Saturday, September 30, 2017

25 Years On

A special evening.
In a corner of the ECG, in front of the flats at the Hayes Close End, are some ladies toilets. For reasons long since forgotten, these have become affectionately known as 'Nasser's Loos'. The steps leading up to 'Nasser's Loos' are rotten and, despite them being in this state for a number of years, have never been fixed. Some seats in the ground are covered in dirt and cobwebs - we've often joked about cleaning for our memberships - and the place where Tendo smashed a six into the media hut is still visible due to the fact the polyfilla has never been painted over.

And there's something deeply comforting about all these things. You can visit a Test ground on a county day and you will be greeted by swathes of empty seats and, in the case of some international grounds (coughhampshirecough), some fairly soulless surroundings. Walking into the ECG via the steep path and past the street art of the underpass of the River Gate, you're greeted by a shed. No fancy turnstiles, just a shed. Here, you scan your membership card/ticket, something that only came in at Chelmsford a couple of years ago. And it's as you walk past this shed that you get a sense of 'home'.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ipswich Town: A Tragic Romance

"You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half."

There are many excellent things out there about Ipswich Town's current plight but I guess I'm writing this in answer to a question that my brother asked me about my midweek expedition to Lincoln City. "Why did you go?"

The answer? I don't really know. As I said in a message to my friend after I got home, "I knew it'd happen. I could've stayed at home, had a decent night's sleep but no, I went. And watched that shower of utter shite." At least I can be comforted by the fact the rest of the nation witnessed, and had to suffer 90 minutes of, my pain as well.

As soon as Lincoln's winner went in, that was it. The crowd, who'd already been pretty glum from before kick-off at the mere mention of the dreaded Skuglas partnership, turned. Anger and heartbreak was directed at anyone on the pitch wearing the blue shirt, the source of pride to all in that away end. I've only ever cried once over a football match. Once, in the nearly seventeen years of supporting this bloody football club.

Let me paint the scene - it's a Wednesday. Wednesday 18th May 2005. Ipswich Town are in a play-off semi-final second leg at Portman Road. The opposition is West Ham. After finishing third in the league, coming cancelling out a two goal deficit at Upton Park to make it 2-2 on aggregate... Well, you know, or can at least figure out, the rest of what happened on that Wednesday night in May. 

It's a date I think about a lot in relation to the current state of Town. Another is when Marcus Evans took over. Another is when Jim Magilton was sacked and the family club I grew up supporting suddenly became something I didn't recognise anymore. We appointed Roy Keane, clearly in the hope of getting some publicity rather than promotion. He took us to a League Cup semi-final and then was gone, to be replaced by Paul Jewell. 

I, rather luckily I guess, experienced most of these years from afar, cast off at university in the wilderness of the north west. But those years have blurred into one long grim package, rather like this current season. We lunge, clumsily, from one game to another: one week playing like a team of strangers, the next stringing some passes together, the next remembering what a shot on target is and treating everyone to a couple of them. But most of the time we look like we are dial up in a world of fibre optics.

Last night, my football club, the one I have 'passionately' supported since I was 8 years old, died a death on national television. My beloved football club became a laughing stock (well, even more so) as we lost to a side 59 places below us in the football ladder. My beloved football club showed, on national primetime television, that it has stagnated and may as well be that rotting piece of apple you find stuck to the base of your bin. It's dying a slow death in the Championship and, if things don't change, will continue on a downward decline. The Championship's not going to remain 'Ipswich and Friends' forever, and that's definitely not because we're getting promoted.

Anyway, as I said, there are excellent pieces out there about Ipswich Town's current state, and this post isn't really to address those issues. I'm not really sure what this piece is, but I'll go back to another earlier point, I've only ever cried once at football. But last night, after that final whistle went and I walked away from the Sincil Bank, I felt like crying over this sport again. The result at Portman Road, and manner of it, against Lincoln had left me with a thundercloud over my head for much of that weekend. Last night at the replay, it left me broken.

I have spent seventeen years of my life pouring my heart and soul into following this football club. I have missed rehearsals, birthday parties and god knows what else, all to follow Ipswich Town across the country. Football, to me, sadly, is a way of life. In fact, given that I don't have much else going for me, it is my life. And to have something so beloved to me not try and not look like they even care, is utterly heartbreaking.

I want to watch an Ipswich Town side giving youngsters a chance. I want an Ipswich Town side passing freely, having some attacking intent. I want Ipswich Town to be a part of the community again, being the affordable family club that so many of us fell in love with. 

I want the joy, happiness and pride to come back.

I want my Ipswich back.