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The 'Exciting and Unpredictable' Championship!
Written by TimS on Saturday, 23rd Jan 2016 11:22

Well done to Jolly Journo! I sympathised with much of what you wrote this week, and the some of the vitriol that came in response was embarrassing for this great club.

Everyone has their opinions. Everyone has memorable games whether it was due to what happened on the pitch or events that happened off the pitch. I wrote about one of my most memorable matches in my last piece for this site. Some people would suggest that Liverpool v Ipswich in the Premier League in 2000 (IN 2000! so long ago!) meant nothing to them. I don’t care. That match meant something to me.

I did not know what to think when I read about the result on Tuesday. It is never heart-warming to see an ‘L’ next to our proud club’s name. There was also a tinge of embarrassment because Championship clubs should not expect to lose to League Two clubs - leagues should not lie whatever cup you play.

There was a dose of resignation; another FA cup campaign cut off before the shoots began to grow. There was also sympathy. My parents were trying to find some tickets for the forthcoming QPR game. They saw a supporters coach heading off to Hampshire. How much money, time and effort was invested into getting to Portsmouth? I became all protective. Did these fans get safely back to Suffolk on the Wednesday morning? Overnight journeys in January are no fun.

There was a bit of anger too. Things like that should not happen but I had slipped into a comforting 1990s Greene King, Cobbold, ‘Punch’ apparel paradise, believing that Town were the plucky good guys of modern British football trying their hardest with the strongest team for every game that they play.

How could Town, IPSWICH TOWN FOOTBALL CLUB be billed on the BBC as a team that had made 11 changes with the commentator scoffing that it was obvious where Town priorities lay, as Mick McCarthy and a load of random players that I had never heard of scampered into Fratton Park with weak smiles for the cameras. I believed that team rotation was only for Champions League-chasing teams. The demands of modern football had obviously not reached my consciousness.

So it is now another ‘Premiership at all costs’ campaign for the rest of the season. A strategy that has been so similar to the last 13 years and either ended in a play-off semi-final defeat, or seventh to mid-table obscurity. But hey, we are aren’t relegated, we are in the ‘exciting and unpredictable’ Championship, and we can still pay for our football still breathing so ‘Come on you Blues’ for next season?!!

For people to come to Portman Road, there needs to be a bit more excitement than seemingly endless Championship games. Going to the football should not be a chore. We might get a bit of excitement at the end of the season.

I don’t particular blame the managers. The sludge of endless Championship games means that people have to make priorities. People who do not have any emotional connection with the Championship talk about the ‘exciting and unpredictable’ Championship as if those words go together like ‘bread’ and ‘butter’ or the ‘FA Cup’ and ‘where anything can happen.’

A Norwich-supporting relative of mine (I know) suggested over a Christmas mince pie that it would be better for Norwich to be in the Championship rather than the Premier League because it is a better league and City could be assured to win some games. I sat speechless wondering that he should be careful for what he wished for. I would not come out with such a statement if Town were ever in the Premier League.

The Championship is football’s equivalent of the Maldon mud race; endless games, no perspective where your campaign is going, managers coming and going, players coming and going. No feelings. No emotion. The Championship season does not seem to begin properly until about now at the end of January.

Last August, I can remember driving along the Uxbridge Road through London's Borough of Hillingdon with Town being announced as the Championship leaders. Friends wondered why I was not wetting myself with excitement at being ‘top of the league and having a laugh’. It meant absolutely nothing; the same excitement as being second in a Championship management league. It takes a lot of will power to enjoy a Championship season.

It takes a lot of will power to enjoy Championship highlights shows on the TV too. I watched Channel 5’s TV highlights show earlier this season. In a possible nod to Top Gear, fans were standing around the hysterically happy presenters with drawn hang-dog expressions. It felt like a show trial. I saw some Town fans in the mix. Was everyone desperately trying to be excited at the real possibility of three points against Rotherham next game? I watched the programme last week. The fans had been relegated for comfy breakfast TV sofas.

Maybe some people were hoping for some excitement in the FA Cup. I cannot blame them if they did. Supporting your team involves commitment, passion and dedication but you do want something in return. The disappointment will pass like every single Town cup run seemingly since 1978.

If Town do get promoted from the Championship treacle, no one will really care that Town were defeated at Fratton Park on a cold Tuesday night this month, but there is a bit of sadness. Football has changed. The goalposts do seem to have moved. The BBC may believe that the FA Cup is the premier cup competition to beat all other cups but money talks these days. The third road of the FA Cup risks becoming a 1970s relic like a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show in these years of multi channel television as well as smart TVs.

So fair play to Jolly Journo. I am not sure whether managers should be sacked for making priorities and the priorities blowing up in their face. Maybe higher footballing people need to reform the Championship or the FA Cup (three points for your league position regardless what league you are in?). However, at this present time, Championship managers have to make decisions to navigate through the treacle and it has to be hoped that the squad rotation achieves results.

If you have a Town season ticket this year and have attended all of the home and away games this season, and you are not a player, member of club staff, journalist or radio commentator then I have maximum respect for you. But surely you want to have a few matches to remember for the future? Going to a Town football match should be something more than spending an afternoon looking at sofas or tiling? The FA Cup could have brought some memories. It has to be hoped that the Championship in 2015/16 will provide those moments.




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MickeyMills added 14:14 - Jan 23
Excellent and well written blog Tim. I share many of the sentiments and was lucky enough to watch the 1978 cup final, not at the match itself, but as a young boy on the TV. Roger Osbourne's winning goal is as clear to me now as it was back then, a memory that will stay with me forever.

Obviously, we all want our beloved Town to be in the 'Promised Land' but a good cup run lifts spirits. It is disappointing that we have appeared to disregard this fact for the past few years
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commuterblue added 17:18 - Jan 23
Reasonable people can disagree on priorities.

There are a range of ways the FA cup can improve itself (without your points suggestion - that sounds horrendous). It could pay much more prize money (the Wimbeldon winner take away more and more money each year). It could ensure the final is played at 3pm allowing fans to travel on regular public transport. The FA could work with the Premier League to ensure no games the mid week after.

So, I would argue that MM has treated the Cup with no more disrespect than the people who organise it.

And Jolly Journo tried to argue that MM treated the fans with contempt. Again this does not stand up to scrutiny. Everyone knew the team beforehand and the home game was only a tenner. This wasn't 45 quid for Wolves reserves at Old Trafford.

Jolly Journo's idea that MM should be sacked if we don't get promotion is laughable to many fans.

And as for memomrable matches why can't they come in the league? Like that away win at Palace when Shefki scored just after Naylor gave away a pen. Or 2-1 against Wigan to go top at Christmas. The extra time winner against QPR on Boxing Day. Hunt against Charlton, Chaplow against Watford?

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BossMan added 16:57 - Jan 24
Where did we finish in the league in 78 ? Apart from the factual answer of near the bottom who cares ? And who can say and get it right without looking it up. Where did we finish in 81 ? 2nd or 3rd and without looking it up I don't remember but despite the 2 leg nonsense that is another lifetime memory. And then the joy of beating Platini and Co 5 nil. Mick and his supporters can come up with all the excuses they want but I crave seeing a manager in charge who might just add to those stand out memories of the past. Even going to Moscow with George and Sheepy was right up there. The stand out memories under Mick ?
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radiogaga added 18:25 - Jan 24
A much more levelled blog in response to the Portsmouth changes.

I find the criticism of MM for the FA Cup pretty petty, to put it bluntly. Fair play to the 600 or so fans that went to fratton park on a cold January Tuesday night (I was one of 300 who bothered to do it for a league game a few years ago), but the notion that these fans are owed something because we lost with a weakened team is frankly ridiculous. MM made it pretty clear pre match what sort of team would be fielded. Minimal sympathy is given in that respect, it undermines the fans who have travelled home & away through thick and thin for many years and accept it is part and parcel of the game.

With respect to the team that was fielded, no team goes out without a want to win. They paid and travelled to see a group of ITFC players try to win a cup tie, but fall short. Personnel may change, but the intention to go out and win a game remains, and our team on paper still had enough to more than match Pompey.

The thing that I find interesting is that, when we fielded a hugely changed side against Stevenage in the league cup in August, and won, very little criticism was levied at the manager. Football is a fickle game. I find it very difficult to suddenly feel the need to jump on an anti Mick bandwagon just because we (woe betide) lost a cup match with a weakened team.

Of course, we have fond memories of the FA Cup. The more senior & sentimental ITFC fans out there will of course naturally feel the magic of the competition far more than a younger fan born in the 80s like myself. The win in 78 was one of our club's finest moments.

We see football is changing all the while. We won the UEFA Cup in 1981 - nowadays the reformatted Europa League seems widely regarded by many clubs as something of a distraction from battling for champions league places and subsequently field weaker sides in that tournament to concentrate on the domestic leagues.

Football has changed, and has changed very quickly. It was little over 10 years ago that championship sides really did rise for the FA Cup... Because it provided significant income streams through prize money and gate receipts. The league is the bread and butter, since the prize for promotion to the premier league is almost revolutionary for any championship club (1 look at the figures being banded around of the premier league prize money after the new TV desk explains that).

Some of the league games under MM have provided us with outstanding drama and sensational moments - moments like Hunt at charlton, Anderson v Norwich, Chaplow v Watford, Sears at Fulham, Brentford away last season, Derby away in the survival year, Chambees v Doncaster, Berra's late winner at Derby and the recent late winners at home to QPR/ Leeds. They might not be history defining moments in the club's history, but we've been served (& continue to be served) with battling football and plenty of dramatic moments. This is the closest we've been to promotion in a long time.

I was at Birmingham yesterday and, disappointing as it was, I think the majority of town fans understand the decisions made on Tuesday. Pre McCarthy, the club has been managed/ assembled by our past managers with a very short term view and we should be assured to have a manager who concentrates on the bigger picture.
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radiogaga added 18:28 - Jan 24
* new TV desk = new TV deal (good old iPad autocorrect)
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PortmanTerrorist added 22:30 - Jan 24
Fair points well made.

I almost fall into the category of Championship apologist, occasionally thinking better the dross we generally get for the generally OK results......rather than being systematically stuffed in the Premiership. But then I am assuming the same philosophy will be applied on the pitch if we were promoted. Surely not. Our footballing legacy to the game gone in a flash.

My more pressing concern is a 10 year old son who is yet to see anything like a proper footballing team at Portman Road......except now he has......League 2's Portsmouth !

I am behind MM and TC but any and all arguments about location, budget etc etc were blown out the water in that original tie where our second team, filled with first team experience it should be noted, were completely out-played. If you were not there then do not let the result fool you. It is like we are being told that playing cultured football and results are mutually exclusive - utter rubbish.

I don't suppose Mr Evans gets to enough games to worry about the quality or whether kids will be turned off by the ironically agricultural nature of our play. He seems happy to have a manager that will keep things ticking over on the cheap. But I do wonder if deep down MM fancies a promotion really, which could well be followed by struggle and his job under threat, when flirting with play-offs keeps everyone just about on-side.....all whilst playing such awful (if relatively effective) stuff week in week out. They certainly putting that to the test with my lad and one suspects a whole generation of (Potential) supporters who are aware that it is in fact possible the ball can be passed to team mates on a systematic basis......their dads have shown them footage from the olden days !

To all at ITFC Management.....Please help us parents bring up Blue boys and girls.....please play some football soon. It might not necessarily cost us matches !
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tractorgrl added 02:14 - Jan 25
I lke both of these blogs, and agree on most points. Portman terrorist, Mr Evans usually has a young lady with him (daughter?) who wears the town kit, all of it, socks, shorts, top! I have also read of him attending away matches. Wouldn't it be fantastic to be in the top tier and compete with and even hold our own again, that would be my lottery win right there.
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MVBlue added 10:43 - Jan 25
Point well made.
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JollyJourno added 13:23 - Jan 26
Cheers Tim. My blog was written in the heat of the moment, before I'd had a chance to cool off following last week's disgrace. If I wrote about the same subject now, I'd write a more measured and considered blog, but it wouldn't have been as entertaining and wouldn't have garnered such a strong reaction. Football is all about emotion, so let's not avoid it.
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Iax added 17:59 - Jan 26
I don't get to see Ipswich that often these days, the last time I went to a Town cup match was against Portsmouuth, the year Portsmouth won it. Was very disappointed after Town gave David James's goal a battering but failed to score. A young lad Liam Trotter I think was making his debut or an appearance very early on in his career. He got sent off under rather controversial circumstances, Joe Jordan talking in the 4 th officials ear didn't help but perhaps it was the right decision. The rest of the game was littered with refereeing errors from memory and I ended up shouting abuse at the ref, not something I do very often being a qualified ref. In some ways some of the responses here represent my own views, the FA needs to give its competition more love, it's no wonder clubs don't show it the respect it used to be held in
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Jonnosdreadlocks added 03:51 - Jan 29
All cup games should be like World Cup/Euro knockout games, decided on the day. There are no replays in those, why in domestic cups, its stupid, just a money making scam. No replays, half hour extra time if needed then pens. Result decided on the day no ridiculous replays which are the issue for many clubs. It would encourage all or nothing football or sit back defend a take it to pens but at least a result on the day and would alleviate the stupid replays.
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