with them. There was no bitterness at all from them. I won’t have a bad word said against Ipswich as a club, or Sheepshanks or George Burley. The club is first-class.
You can read the full, exclusive interview with Adam Tanner in our printed or downloadable fanzine.