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This is Where I Came In
Written by LegendRay on Wednesday, 24th Apr 2019 15:33

If you’re old enough to remember where this saying came from, you can probably remember Town playing in the third tier!

In old times cinemas (like the Picture House or Gaumont in the 50s and 60s), an A and B film (and Pathe News) were left running continuously all day; you could go in and come out at any time.

So often, you’d arrive half way through one film, sit through that half and the others, and then leave at the point you came in, uttering the time-honoured phrase.

It didn’t seem to matter that you saw the two halves in wrong order.
I also recall the very early days of Anglia TV when an episode of Rawhide (debut for Clint Eastwood) was followed by an announcement : ‘we’re sorry we ran Part 2, then Part 3, then Part 1; ……we hope this didn’t spoil your enjoyment of the programme’
Perhaps we were more easily pleased in those days!

Anyway, back to football and where I came in. February 23rd 1957 at Portman Road, in the Third Division South. This was the third tier (and the lowest tier) split into North and South to making travel costs for away matches easier.

One team was promoted from each of the two regional third divisions – nothing for second, and of course no play-offs. The bottom teams from each division ‘applied for re-election’, which meant the chairmen of all their fellow clubs had to decide whether to throw them out; funnily enough (with a fear of what might happen to them next season) they very rarely did!

Records (including The Men Who Made the Town by John Eastwood and Tony Moyse) show that me and my dad were part of a 13,548 crowd. I recall sitting on wooden seats in the old East Stand, (the only stand where there were any seats) only until the real occupant came along and I was hoisted into my dad’s lap; he’d only bought one ticket - ‘lad’s been warming it for you’. I was eight years old.

The magic of that day, the lustrous green turf, the clamour of the people, the noise, the colour, the aroma of cigarettes, set me up for the next 63 years of following the Town.

Not a bad start as we won 5-0, scoring the first after just 10 seconds. Being only eight, my most vivid memory is of the Newport goalkeeper, Len Weare, having mud removed from his eye!

It was Sir Alf’s second season as manager and turned out to be very significant. In the early stages, Norwich were top and we were bottom (sound familiar!). But by the end the positions had been reversed! (one day again!) .

We did the double on them, and scored four or more on 13 occasions that season. The late great Ted Phillips was just coming into his pomp and scored 46 times that season in league and cup – more than the whole team these days.

Promotion was dramatic. We had to beat Southampton away and hope that Torquay wouldn’t win; then we’d get that one promotion place on goal average. There was no way of keeping in touch with results – no radio coverage, text, nothing until the newspaper the next day….unless….in our case, Dad knew someone at the Ipswich phone exchange (that’s where they used to stick cables into holes in the wall to connect calls) who eavesdropped on the press lines and rang him with the good news!

Two other major markers for the future happened that season:
Town reserves were doubled over Easter by Portsmouth Reserves, 7-3 at home and 4-0 away; seven of Portsmouth’s goals were scored by a certain Ray Crawford, my childhood hero and Town legend (see my username). I think Alf must have been watching.

And Alastair Cobbold handed over the chairman’s role to his cousin John Cobbold, then only 29, but already well known in the brewing trade (!), and soon to be well known in football circles... but that’s a further story.

So, as well as basking in nostalgia, what else can memories do for us to give an uplift at times like these?

Hope: no-one in the world could have imagined in February 1957 that in four years' time I’d be running round the pitch with the players celebrating promotion to the First Division… and then one year later in April 1962... come on, you’re kidding me!

Loyalty: however many years you’ve experienced the many ups and downs of ITFC, the club needs the permanence of the fans more than the transitory players

Heartland: as Paul Lambert has said many times, ITFC is an integral part of the town, not part of some international money-go-round. The third tier has a lot of those sort of clubs, many existing in towns that are struggling economically compared to Ipswich, with grounds and standing only terracing to match.

Heartlands of their communities and of what the real Football League is about. A very different experience to ‘the European tour’ indeed, but one where the experience teach us a thing or two (but hopefully not over too many seasons!).

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EdwardStone added 16:13 - Apr 24
Excellent Blog.... thank you

A timely reminder that life ( and football ) are cyclical

Being relegated is still heart-breaking

PJH added 16:36 - Apr 24
Excellent thank you.

Although my earliest ITFC memory goes back to 1954 or 1955 I have no specific memory of games in the Third Division although I might have also been there that day in February 1957(aged 6!).

I do however have very vivid memories of what followed at the beginning of the 1960's and beyond though.

armchaircritic59 added 23:23 - Apr 24
Ah yes memories indeed. Unfortunately i missed the "Champions of League One" season by one year, not attending till the following season, aged 8 with my parents in the old East Stand. As you say, lots of wood and plenty of smokers. God only knows what H&S would make of it these days! Indeed, i well remember a lady in the row in front of us who seemed to have a permanent cigarette dangling from one corner of her mouth. My parents affectionally named her "fag ash Lil"!

I believe what Alf (not yet a sir!) and his team achieved over a few seasons was incredible. There's not a cat in hells chance of anyone repeating that feat today.

So, we do have form in the "third division", though it comes from a long while ago! I'm cautiously optimistic . I think PL has done a great job off the field of play, but has yet to prove himself on it. All the good will he's built up with quite a lot of the fans (not everyone of course), needs to be built on with a good start to next season, or else i fear that will gradually melt away. I'm going to judge him after his first pre-season and around a third of the season proper. i expect others will have different ideas, and some, i think have already judged!

Whatever, i wish him and the team a successful season, and remember the spirit of Sir Alf! It would be great to see the smiles back at Portman Road!

ChrisFelix added 10:54 - Apr 25
Thank you for a brilliant read. Sadly times have changed to the beautiful once sky & the like introduced big money into the sport. Football in the 60 70 & 80s was so much more enjoyable for the fans of Ipswich, Nothampton, Carlisle & Luton

TR11BLU added 14:15 - Apr 25
Excellent blog, thank you 'Ray' for some perspective.

Yes times have changed and yes money has changed the landscape but we still have the 'Hope'. It will kill us, but until it does I will believe in the improbable.

Onwards and upwards.

awayfan added 10:37 - Apr 26
“The magic of that day, the lustrous green turf, the clamour of the people, the noise, the colour, the aroma of cigarettes, set me up for the next 63 years of following the Town.”

Wonderful. I really enjoyed this lovely blog.

ElephantintheRoom added 09:23 - Apr 27
Wonderful stuff - had me reaching for my rose-tinted specs. You started watching a few couple of years before me - but I remember travelling to Ipswich in a goods wagon, watching Laramie and Rawhide whilst waiting for the Green 'unto drop through the letterbox and seeing players cycling to the ground. Town had an identity back then and alas it is long gone. It's difficult to get as misty eyed over the future when the club is based in an unknown tax haven rather than deep roots in the Tolly Cobbold brewery. I'm not sure fans are permanent - they come and go - and always have done. There were thirteen thousand back then and thirty thousand in the ground for some cup epics in the Robson era - and nowadays? Nobody knows because of the obsession with season tickets and the strange practice of counting empty seats as paying spectators. But until someone 'in the Far East on business' cottons on to the fact that most fans have no desire or ability to go to every game I think crowds will continue to decline whilst matchday tickets are so expensive and parking is so difficult. As another blog points out the Sir Alf miracle can indeed be replicated elsewhere in just as unlikely circumstances. But only at a football club. Has any club gone down and prospered under predatory (or being charitable, utterly clueless) ownership? I dont think so.

EatonBlue added 19:51 - Apr 27
Excellent Blog thank you LegendRay. I first visited Portman Road about 5 years after you but I can identify with your comments.
Anyone know where we can find another Ray Crawford?

greenkingtone added 10:18 - Apr 30
Thanks Ray for reminding me of Len Weare. He was a painter and decorator who played for Newport for many years. Before he came to the club, we had lost heavily in the League South. Charlie Turner was in goal then, and I remember the BBC announcing Newcastle United 13 I repeat 13! Newport County nil. Jackie MIllburn scored four on his debut. Charlie cried on the train going home. Later in the third south we lost 11 nil at Notts County. Tommy Lawton and Jackie Sewell did the damage.

statesideblue added 20:35 - May 10
I was there that day as well! I remember that the Newport keeper being knocked unconscious trying a save a pile-driver from Ted Phillips. If only he was still up front for us!

LegendRay added 13:58 - May 14
Thanks for the responses, kind comments (inspires me to write more blogs!), views on the present situation, and shared memories of the past.
Greenkingtone sounds like a Newport supporter as well, or a past player?
Yes, if only we still had a combination like Ted Phillips and Ray Crawford up front!
Don't know where we can find another Ray, EatonBlue, but I do know where to find the original - fit and well and full of life but sadly not pulling his football boots on anymore!
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