Written by TimS on Tuesday, 26th Aug 2014 10:05
For the first time for a while, I had the chance to go to last Saturday’s derby. I had been at home for the week and it would have been natural to head to Portman Road for a fixture that has given so many memories down the years. I did not go. I could not quite bring myself to buy the ticket, and I felt awful. Things had changed.
I found myself a Woodbridge pub to watch the game. It had taken a while to find a pub that was prepared to show the match. My Dad and I had been forced to cross the town streets full of Saturday lunchtime shoppers, oblivious to the fact that the local derby was about to start.
In the pub, a few sturdy souls had gathered around the two TVs. After an initial period of anticipation, the dangerously excited Sky commentator voice bounced off the walls as the drinking public sat comatose for 90 minutes. There was an odd sigh of frustration. There were no cheers. Ninety minutes elapsed and everyone then left. That was that. A wedding party took over.
To be honest, I was glad that I did not spend the money on a ticket. I still felt guilty about not being at the game in person. I do believe that football is best watched in the ground rather than via a TV screen, but at least, I still had 30 quid still in my back pocket. It had been a derby match that had failed to stir much emotion.
Later that evening, I was watching Tipping Point on ITV1, and found that game show to be much more exciting as comedian Jo Brand tried to win the money for charity. Discs falling through an amusement machine caught my attention more than a Town attack? Something must be wrong somewhere.
The local paper calls it apathy and Groundhog Day. My birthday is actually Groundhog Day in the celebrated Bill Murray film so I would not complain about the latter description, but I despair about the apathy surrounding this fine football club at the moment.
Managers may come and go. Players may kiss the badge after one game and then wangle a move after two more matches. Chairmen might open their pockets one moment and then sell up. However, apathy is difficult to shift. Like algae or Japanese knot weed, apathy could strangle the life out of Ipswich Town unlike any transfer or managerial sacking could.
Apathy could be tackled on the pitch. There is so much that I would change on the pitch from formation, tactics to players. My grumbles about the lack of any coherent passing game from Town lit up a post-match stroll along Woodbridge quay. The defensive lapse for Norwich’s goal was embarrassing.
As I talked to my father, a veteran of the Bobby Robson era, I wondered whether the games that he saw at Portman Road in the seventies, ever took place. He had been to many rumbustious derbies. How would the August 2014 game compare? I did not bother to ask the question.
However, apathy could be tackled off the pitch too. 25,245 fans attended the Norwich game, 17,218 fans attended the Fulham game. The derby attracted a group of Town fans that bumped up the attendance to a level, surely not seen for many a year.
These extra fans were served with tepid and dreary trash, so how will the Town hierarchy ensure that they come back for Millwall on Saturday 13th September? Any special deals at the time of writing, available on the website? No.
How will Town ensure that the fans might jump at the chance of coming to Portman Road for a Tuesday night game against Brighton and Hove Albion on 16th September? Any special deals at the time of writing, available on the website? No. And if I make a last minute decision and decide that I fancy coming to Portman Road, on the day of the game? I pay a higher price. What other leisure activity has such a pricing system?
I appreciate that 48 hours have only elapsed since the match. A Bank Holiday weekend has gone, but there seems to be no attempt, from my perspective, to try and get fans, who may have taken a cursory glance at Town last weekend, to come to another game. There seems to be not a lot of effort to fill up Portman Road with any off the pitch work.
If nothing changes, I would love to know how many people will turn up to the home game against Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday 10th February. It is often cold around that time of the year. If it is a cold and snowy Tuesday night, will it be the case of the last person leaving the building, turning off the lights?
I used to think that attending a football game, which did not involve a Town side, was morally wrong. I got over that. Not attending last weekend’s derby match, has also made me feel that I have let down the club that has been supported by family for the last 40 years. I may get over that, and look back at this article, as the ultimate low point in my relationship with this club. After all, supporting Ipswich Town Football Club has never been easy.
However, I am concerned that apathy could cause Town to turn into a shell of a club. This disease needs to be tackled throughout the club.
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