Written by LegendRay on Wednesday, 22nd May 2019 18:00
There was quite a groundswell of opinion that no annual awards should have been given after a season like that. Except perhaps for one award that doesn’t have a category… the award for the supporters!
Has there ever been a relegated team applauded so loudly? The ovation at the end of the Birmingham match showed the heart and soul of Portman Road.
Paul Lambert stood genuinely amazed at the positive support, home and away, for his struggling team.
Is it proof that Town fans really do appreciate style of play, commitment and pride in wearing the shirt more than results themselves?
And now, in the spirit of the age, we are prepared to share those feelings!
It was not always so. In the sixties and seventies, I remember Portman Road being quoted as the ground you can take your granny to; no excessive noise and excitement on the terraces to disturb her!
The spectators were a knowledgeable crowd who watched and observed in a rather laconic way. There was sometimes more noise greeting a Norwich loss on the half-time scores than there was for a Town goal. I recall the great Sir Bobby Robson wondering ‘What does it take to get this crowd excited?’.
Various methods were tried to rev up the crowd. In our first European Cup campaign we played AC Milan at home on 28th November 1962.
I was the one extra in the 25,001 attendance, but then I guess 25,000 others were too! A recording was played over the tinny Tannoy of the roar that greeted our winning the top tier Division One against Aston Villa half a year previously.
"This is what you can sound like,", the announcer said. "Let’s hear it for the team tonight."
In fact the crowd roared the Town to at 2-1 victory which unfortunately meant we lost on aggregate.
This was also the match Ray Crawford almost missed as, with his car broken down, he had to hitch a lift along the Norwich Road to get to kick-off in time, much to Sir Alf’s displeasure. The full story is in Ray’s book Curse of the Jungle Boy on page 120.
On most match days, the crowd would be encouraged by Swede, the blue and white mascot with his blue and white hat, often accompanied by a young lady dressed as a witch for Ipswich ‘Witches’ (think I even prefer Tractor Boys to that!).
You’d often encounter the ruddy smiling face of Swede, real name Mr Herring, as he worked on the buses as a conductor. His pre-match routine would probably now be banned on numerous specious grounds, including his chant of "I…P (do you missus?) S..etc".
In my early days at Portman Road, Churchmans was the end to attack as that’s where most noise came from; in the sixties the West Stand was louder even than the North.
But you were able to get the best of all worlds if the toss went the right way. If Town were attacking your end in the first half you could walk alongside the touchline at half-time and climb into the stand at the other end.
Entry of the Gladiators by the Czech composer Julius Fucik, used to boom from the loudspeakers as the Town took the field running past the iron fencing from the old cricket pavilion, which must have confused many a visiting team.
If/when the crowd were stirred up enough to sing it would be Keep Right on to the End of the Road, an ancient anthem by Harry Lauder, which accompanied our rise from the Third Division to the second tier, into the first and on to the championship in 1962.
Birmingham claimed we sneaked it off them as they had it for 1956 FA Cup final and still do today.
Talking of songs and chants, from the mighty sound of the Sir Bobby Robson Stand these days we have global and local: "We’re the finest football team the world has ever seen" or "Who’s the pride of Anglia" and the legendary "Because of boxing day".
Not that it matters, but I wonder which is truest and which we feel more at home with?
Amazingly, there was a time in the early eighties when a lot of the world might have agreed with the first one, and many decades when a lot of the UK (except Norfolk) would have agreed with the second (and will again one day, say we all!).
But which do we feel more at home with? Do we really belong on the international stage as we were in the 1980s?
That team of the early eighties was unbelievably brilliant and I’m so proud to have seen such a team gracing Portman Road (though putting a young family first meant I wasn’t there so often).
But somehow it felt like watching a team that was too good for just Ipswich. The club was followed by the whole country, competing not just nationally but on the European stage, on the telly every week instead of twice a year, everybody’s property. Expectations of great football were so high.
The triumphs of 1962 and 1978 were different, gloriously unexpected and somehow more local. We weren’t expected to compete on a national basis and the media didn’t know us.
I remember the backpage spread after the Villa match in 1962 that celebrated our invincible centre half ‘Andy WILSON’; and the Sunday paper in 1978 that ran a photo of the toothless Roger Osborne headed ‘EEE, by gum’ – their lazy sub-editor had him coming from Otley, West Yorkshire rather than Otley, East Suffolk!
In those days, Town were the unknown underdogs, and the team was closer to the town itself, it belonged to us.
So where are we today as we enter the third tier again? Is part of that reaction post-Birmingham due to reclaiming the bond between fans and club after those distant years of success and the more recent estrangement between terraces and managers?
Perhaps we want to relate to the players, not an international squad, and to love the style of football and enjoy the match, whatever the result?
So it might not be all bad getting back to basics in League One, as we must now call it. Feeling part of the club, the club being part of the town, and building a heart again that can take us who knows where and when.
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