Written by TimS on Monday, 11th Mar 2013 09:26
No, this article is about something different other than the spluttering end of Town’s 2012/13 season.
I am not sure what can be said about a 0-0 against Peterborough on an unseasonably cold Saturday in early March. A point gained? Everything will count at the end of 4th May, and although it feels a bit uncomfortable for Town to be scrambling for points to stay in the Championship, (the CHAMPIONSHIP!) we have to accept that this is the reality at the time writing. It is frustrating. You can debate how Town got to this state but it is not traumatic, and trauma is what I want to talk about.
My friendly Oxford English Dictionary tells me that trauma is “emotional shock” of “physical injury; resulting shock.” You can find something “traumatic” or be “traumatised” and it is not hard to switch on a post match football phone in to hear about someone ranting away about his “trauma” at watching Town this season, or another wag talking about being traumatised after another Town match of inept wing play from the players in the blue shirts, but for me, trauma is a term associated with serious accidents resulting in medical treatment and examination on an operating table. Watching Town, or even football, however frustrating it may be, is not remotely traumatic.
However, in this world where every single football match is compared to the War on Terror, or the economic downturn in Western Europe, everyone seems to be lax with their language. In a month where Fergie felt too “traumatised” to talk to the press after the Nani red card against Real Madrid, and a teenage Manchester United fan rang the police to report this ‘crime’ being committed by the hapless referee, for the first time for a while, I am wondering whether I am really on the same planet as ‘planet football.’
For sure, I am convinced that most of you reading this article will have left a Town match feeling tremendously frustrated and depressed. However, there are still some matches that still play with your mind. Eighteen years have passed since 4th March 1995, and the 9-0 humiliation against Manchester United. Still sneered at by United fans who I meet out and about, I can still visualise the Grandstand videprinter dead bleeping away like a heart monitor to tell the world that it was:
Manchester United 9 (Nine) Ipswich Town 0
I guess that the (Nine) was to help people to truly believe that this score was not an early April Fools' joke. The cameras panned to a shocked Tony Gubba at Old Trafford who I am pretty sure did not entirely believe what he had just seen in front of him. I slumped in the chair in an adolescent mood and Dad threw the paper down in disgust. He was genuinely upset because he could remember those 1970s/1980s glory days. Had it really come to this?
Many years later, I found myself at the Old Trafford Museum and Tour Centre which had a TV where you could watch every single goal scored by United. For some reason which I can still not quite explain, I decided to watch each of those nine goals from 1995. Essentially I was watching an Ipswich Town Football Club version of The Exorcist. I could still not really believe what I was seeing, stopping young children from drooling over Wayne Rooney or Ryan Giggs. That day was certainly humiliating, embarrassing, very upsetting and it probably still resonates with Town fans of a certain age. Was it traumatic? No it wasn’t.
March 4th 1995 has not been repeated and I am sure that I am not the only Town fan to hope that one day, a team will win by ten goals to nil, and the wretched events of that Saturday afternoon will be consigned to a dusty vault, or landfill. The nearest equivalent, for me, to that day was Town’s 4-0 defeat by Bolton Wanderers on a sunny spring afternoon in 2002.
We all know that the 2001/02 season went wrong for so many reasons. However, whilst on academic placement in Preston, which is a town in Lancashire where the most exciting thing is the architecturally impressive bus station, I wanted to tick the Reebok Stadium off my ‘stadiums to visit list’.
High on the adrenalin of visiting a new place, seeing a new stadium, and high on coffee after taking part in a market research survey for new brands in the middle of Bolton earlier that day, the first half of the game and the Fredi Bobic master class hit me straight in the face.
After the game, a line of miserable Town fans were slumped on the opposite platform at Horwich Parkway station heading off somewhere south. I was heading back to Preston, wishing that I had gone to the Grand National instead.
At the time of writing, this remains the last Town Premiership game which I have seen live. After that game, I was certainly upset, angry and depressed because Town’s defence that day did not transfer from the team sheet to the pitch. Was I traumatised, and needing therapy? No. Life did move on.
So we arrive at Manchester United v Real Madrid on 5th March. A game that the Portuguese master of the understatement proclaimed in his Sermon on the Mount that the whole of the world would stop to watch.
Well, for those of you who were at the City Ground, or for me, travelling back home in the neon light splendour of a First Great Western train following a work trip, snared by a freight train out of Reading which did not seem to care that the greatest football match in the history of the world was being played out in Manchester or that Forest were slugging it out against Ipswich, we missed the message and the game.
I gather that Fergie was so traumatised by the Nani red card that he could not string a sentence together in front of the world’s media, due to his trauma.
For someone who is grovelled and regarded as a respected elder statesman in world football, his lack of speech for the newspapers and television really got to me. The use of the word “traumatised” really got to me.
In the wide scheme of things, the Nani red card was not an act worthy of the War Crimes Tribunal, and not the greatest act of treachery in football, since people thought that it would be a good idea to kick a pig's bladder around a bit of open space. There is this trauma and real ‘trauma’ and I assure you that there is a difference.
I appreciate that nothing will change with the language that people will use as they enjoy the game. In our crowded lives of demands and pressures, the need for football to play on our minds means that managers and players will move from trauma to heartbreak back to unreserved joy, often in the space of one forty five minute period.
I like emotion in football and passionless stadiums are truly soulless arenas. I like the fact that this particular Ipswich Town manager, at the time of writing, says that he hurts when he sees his team lose, but to compare football disappointment to trauma, and for this comparison to be meekly accepted by the media, has really got to me this week.
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