|From Nothing to Something - And Back Again?|
Written by monty_radio on Tuesday, 21st Mar 2017 12:56
On the diamond jubilee of the rise of Ipswich Town from the old Third Division (South) we tremble on the edge of the abyss into which Coventry City have already fallen and have not yet hit the bottom.
There are certainly many Town fans who remember those days - how we rose once, in 1954, only to fail at our current level. But then Sir Alf took the club back up, and then, further than anyone could imagine, beyond the great achievement of Leicester when our stature at that time is taken into account.
Town had come late to the professional party in 1936, clocking up one full season in the Football League before the advent of war. In our 17th season we became champions of all England. After a quiet decade Sir Bobby took us to two second places in the top tier, three third places, two fourth places, two sixth places, an FA Cup win and a UEFA Cup. Forget Wimbledon, Coventry and definitely the Participants up the road - ours is the history of dreams.
At times more than a quarter of the population-size of the town itself was crammed into Portman Road to witness the entry of the gladiators. As modern managers never tire of telling us: wins bring watchers.
After the war, and the resumption of football, it was not until our first promotion to the old second division in 1953/54 that attendances climbed to the sort of regular figure we have grown accustomed to at the moment.
Even across that great 25-year period from Ramsey to Robson there were extended troughs, especially in regard to attendance. After the Ramsey years, in a period such as the mid-sixties when fortunes declined steadily having returned to the second tier, and there seemed small hope of improvement when for the next three seasons we failed to mount a challenge, there were more than 40 home league games when the attendance dipped below 14,000, and five games watched by fewer than 10,000.
And all this took place when you could bus to the ground, watch the game, buy a programme, have a Bovril and a bag of chips on the way home, all for a quid, and a season ticket to Man Utd could be had for less than a tenner. In other words, very few were kept at home by the cost of the event.
Today we look back over a 15-year desert, and the attendances reflect that. Not only so, but many more attractions and distractions lie at hand. Casual attenders resist throwing a leg at the next fixture when the arm for the preceding game cost them so much discomfort and boredom. The 1.5 per cent is indeed small, but the 101.5 per cent, for some, is no trivial consideration.
When there is no plan, only platitude, no attacking pleasure beyond the press of 'wingers' unacquainted with the chalk of the touchline; when there is such a massive disconnect between club and town; when 15th-placed investment brings you... well, 15th place, then many will gamble no more - 'when the fun stops, stop!' to borrow a phrase.
We came from nowhere to greatness. A fickle world has already passed on to the Premier so that our great triumphs are only recorded in our own parish records while national stats begin with Sky.
Our management team is managing something, but it's not us, not our club. There is no reason why Ipswich Town may not be returning to that great primordial swamp from which great men like the Cobbolds, Ramseys and Robsons dragged us - unless other great men take up the mantle.
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