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Written by Slambo on Wednesday, 10th Jan 2018 18:45

As the latest episode of teeth gnashing and breast rending progresses we Ipswich Town supporters need to ask ourselves what kind of fan we want to be.

Times are tough right now. The weather’s cold. Feels like the coldest winter in ages. My left knee’s playing up. Just shelled out three and a half grand to get the external facing wall damp proofed. Oh yeah, and Ipswich are rubbish.

I’m not going to make any excuses. I think Mick McCarthy has performed admirably with very limited resources and a vocal number of our support continuously on his back. But his time is up. I’ve also argued in another blog entry that Ipswich’s misfortunes are only partially down to them and more to do with the extreme gulf between the haves and have-nots in modern football.

But although that will stop us ever reaching the giddy heights of yesteryear, it shouldn’t stop us having a season here and there in the top flight.

So things aren’t great. But I’m holding in there. I suspect fans of Swansea, Bournemouth, Brighton, Huddersfield and others that have seen their clubs climb from near oblivion to glory (well, relevance at least) have undergone the same existential crises.

Come April I’ll be renewing my season ticket, no questions asked. I dream of being that little owl Caacker, sat in the Britannia Stand, tartan blanket over his lap, gummily telling those around him “Yew fink ‘is is baaad..?! Oi woz comin here when McCaaarfy woz manager!” And it’s now that I implore my Ipswich bredren to think about the kind of fan you want to be.

I’m a teacher and am on the frontline in the battle against the greatest evil of our age. Rapacious neo-liberal capitalism? The rise of religious fundamentalism? Ed Sheeran? No. Glory Hunterism. Kids using the first person plural when bragging about Man U signing the latest galactico, or trouncing some mid-table nobodies 6-0. Who do you support, sir? And when I tell them Ipswich, I may as well tell them Hapoel Tel Aviv. But they’re rubbish sir!

Now how do I counter that? Because they are. But they won’t always be. When the DVD player has been booked out, or there’s an inspector visiting, I do actually try and teach them stuff. The thing is, the kids I teach do actually want to support their local team, but are put off by their outright mediocrity.

So I tell them this: you will always be from here, and this will always be your local team. You’ll never be a Manc or a Scouser or from Hertfordshire (or wherever Chelsea’s support buses in from). Imagine Ipswich is your best mate, I tell them. You’ve known him forever, he’s cool, interesting, a good laugh and cheers you up when you’re down.

Now imagine this best mate is going through a rough patch. There’s stuff going at home, or he's become seriously ill. Suddenly he’s down, he has mood swings, he might not be great company any more. What would you do? Abandon him? Find a friend who’s got it all going for them instead?

Well, Ipswich is my best mate and Ipswich needs me right now. I use this analogy because I’m alarmed at some of the language used in the criticism directed at recent performances. Fans openly saying that they won’t come back until the ‘product’ is better. Even worse, people saying how they’ve brought their kid but ‘shan’t be doing so again’ after an albeit insipid display.

What message does that send? That it’s OK to ditch your club when they’re down? That it’s OK to come swanning back through the turnstiles when everything’s rosy again? Some might suggest the only way to stimulate an upturn in fortunes is by sending a message to Marcus Evans (a sensible owner, not the despot people portray him as) by staying away. What club has that approach worked for? Certainly none of the ones I mentioned earlier in the blog.

My fellow Caackers, now’s the time to think about what kind of fan you want to be. Genuine supporters or idle consumers? Saturday will probably be unpleasant, but by The Giant Arse of Jaime Peters I’ll be there, singing my bruised heart out, waiting patiently for better days to come. And they will, and they will be that much sweeter when they do.

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monty_radio added 19:51 - Jan 10
I taught for many years, and lived through a rainbow of shirt-wearing: Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea - are there Man City colours in evidence now? Yours is a noble thought, but no shots on target when they could be shooting thousands on the hand-held device is a powerful disincentive. A* for the effort, though.

Ftnfwest added 20:51 - Jan 10
Valiant but ultimately misplaced. Unlike the glory seeking kiddies most town fans taking this course of action are ST holders of many many years standing who simply can’t or won’t stump up £500in advance anymore for the same old rubbish. I’m sure many still attend but now pick and choose games all of which doesn’t mean they don’t support the club anymore. Turning a glory seeking argument against town fans is for the large part pretty unlikely to hold water!

Slambo added 08:18 - Jan 11
monty_radio - yup, various Man City paraphernalia can be found! I ask them where they were when they were sh*t, and they respond with 'still a cluster of cells in my mum's womb, sir'. Kids are inherently selfish and are more interested in their own immediate gratification, so I get that they (apart from a few precocious souls) won't think too hard about Ipswich's predicament. And you have to let them mature at their own pace. But my concern is what message they get from their parents. As I said (and I know it's only anecdotal) i've seen several comments from people who've taken their kids to games, complain about the entertainment, then sign off with something like 'i'm not going to that again'; they've probably moaned throughout the game, then moaned all the way home, and that's the what the kid will associate with the club - negativity, boredom, ineptitude. Put a positive spin on it and encourage them to stick it out is the message I preach, don't just go in for vicarious success and instant gratification...

Ftnfwest - to be honest, it's those fans for whom I save the most ire. We've been poor, we've been good, we've been poor, we've been good...we're poor now, but we'll be good again. Longstanding season ticket holders should be the ones who most understand football's wheel of fortune! Personal circumstances change and that will affect regular attendance - I get that, but that's not my gripe. TWTD is littered with comments from people (and this is borne out in the slump of season ticket sales) who admit they don't go anymore because Ipswich are a bit rubbish. These same people presumably will stump any amount of many when (and I mean when!) Ipswich look like they'll go up again. That attitude I find indefensible...

As for the cost of the game, I'm going to risk alienating myself here. I paid £420 for my season ticket in the North lower, which averages at under 20 quid a game. Yes, it could - and should - be cheaper, but it's perfectly affordable for a working man. The view's not as good, you might hear the occasional swear word - hell, you may even hear the occasional chant! - but it's doable. Leeds fans, who have been through a hell of a lot more than we have and have to pay a lot more besides, manage to pack out their ground every week...

DurhamTownFan added 13:46 - Jan 12
Fair enough points, but don’t confuse loyalty to your club with blindly sucking up whatever rubbish ME serves at us next. We can and should retain our voices and our own expectations of the club whilst also going to games and putting up with the dross on show. I mean, always go if you can, but don’t just go for the sake of saying when you’re old that you’ve always been going. Go because you believe in going, but also don’t forget to raise a voice when things go badly!

NorthStand added 23:12 - Jan 12
I want all fans - not just ITFC fans to be thinking individuals. The average modern fan has a superficial, short term outlook and just wishes for a rich individual to come along, buy their club, spend huge money on players and get them to the top. This has resulted in a race to the bottom. I agree with you that Marcus Evans is not a despot. But can you honestly say we are a more dynamic and better run club than we were before he came along? As another blogger pointed out recently, it's not just our crowds that are sliding, ITFC is generating something like 2 million pounds less in commercial income each year than before. The game needs fans who are interested in what is actually going on within their club rather than just being obsessed with the next transfer window. Fans need to be informed and demand accountability.

Slambo added 19:51 - Jan 14
DurhamTownFan - yup, I absolutely agree. Supporting the club doesn't mean sitting on your hands while the club is run into the ground. My issue is exclusively with the fans who stay away because - by their own admission - they are not 'entertained' by the 'product', which, frankly, an excuse for Ipswich being rubbish. This isn't really what we're talking about, but if Towen were playing lovely football, but still mid table, such fans would STILL stay away. They can say otherwise, but they don't convince me one iota...

NorthStand - I wasn't really talking about the pros and cons of Evans tenure as owner. For what it's worth, I think his era thus far has been distinctly underwhelming, but it could be considerably worse. And yeah, our fans should be informed and demand accountability, but that doesn't mean abandoning the club wholesale as too many have...

Kitman added 15:32 - Jan 17
Picture this: I recall the year would have been 1977. Mid week league fixture, opposition Manchester United. In the home support section of course, North Stand. United won 2-1 with a smash and grab victory. No way they should have blagged all the points on the run of play but they did. I really couldn't believe the comments heard round about me towards the end of that game when it was clear that Town would never score if they played to after midnight. If I had a tenner for every comment I heard: "that's it- oi int cummin n'more. or bl**dy rubbish Town, etc etc". I'd had been quite well off then. Point is, it doesn't take much for thee Town's support to wane. If it was that bad in the Sir Bobby era on a one off, poor result- when everything was just about as good as it gets, what chance do we have now for fan satisfaction...?

NorthStand added 06:16 - Jan 18
Kitman, I was not moaning about performances on the field nor am I saying it is right for fans to stay away just because the team is not performing to expectations. I was making a wider point about fans' lack of interest when it comes to the wider picture about the way clubs are being run. In any case, I could not have been at the midweek league match in 1977 against Mancester United because it did not take place. We beat Manchester United in the league that year. And as far as I know we did not have any midweek league clashes against them in the mid 1970's or since.


Kitman added 08:59 - Jan 18
Fair point NS and there was a 1-2 loss to United in the 77/78 season. On reflection, it could well have been a Saturday fixture. ...

rfretwell added 17:50 - Jan 22
Good blog Slambo, your school pupils are lucky to have you as their teacher with your positive outlook. I coach sports down here in Chelsea territory and make a point of bringing the Town into conversation when my pupils start going on about Chelski. Few of them have ever seen a live match even poor things!
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