|[Blog] Goodbye to the Noughties |
Written by TimS on Monday, 21st Dec 2009 11:27
I cannot believe that it is nearly 10 years since I celebrated Christmas 1999 with a home game versus Stockport. In the build-up to Millennium Eve, it was difficult to persuade a good friend that a trip to Portman Road on a cold Bank Holiday Tuesday afternoon was worth the money.
rytext">This blog has been submitted by TimS. To view more from this author click here. TWTD blogs are added by site users unedited by the admins. Want to become a TWTD blogger? Simply send us your first article via the Contact Us page. Ten years have passed and I remain unsure whether that Nationwide Division One showdown between Town and Stockport was worth the effort of getting up from the sofa, away from the mince pies, turkey leftovers, the hell of the post-Christmas sales or an afternoon movie. I cannot remember much about the action but I blame the amnesia on a post-Christmas late teenage haze.
However, I do know that this game involved my first ever trip into the Churchmans Stand. Until that game, I had been a strict Pioneer Stand man but I wanted a change. The friend and myself were sitting directly behind the goal nets with the hope that there would be an Evening Star photograph of our emotional goal celebration in the Wednesday morning papers. In those days, we were obsessed with getting onto the Anglia TV sports round-up or in the local newspapers.
The history books talk about an open game with lots of exciting chances, but the action against Stockport did not seem to register with us. We were caught up in a mixture of play-off fever and breathless preparation for our trip to London for Millennium Eve. It was a game that came and went like many in the subsequent ten years.
The jury is surely out whether this decade was one of progress for Town and I am unsure whether there can be a celebratory DVD which can be cut from the off and on the pitch action. I would suggest that the first full season of this decade defined the next nine years in a positive and a negative way. There was the trip to Wembley in May 2000. A trip up the Wembley Way on that bright Bank Holiday Monday lunchtime made me feel that this was my time to have a moment in the sun.
For years, I had been forced to watch the 1978 FA Cup videos and orange-tinged footage of Town fans in brown flares, tank tops and big blue and white rosettes, and being told about the glory years from every relative who was there in the seventies. I felt that the 2000/01 season was my generation’s chance to enjoy a bit of success that our parents and grandparents enjoyed in the earlier decades. Whilst living up in the north-west of England during the 2000/01 season, I took advantage of catching Town at the great Premiership grounds across the Granada region.
My greatest game of the decade was at Anfield on Sunday 10th December 2000 when Marcus Stewart’s goal sent the Kop into deathly silence. I had never believed that Town would have got anything from Anfield, and I was hysterical at the final whistle. The world turned into a blur. Town had beaten one of the world’s legendary football teams on their own patch in Merseyside. I spent the return journey in a first class carriage continually screaming and haranguing a scared young train passenger about how my Town were going to break into the Champions League. My friends were corpsing with laughter.
Season two in the Premier League was less exciting and the consequences are still being felt at the club. Two home games against Derby and Sunderland stick in my mind for good reasons but the new North Stand opened in the winter rain against Bolton. Due to the lack of a roof for the new North Stand, I was clad in a special (and probably one-off) Ipswich Town poncho, which did not really do what it said on the packet.
The miserable action on that dank Sunday afternoon caused my mind to drift away to university study for the first ever time at Portman Road. The game stuttered to a 2-1 defeat and a miserable cameo by Ulrich Le Pen. For the first time throughout the season, I had to cope with this idea which was constantly trotted out in the local media that Town were just unlucky and it was just a case of luck to help Town up the table. Luck never came during that season and blame was apportioned to a range of people from the chairman down to the youngest youth player.
Luck was not the case in the return leg at the Reebok Stadium in April 2002. I opted to ‘enjoy’ a 4-1 defeat at the hands of a Bolton side and the artistry of Freddie Bobic, over the chance of tickets to the Grand National at Aintree. For not the first time in the decade, whilst standing on the windswept platforms of Horwich Parkway station, I realised that I chosen the wrong option to catch Town on a Saturday afternoon instead of another activity.
The Burley Years ended soon afterwards. After years of persuasion, I had managed to convince my sceptical sister that football was worth a try on a Saturday afternoon. She was going through a period when she wanted to align herself with Ipswich Town Football Club as a statement of her Suffolk identity. We chose the home game against Derby on 28th September 2002. It was Burley’s last home game as Ipswich manager, and it was insipid stuff. Seven years have passed and she is yet to return to another Ipswich game.
My relationship with Town began to change around 2002. Living away from Suffolk for long periods of time meant that regular trips to Portman Road were out of the question, and I was watching away action across the UK and especially in the Midlands. Being away from the region kept me away from the virtual financial meltdown of the club around 2003. I guess that no one will ever know how Ipswich Town Football Club came to ending up in the football club crematorium alongside the grave of Bradford Park Avenue.
History has looked more kindly on Joe Royle’s management of Town. Maybe some fans took our two play-off positions as the least expected for a team that was believed to be a Premiership outfit in all but name. However, these achievements were remarkable considering the state of the club on and off the pitch. There were some great games during those years and great trips across the UK to catch Town in action. Home games against Sunderland and West Brom around 2004 stick in my mind for atmosphere and action.
Low points came at Turf Moor against Burnley in February 2004 when I spent the first half of a 4-2 defeat in the toilets due to a dodgy meat and potato pie, and the 2005 play-off defeat. Whilst watching the game in a local Leicester pub, a vicious row broke out between a member of our party and the landlord, and one girl tried to cheer me up with that night’s episode of Celebrity Love Island which followed the game. I learnt that rubbish reality TV never works when your team has lost in the play-offs.
I began to recognise that the 2000 play-off final experience may not be repeated for a while during the summer of 2005 when the exodus of players seemed to shock even the most level-headed of supporters at Portman Road. It seemed that some of the best players were heading out of the team for the sake of financial reasons, and there was nothing that the fans could do about it.
The replacements tried their best but a depressing afternoon at Luton on April Fool’s Day in 2006, told me that the club was sinking into mid-table. Kenilworth Road was the most bizarre ground that I ever visited during the decade. The ground had some atmosphere and I appreciate that I am not the shortest of people, but it was uncomfortable to spend 90 minutes in a near foetal position with someone’s back virtually in my chest.
My own personal jury is out on the Jim Magilton years, and it is too early to comment on the Roy Keane tenure. The Marcus Evans money has taken the club into uncharted waters. Some fans are still psyched up for the journey that they hope will end in the Premiership, whilst some supporters are struggling to cope with the idea that Town are not the outfit on and off the pitch that was anything like the club in 1978, 1981, or even in 1999 when I was enjoying that game against Stockport.
On some days, I struggle to accept that the club has changed from the Bobby Robson years. On some days, I am excited for this new dawn that everyone has been promising since the Marcus Evans money rolled in and Keane became manager in April 2009.
2009 has been defined by the death of Sir Bobby in the summer. Watching from the vacuous warehouse of a Birmingham sports bar on the 26th September, my male pride just about managed the hold back the tears from my friends whilst fellow Town fans were singing My Way around Portman Road.
These conflicting emotions about the past and the present will probably continue for the next decade. However, it will be a brave man to guess what will be Ipswich Town Football Club on Saturday 28th December 2019. Will we be playing Stockport again as the 2020s begin?
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