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Pre-Derby Hope and Hype
Written by TimS on Wednesday, 14th Feb 2018 23:56

I hate the phrase 'Old Farm derby'. There are plenty of patronising phrases that have, and are still thrown at me when I talk about our club, but the 'Old Farm derby' degenerates our derby into nothing more than a Country Show debate over who has the biggest tractor. Quaint, sweet but slightly pathetic, not understood by anyone outside East Anglia.

There are two other questions that frustrate me when it comes to talking about our club.

When you identify yourself as Town fan to a person of a certain vintage, you can not offer any response to the comment "Oh you are an Ipswich fan. They had a great team once!"

Yes, I know they did but being born in 1980 I cannot remember the team. I also know that I can not compare the club vintage of that golden era with this team circa 2018 and this season which is realistically going to finish next Sunday around 2pm as Town finish somewhere between 10th and 17th in the Championship. I just become meekly silent. What else can I honestly say?

There is also the increasingly regularly heard comment which goes something on the lines of, "Tim. Just accept that we are just a mid-table Championship club. We do not have any money compared to the big boys. Just accept our umpteenth season in the Championship. Be careful what you wish for."

Listening to that statement is similar to listening to someone scraping their nails down a blackboard. A club with no ambition is no football club, but there are limits to stretching reality.

We enter the second derby weekend in the season with a real (and familiar) sense of drift down at Portman Road. I desperately want to believe Cole Skuse's belief that the play-off push may be back on track. I want to stand shoulder to shoulder with Cole because I can drown in hype along with the best of them. I dearly want our younger fans to enjoy Premier League football in a way that I did all those years ago.

However, it feels like Skuse is one of our own reading from a press release from the club's marketing department. A bit of pre-derby hype which is good for the papers and our local radio (because the days of our derby occupying many column inches of the national media are long gone). Is anyone taking this sort of stuff with any seriousness?

Just over a year ago, I was so angry after the Lincoln FA Cup that I wrote to the managing director of our club, telling him in no uncertain terms what I thought had gone wrong with Ipswich Town Football Club. It was a long letter but it made me feel good when I posted it. A lot of pent up anger sprayed out of my keyboard that Wednesday evening. Yes, I know that the football had not (and has still not) been great for too many seasons now, but I talked about the need for a bit more genuine optimism, more presence in the town, a club for Ipswich and a club for Suffolk.

I did get a reply which was a surprise in itself and it was not quite as patronising as I thought. However, it offered me nothing of hope and it is of little surprise that we are in roughly the same situation in 2018 as we were in 2017.

Part two of my rant was dispatched to a slightly nervous club official as I brought a cut-price training top at last year's Suffolk Show. I was listened to with politeness. I was tolerated and treated a bit like a child with a bruised toe; a "don't worry, rub it better, be a big boy," attitude with a subtle wish to get out of the tent so the club could flog more cut-price merchandise

I may be enjoying my cut-price training top but I hate to see my club like this; a divide between the club and their fans as wide, or even wider, as the River Orwell. What is our club leadership doing about this? What is a Supporters Club doing about this? Making things better constitutes something more than putting some barriers around half of the training pitch and calling this space a 'FanZone'.

What is made slightly worse is that our 'friends' up the A140 seem to do things so much better. For good or for bad, I am from one of those families straddling the Norfolk/Suffolk border with older family members previously watching their football at Carrow Road and Portman Road. Norwich has been the very irritating enemy to me, but I would wager that until very recently, City marketed themselves so much better than us. Regardless of Premier League football or not, local Norfolk people talked, and still talk about Norwich City Football Club.

Some of my family were born and raised in Gorleston, and when you walk around Gorleston beach, or walk down Regent Road in Yarmouth, or Cromer, Norwich or Diss, it is not hard to pick up talk about Norwich City Football Club.

Come to Ipswich. Drive in from Asda down the Norwich Road, or from Lowestoft on the Woodbridge Road. Walk around the town centre. Unless you head south of the Cornhill where you will physically see Portman Road, you would struggle to believe there was a football club in Ipswich. No one talks about the club. No one seems to believe in the club. It seems that many of us are preparing for another round of visits to places like St Andrew's, Oakwell, The New Den or Deepdale next season.

The town trundles along day-after-day. Shops close. Shops open. People sit in jams when the Orwell Bridge shuts due to a gust of wind. There is a 'mustn't grumble' attitude, whilst Portman Road sits generally eerily silent throughout the week.

Civic Drive acts like the Berlin Wall between the Town and the club. In my proud letter to Mr Milne last year, I suggested that the club might want to move to the A14/ A140 junction near Barham. At least you could get some atmosphere from the nearby dual carriageway. We could also benefit from good transport links. I might have firmly placed my tongue in my cheek, but I was writing with sadness. Nothing much seems to have changed this year.

So if you are going to the 'Old Farm derby' on Sunday (or whatever you call it), then good luck to you. Talk about the great derby wins of the past. Talk about the great Town teams of the past if you remember them.

I hope we win. I hope that we win well at Carrow Road. I hope that it is better game than last October, where I felt that I was watching football in a morgue whilst a group of distant 'angels' were singing On the Ball City. I hope that the season has not ended by next Monday.

I hope that Cole Skuse earnestly believes that we are still in the race for the Premier League. However, I can not cope with this proud club drifting under our anonymous owner because people's will can only stretch so far. For many people, I suspect the will has been broken and needs repairing.

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munstermanagement added 01:39 - Feb 15
Good post. The club does appear to have lost its community connection with the Town, particularly with kids. Who wants to see Ipswich hold on to a nil-nil against (no disrespect to Burton), a good League One side at best? They need to act quickly before it's too late and the younger kids are all Man City/Arsenal supporters.
I was also born in 1980 and though I don't remember the Robson era, we did have our brief moment in the early 2000s during which the town felt at one with the club. I remember when we were playing live on TV you'd stuggle to find a pub to watch it when it wasn't dammed. My last visit to McGinties last year for the derby game and it was practically empty.
Sad times but difficult to know how it can be fixed.

SouperJim added 12:50 - Feb 15
The single biggest thing the club can do to make itself relevant again is to start entertaining the fans again on a regular basis.

Over to you Marcus. I won't hold my breath.

andygri added 15:31 - Feb 15
Very enjoyable article, really liked it. I used to visit my grandparents in Upper Layham back in the 80's and 90's. Everyone in the village talked about Town, even those who had no interest in football. Most of them knew some of the players. I doubt it's the same now. Very sad.

Northstandveteran added 11:06 - Feb 16
👏👏👏 A well written piece.
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