Written by pegasus on Monday, 4th Jan 2021 17:21
One of the outcomes of the extraordinary year that has just come to an end has been that I have been able to watch Ipswich Town, home and away, on my computer screen for £10 a game.
I have seen more consecutive Town home games than at any time since I left Ipswich 50 years ago. I have managed to get back to Portman Road on few occasions and, more recently, get to the occasional away fixture, the last one in February, against Sunderland at The Stadium of Light.
My recollections of that day are perhaps clouded by the fact that I cut my left hand falling between two rows of seats shortly before the game started and was treated by two zealous and caring St John’s Ambulance Brigade lasses wearing high–viz jackets.
The game itself was run of the mill: a perky Town failed to score in the first half but faded in the second, losing by the only goal.
Apart from my bandaged hand, it’s the post-match memories that remain with me. I bought my ticket through the club. It was the first time that I’d had a seat behind a goal, and I realised that I much prefer to watch football from around the halfway line. An old West Stand man, me.
Then, I was astonished by the vitriolic shouts against ‘Lambert’ and ‘Chambers’ as Town ‘supporters’ left their seats: these guys must have spent a lot of money to get to Wearside. Did they fork out just to be abusive?
Very different from the muttering and grumbling one heard exiting Portman Road after a mediocre match or disappointing result in years gone by. Mind you, this contrasted with the pro-Town chanting from groups of young supporters as they made their way to the Metro station, and home.
No shouting and chanting this season. Watching online along with the one or two others who were there in person was rather like watching a schools match from the touchline, with shouts from the players as audible as those from the coaches and club officials.
The visual coverage from Ipswich was simple, essentially with a single camera, usually in wideshot, following the ball: no director with a multicamera set-up dictating the views.
Watching, and listening to the commentary from some of the away fixtures, made me realise how lucky Suffolk listeners are. Brenner Woolley’s commentaries are clear, specific and relevant, while Mick Mills’s perspectives have made me much more aware of what is happening, and why. You cannot believe the joy and nostalgia that have washed over me.
Sadly, joy is not the word to describe the experience of watching some of the football. Town face a number of crises at the moment. The injury list is surely the longest in living memory and one might say we’re watching what in years gone by would have been called a reserve side.
The young players are doing well, in patches, but there are too many of them, and the side is unbalanced. I can remember watching a 17-year-old Kieron Dyer at Sheffield United. What pace and skill! But he was a single youngster with the likes of Geraint Williams, Micky Stockwell and Tony Mowbray alongside and behind him.
I see flashes of that Dyer pace from Keanan Bennetts and Armando Dobra, but they need more older heads to direct them and longer relationships with the players around them – something that will come when the newer old pros have been around longer, and older and more experienced players return from injury.
The young players in particular must be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. What’s going to happen to the game, the leagues, the clubs, they must be thinking, and my future opportunities? Was that what was in Flynn Downes’s mind when he made that tackle at MK Dons? The ‘mental aspect of young players’ was ALWAYS high amongst Arsene Wenger’s managerial priorities.
My prediction for 2021… Ipswich Town’s fortunes will improve when a fully match fit Kane Vincent–Young returns.
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