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Have I Really Fallen Out of Love With Ipswich Or Have I Just Grown Up?
Written by classof81 on Sunday, 5th Nov 2017 19:43

Most parents use pets to teach children important life lessons. Children become acutely aware of the concepts of growing old and death as they bury their beloved hamster in the back garden.

My Dad opted for a different tactic. He used football, and, more specifically, Ipswich Town, to teach me all about lowering expectations, heartache and ultimately failure.

“Remember how we really wanted Ipswich to beat Wigan but they didn’t quite deliver? And remember what you wanted for Christmas? Well, don’t be surprised if Santa pulls an Ipswich and doesn’t quite deliver either.”

“Jim Magilton has been getting older. He can’t move as well as he used to. He’s not the player he once was. He’s going to retire. Your Granddad’s also been getting older. He can’t move as well as he used to. He’s going to retire… from life.”

“Darren Bent’s leaving… and so is your mum.”

And yet despite the many near misses, the multiple last-minute defeats and the frequent disappointments, I was captivated. My first season as a little five-year-old Ipswich fan was the 2003/04 season under Joe Royle, where we reached the play-off semi-finals against West Ham.

A Darren Bent header at Portman Road gave us a slender 1-0 lead going into the away leg. I wasn’t allowed to go to the match at Upton Park as it was a Tuesday night so I had school the next day, and I couldn’t afford to fall asleep during maths (we were learning how to divide). I couldn’t get away with phoning in sick either, as all the teachers were well aware that I was a massive Ipswich fan.

I went to a Christian primary school, and our headteacher was also a Tractor Boy, so assemblies often consisted of him nattering about Ipswich for 20 minutes before attempting to link in Jesus in the most frugal way possible.

One Friday night we were playing away at Sheffield United, and it was live on Sky. That morning during assembly, our head teacher asked all the boys in year six if they were going up to Sheffield to watch it. “And what about little Alice? What class is she in? Year two? Are you going?”. “Nah,” I replied, “I’m going to watch it in the pub.” My Christian teachers shook their heads disapprovingly, clasping their crucifixes, apologising hastily to God.

Anyway, not going up to West Ham wasn’t going to stop me supporting the Town, and I fell asleep listening to the Radio Suffolk commentary in my Powergen shirt. I woke up the next day not knowing the score. My Dad walked into my bedroom to deliver the bad news.

That is a tough life lesson for a six-year-old. Learning that your beloved team won’t be going to the Millennium Stadium, won’t be competing for a place in the Premier League, won’t be on Match of the Day next season because “Matt Richards is f*cking useless”.

The following season was the same; fantastic football, goals galore, entertainment every week. And what a team we had; Kuqi, Bent, Miller and the mid-season addition of the Division One’s David Beckham: Super Darren Currie.

But not even Darren Currie could prevent us losing to West Ham in the play-offs once again. Despite us finishing 13 points above them in the league, they’d still knocked us out over two legs. It was bitterly unfair. Our headteacher insisted that Bobby Zamora was not going to Heaven. I had just finished the big Harry Potter book, and I unashamedly declared that Alan Pardew was worse than Voldemort. I stand by that.

Despite having my heart shattered twice in two years, I was hooked. I was addicted. I had fallen in love (although my Dad was quick to remind me that love never lasts. “Remember Matt Holland? He said he loved Ipswich. He still left us for someone else though, didn’t he?”). This love remained unwavering for 10 years. 10 long, Roy Keane and Paul Jewell infested, years. We finally reached the play-offs again, but, needless to say, the outcome was the same. Would I ever see us achieve any success?

I was often jealous of my Dad’s generation; watching an Ipswich side competing in Europe, winning trophies, having a side overflowing with international players. But then I think of how little I have enjoyed watching Ipswich over the last three years and think how grateful I should be for the early days that I witnessed. And how rubbish it must be for the new generation of Ipswich fans.

Or do they actually realise how rubbish it is? One day, will they reminisce fondly about Dominic Iorfa? Will they idolise Cole Skuse the way I idolised Tommy Miller? Are they envious that I got to watch Tamas Priskin play? Will they yearn for the days of Jay Tabb?

I think of how much I’ve fallen out of love with watching Ipswich over the last few years (maybe my Dad had a point about love) and wonder if it’s just part of growing up. You realise there’s more to life than football, and your happiness isn’t dictated by whether we beat Burton or not.

Is it just coincidence that me growing up and enjoying watching Ipswich less has coincided with the decline in entertainment on offer at Portman Road? Or has the relatively dreary football driven away my adoration for Ipswich? And will we miss out on an entire generation of Ipswich Town fans because this team won’t capture their imagination in the same way that the glorious Joe Royle side captivated me?

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RobITFC added 20:00 - Nov 5
A good read, my first 1st XI match (I had been to a few reserve matches on a Saturday afternoon) was against Arsenal in 1971 , Charlie George scored the winner, I was hooked and the next 10 years were fantastic , sadly I doubt will ever be repeated. The last 10 years have been in decline, but as much as I find the football way off what I grew up on , I still look forward to each match and hope that soon the good days will return. Going back to the reserve matches , I remember the big boards in the corner and the Half time scores being put up manually , no mobile phones, digital scorebaords or internet those days!


Libero added 21:07 - Nov 5
That was great, really enjoyable read.

christiand added 21:35 - Nov 5
Terrific read. My first live game was in the mid 80s an evening game against Tottenham Hotspur. We lost 3-0, but to go to Portman Road on a Tuesday night under lights it took my breath away. I remember climbing those steps up to the top echoleons of the Britannia stand with my Dad and Grandad and seeing that snooker table pitch and it was: 'wow, I'd never seen anything so green.'

cornishblu added 22:03 - Nov 5
Really enjoyed that...but sadly it comes exactly on the same day when my son who is around the same age said similar.....where are today’s heros , where is the passion of disappointment of loosing when we actually deserved to win.
We need somethin* to believe in , a local lad or two to come through or our best players to stay because they are passionate about the town will take a massive overhaul....and I can guarantee it won’t happen with a Mick at the helm......sadly we are in great danger of becom8ng the next Coventry ...or worse,England!! makes me so sad for the lost generation

RoyalAscotBlue added 22:17 - Nov 5
I was at Upton Park for the playoff defeat in 2004 Alice. It was a bitterly disappointing evening. Football can be very cruel that way. I also had the displeasure of suffering the 2001 League Cup Semi Final defeat at St Andrew's. As with life though, you have to experience the lows to fully appreciate the highs; like Helsingborg away in the UEFA cup which happened later that same year.

I'm sorry you haven't really had much to enjoy on the football front, maybe you will one day? You'll enjoy it all the more if you do... for what has come before.

PS. I hope the line about your mum leaving was just a joke.

ChateauWines added 22:51 - Nov 5
A blog close to my hear. After holding a season ticket for more years than I care to remember and renewing without ever giving it a moments thought, I chose not to renew this season. I still intended to go and gave season ticket up over cost and through work I miss 5/6 games. In previous seasons have worked out social calendar after consulting fixture list. I went to first 6 games home and away this season and despite the good results i realised I had stopped enjoying it. My two boys aged 9 & 11 treat going as a form of punishment and play up from half time bored witless. I'd not been again until this Saturday. A good friend of mine has two season tickets and could not go due to a sickness in the family. One ticket was a senior citizens and the other an adults. I decided to take my partner along with me. I got to ticket office in at 10am Saturday to upgrade ticket to adult. After ten minutes of trying to do this with all season ticket holders membership details, the guy in ticket office could not let me use both tickets without permission of holder. A less helpful sole I could not have met. Expaining it was a chance to get me back into the ground after giving up my season ticket fell on deaf ears. Leaving the ground without tickets is where I realised I gave fallen out of love with my Ipswich Town. Went and watched racing at Newmarket instead and won enough to have bought tickets for next three seasons ironically. The saddest part of story is that at no point in afternoon did I even check score.

guentchev added 10:12 - Nov 6
Great read. Great blog.

Heathlander added 11:14 - Nov 6
“Darren Bent’s leaving… and so is your mum.”

that made me laugh out loud. Good work.

Slambo added 16:32 - Nov 6
“Matt Richards is f*cking useless”.

It's funny cuz it's true. Nice to see a bit of humour on this website...

Don't get too down about the ennui surrounding Ipswich at the moment. The clubs outside the Sky Cartel are still subject to the great footballing wheel of fortune. The good times will return and they'll be that much sweeter when they do...

II bang on about this all the time (and I found a cracking article on the Guardian about it the other day) but might I suggest that the apathy among the Ipswich faithful isn't so much to do with McCarthy and/or Evans, or even growing up as you suggest, but with the current football status quo..? I ask you, if Ipswich won the league with 100 points playing exhilarating attacking football...what then..? The only thing we'd ever have to look forward to in the Premier League would be merely surviving. Not much of an existence, if you ask me. There is a significant number of fans all over the country as apathetic and disillusioned as you. Start demanding fundamental change to the structure of English football and all football clubs - not just Man City, Man U and Chelsea - might get their share of the glory...


greenkingtone added 16:41 - Nov 6
I started as a Newport County supporter Alice so I understand disappointment. During the West Ham years I had a bad dream. We were 2nd at Christmas and I dreamt WHU had beaten us in the play-offs. Sadly it came true. I waseven more gutted than when County lost to Portsmout in the FA Cup 5th round in 1948.

Great blog Alice.

SpiritOfJohn added 18:02 - Nov 6
Great read. Like a phoenix we will rise again one day. The trouble is we need another managerial genius to help us get there with our limited resources. Don't give up all hope but don't hold your breath either.

BlueandTruesince82 added 19:24 - Nov 6

armchaircritic59 added 22:05 - Nov 6
As someone who hasn't been to Portman Road for quite some time, but attended for decades from 1963 (trust me to just miss out on our first "golden generation"!), i can definitely see where you're coming from "classof 81". I've seen the best and some of the worst following the town, and fear it's going to be a long time (if ever), before the former will be seen again.

At least part of the reason is i believe, as stated by "slambo" above, is the gulf between the haves and have nots. I'm afraid the Premier League is now pretty much a cartel, that only has it's best interests at heart. I wouldn't be too surprised, if some time in the not too distant future, they declare that there will be no relegation from it!

I wonder what chance the victorious youngsters from the England set up will get at their respective clubs, as the great majority want almost instant success or survival, rather than build for it, so out come the (very) fat wallets instead.

One step i would take immediately if i was in the position to do so (some hope!), would be to implement a rule where all English clubs (i include the likes of Swansea/Cardiff etc), must have a minimum of five English players (not Welsh, Irish, Scottish etc) , in the outfield and either an English first choice Goalkeeper, or one on the bench.

One other thing i would instantly do is to stop all parachute payments. Nothing like being rewarded for failure!

As for the chance of either of them happening, you can probably guess, i'm not holding my breath!

Currie10 added 23:58 - Nov 6
03/04 was the season I really got into us too, started going to a few games.

I was 17/18 at the time and from the SW living in Bath / Bristol away games was the order of the day.

I remember being 2-0 up at Bramall Lane Jan 15 and one of the only fans not to sing ' stand up if you're going up ' as I wasn't sure. The heartache at Reading made a miserable 19th bday when I had a blazing row with the Mrs at the time, and kicked out of a club on my way back to Bristol. 1-1 and we absolutely battered them. 10 men and Danny Karbiassoon at LB was my abiding memory. To this date, perhaps the most complete town performance I can ever remember going to.......

Other games that stick out that season was watching the 2-0 loss at Wolves, realising we weren't going to come top 2 then Elland Road.

AH DARREN CURRIE. How did you miss that day...........

The 3-2 h win vs Derby that season was another classic.

I maintain 05/06 had Royle been given the mere 150k he wanted for Fuller, we would have come top 6. We were flying until a mare of an upfront at Wolves 1-0 loss when we absolutely battered them until they scored. Ruined them. Just NOTHING uptop and then with that Wolves goal, a slide down the table..........

Had other fond memories, Watford away 14/15 the year I went to 20+ games was absolute scenes at the end, however will always remember 04/05....


commuterblue added 19:37 - Nov 7
An enjoyable and thought provoking read. Thank you


tractorboybig added 20:10 - Nov 7
Love them? my father took me to portman road in 1962, I shook hands with god, cant desert them, still follow them, wont deny them, breaks my heart.

SouperJim added 22:18 - Nov 7
Yep, we've been crap for a full ten years. Even making the play-offs the other year wasn't that exciting. Soul destroying, isn't it?

carsey added 20:07 - Nov 8
A great blog written with humour and pathos. Anyone in my generation who were fortunate enough to be present at the start of the Robson era have been well and truly spoiled having witnessed quality football home and abroad when clubs like Town, Forest and Derby had a genuine chance of winning the top division and in Europe. Sky and foreign ownership has screwed football forever and there is no going back now.
So far as Town are concerned I still have my season ticket but I go out of habit rather than expectation and certainly don't miss it on the odd occasion I can't make it.
McCarthy and his style of football coupled with his attitude has made me fall out of love with the game and unless he goes in June I will be another loss to the club.

PortmanTerrorist added 10:20 - Nov 9
Best piece have read for a while.

I have a 12 year old who has had a season ticket for 10 years now and only seen dross. A little earlier than expected we have moved to the North Stand this year, within touching distance of where i stood through the child-free Burley years, and something has changed.

Just being in the North has added spice and now a whole year of brainwashing is coming into play. The football is still utterly rubbish even when we win 3-0 (for sofa watchers - come to FPR if you don't believe me) but with or more likely, without MM i sense light at the end of this horribly long and dark tunnel.

Icantbelieveyousaidt added 12:28 - Nov 9
At the risk of sounding patronising Alice, may I say what a refreshing change it is to read an articulate blog that kept my interest all the way through. You should perhaps think of making storytelling a career or even challenge some of the diatribe dished out by todays so called journalists!!
Try though to 'keep the faith'!!

bobble added 07:25 - Nov 15
last time i went we were playing in the eufa cup and won it that year, seems like about 10 years ago or so but it couldnt be because i have children twice that age.....maybe 20 then.......

Bluedandy added 07:36 - Nov 15
A great read and your father was definitely onto something.

Following Ipswich Town neatly captures the tragic futility of human existence. On that level trips to Portman Road are so philosophically nourishing compared to the Premier League's theatres of material emptiness.

That said I often muse on the absurdity of investing so much time and energy (physical and mental) on Ipswich Town. Age regrettably has not withered this devotion, if anything it's more irrational than ever.

But when you consider that we perpetually spin, suspended in space, on a giant rock at roughly one thousand miles an hour in an orbital dance with a gargantuan sphere of hot gas it suddenly doesn't seem so daft after all.

Up the Town. Forever a Tractor Boy - in this life and the next.


Hullblue added 16:37 - Nov 15
This is really well done. Laughed out loud at 'retire...from life' and the line that followed it.

Keep writing!

MVBlue added 09:23 - Nov 17
An amusing read that was. The answer is yet, an entire generation of fans will be missing. You only have to read the forum threads of fathers taking their children, some of them cry because they're so bored. If the manager and team have the reputation of poor football then attendences and childrens attendence declines.

IamSpartacus added 10:48 - Nov 18
I fear, once you have the bug, you never really lose it... I've been utterly bored during the last 3 seasons with performances acting as Harry Potter's 'Dementors', draining all life and goodness from me.

Now, with the end of McCarthy in sight, young players impressing & a modicum of passing intent on the pitch, it has dragged some hope back into the equation.... for me, anyway.

Great read, majestically better and more thought through than the normal inance comments many others post to each story. It would be interesting if you did a running monthly update for the rest of the season,as the likelihood of a new manager approaches, to see if your views change at all.... to see if, for you, Pandora's Box was completely empty.
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