Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Why 2019 won't be the year Ipswich Town fans regret what they wished for (even if/when we go down)

2018 was a year of long wished-for change at Portman Road: the downward spiral of division and anger between Ipswich Town fans and manager Mick McCarthy - caused in no short amount by the lack of investment from Marcus Evans - came to a head.

But can 2019 be the year we finally say goodbye to that? I really do hope so. For years, we've been wishing for something different - both in the style of football on the pitch and the owner's style of management off it. 

By the end of McCarthy's tenure you'd have been hard pushed to find someone who wanted him to renew his contract in the summer and to this day you would still not find anyone who doesn't concede it was best for all parties that he leave.

The relief of McCarthy's departure in April was followed by a risky appointment in Paul Hurst and a disastrous start to the 2018/2019 season. We find ourselves facing the very real prospect of relegation to League One in the coming year. 

But, if we were to go back 12 months - would we change what happened? Would I regret adding my voice to the calls for Mick's resignation? Not. For. A. Second.

And what of our hopes for 2019? To finally move on.

A few months ago, former Norwich player Chris Sutton mocked an Ipswich Town fan during a 5 Live show for saying we were happy to have moved on from our previous manager, even though results since then have been poor.

Aside from the fact that his obsession with criticising our supporters is a bit weird, I do wish Sutton would take the time to learn more about what's going on at Portman Road before commenting. Surely that's part of his job?

It’s true the Hurst honeymoon period didn’t last very long, but that doesn't mean we regret the departure of McCarthy. Even if having him here would have meant we were safe. I think it's fair to say that most Blues fans are content the club made the right choice in moving on from him. 

When speaking to Chris, Blues fan Tom explained this perfectly well, pointing out that anything was better for us than the dross we were served up last season and McCarthy’s repeated press conference digs at our fans. It seems Chris has taken offence to this point of view, but he might wish to consider that it's one held by a large number of Tractor Boys, before trotting out the ‘be careful what you wish for’ strap-line yet again.

(I’m sure he's completely professional and unbiased in his opinions and that his loyalty to  our green and yellow neighbours in Norfolk has nothing to do with his inability to even consider this matter from a different point of view.)

Chris is, of course, correct that McCarthy had moderate success while managing our club: After saving us from relegation, he took us to 6th, 7th, 16th and 12th in the league – not too shabby for a man who wasn’t given the budget that other clubs around us are.

But, the closing years of his time with us epitomised the frustration we’ve all come to feel: he made us question whether we wanted to keep paying to go to games. He went to away games to play for a draw, introduced a hoof-ball style of play that gave us neck-ache and had an aversion to Cup competitions that bordered on disrespectful.

We never got beyond the Third round under his stewardship, and that included an embarrassing, pitiful defeat to then non-league Lincoln. That was a game Chris commentated on, on national radio, with glee and gloating. So, as I say, he's clearly objective and professional when it comes to this topic.

Don’t get me wrong, I understood what he was trying to do on the pitch – even though I was bored out of my mind watching it. But his attitude off the pitch became indefensible: when he reached the point of telling his own fans to f*** off after Chambers scored the late goal against Norwich, he reached the point of no return – he had to go. 

What should have been a moment of celebration was completely ruined by his actions, it tainted the day even more than Klose’s 95th-minute equaliser – and given I’ve been waiting nine long years to see us win a derby, that’s saying something. I'd love to know what Chris has to say about that, but presumably it wouldn't suit his pro-McCarthy, anti-Ipswich fan agenda.

Sadly Chris isn't the only one that seems to be taking pleasure in our demise since the Yorkshire man departed. We've inexplicably appeared on the back page of one newspaper, who usually pays us no attention at all, under the headline 'Be Careful What You Wish For' and other pundits have followed suit.

Despite their liking for Mick, the only time the papers seemed to take an interest in him was when he was linked with the Ireland job. Not once did they cover our results on the pitch - ironically, that's likely to be because it was too boring. 

Even now, as the club faces the drop to the third tier of football for the first time ever, the media insist on looking back at the end of last season rather than forward to the end of this.
I've seen more people criticising us for McCarthy leaving than discussing the current situation of the club and where we're going next. Outside of East Anglia (to be fair, Norwich have taken notice of the Paul Lambert appointment, they're still sulking), we are in the wrong for 'hounding him out'.

What they all seem to have overlooked is one glaring fact: We’ve been in this league for 17 years. Seventeen. I was at school when we got promoted. Since then, I’ve gone on to graduate from uni, moved up north, had three long-term relationships, lived in eight different homes, had a child, got engaged and bought a house.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Town remains stubbornly in the second tier of English football, not being promoted but not being relegated either. The loyalty our fans have shown throughout these years of tedium should be applauded, not mocked. When you’re a football fan, you have to deal with the trials and tribulations. You have ups and you have downs, but you never let that stop you going back for more.

If (or maybe that should now say 'when') we start next season in League One, we will not regret parting ways with McCarthy - mainly because it has absolutely nothing to do with him. Our time with him had come to an end and what has happened since is really not linked  - I'd suggest it's lazy journalism to claim it is.

And so, as we look ahead to what is going to be a challenging enough year for staff, players fans and management at Ipswich Town - my one wish for 2019 is that we can finally leave that name behind. May the initials MM never be mentioned to (or by) any of us again.

Let us just focus on going down...

Oh, and may Chris find something more interesting to focus on than what us Blues fans are up to, or at least learn how to do a bit of research.

This article first appeared in the magazine, Kings of Anglia, you can order your copy here: 

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The sacking of so many managers didn’t give us the stability I craved, but with Bielsa being brought in now I like what I see: Leeds vs Ipswich Match Preview

After the international break, the games are coming thick and fast for Championship sides - having lost to QPR at Portman Road on Saturday, Town now travel up to Leeds United for a midweek game and then down to London to face Millwall.

Blues fans head to Elland Road looking for, but not really expecting, only their second win of the season. It feels a long time since Mick McCarthy walked out of a post-match press conference and times are tough under new boss Paul Hurst - as shown by their position rock bottom of the league.

Meanwhile, their opponents have been flying high with some good results leaving them fourth in the league and looking like a competitor for the automatic promotion come the end of the season.

They have hit a bump in the road though, an unexpected defeat to newly promoted Blackburn at the weekend as dented their confidence a little, but the bubble hasn't completely burst as United fan Heidi explained when I got in touch to ask for her views.

Heidi is a home and away season ticket holder and has supported Leeds for over 50 years. She didn't miss a game for seven years in both the seventies and eighties and also went abroad to see them play:

'Leeds United were the local team even though I lived 30 miles away in between Goole and Selby. In those days the FA Cup was the big thing on TV and I started supporting them in 1965 after the FA Cup Final against Liverpool. I am privileged to have been there to see the great Don Revie side, Billy Bremner was - and always will be - my hero. 

Winning the FA Cup in 1972 will always have special memories for me, especially seeing Billy lift the cup from Her Majesty the Queen. Tommy Steele (he was wearing white so he was supporting Leeds!) singing Abide with Me and The National Anthem with the whole stadium joining in was awe inspiring and the memories will stay with me forever.

I notice you run a blog, would you like to tell me about that too?

Follow Me and Leeds United is the name of my website and the blog I post after every game, including photos of the fan experience at games which is shared around the world with all the Leeds groups I am in. 

I am the author of five Leeds United books, the first one - Follow Me and Leeds United - is based on a diary I kept in the seventies and I was a girl in a man’s world. It includes all the issues my friends and I had as girls following our team plus stories of loads of the troubles we encountered, including one of being ambushed in the Sporting Farmer pub at Ipswich! 

Once I wrote my first book I started the website and Facebook/Twitter group to raise the profile of the book to encourage sales. As I have always enjoyed taking photos at games and have included many in all of my books, I started writing the blog too as per the diary I kept in the seventies. 

It is a match-by-match report of what I see on the pitch and is about the fan experience at games where I take loads of photos. The majority of my followers like the way I write as I always give an honest account of what I see. I also get fans now actively asking to have their photos taken so they are included in the blogs.

Leeds go into this game off the back of a defeat at Blackburn, was that a big disappointment? 

It was a big disappointment as we didn’t really get going. We were bullied in the first instance when Blackburn scored within two minutes and that was then I noticed they had giants playing for them. Our players looked minute in comparison.

We played into their hands by not playing to our strengths at times, with some high balls that we were never going to get.

We showed what we could do just before half time when we equalised: with 13 
passes and no Blackburn player touching the ball, we had it in the back of their net! I think their second goal could have been prevented if we’d had a player on each post as Billy Bremner and Paul Reaney used to do.

I have to say, before the start of the season I wasn't expecting Leeds to do so well, did you expect it?

My aim every season is always to aspire for the top two and automatic promotion, although I am realistic enough to know it may not happen. Last season we started in the same vein but by the end of the season we ended up demoralised.

The sacking of so many managers didn’t give us the stability I craved, but with Bielsa being brought in now I like what I see. I know there will be ups and downs but I feel the club themselves are now on the same wavelength as me, i.e. wanting promotion.

What are your predictions for the rest of the season?

I don’t have any specific predictions as I like to wait until nearer the end of the season to see where the land lies. I just want us to keep winning as many points as we can and keep aiming for that automatic promotion. The play-offs are a waste of time for us as we never turn up for them!

What are the assets that could help you go up and what are the potential hazards that could hold you back?

Stability is the main thing and the club having the ambition to want promotion. For 15 years I don’t think promotion was on the cards at all, but that seems to be in the past now - that would definitely have held us back.

Are there any players I should keep an eye out for on Wednesday?

Not really although Bielsa doesn’t tend to change the starting line up by more than a couple of players, he wants them all to play the same way so if they all gel at once, we will be on fire.

Moving on to Ipswich, what are you expecting from them on Wednesday?

I take each game as it comes and tend to make my mind up by what I see on the pitch at the time. I don’t think there are any easy games in the Championship as anyone can beat anyone on their day. I only focus on Leeds United so don’t tend to know where anyone is placed in the league until someone mentions it.

For instance as soon as anyone says the opposition haven’t won a game or are near the bottom of the league, I know that goes out of the window when they play us. Everyone raises their game against us but I would rather you didn’t please!

I'm interested to get an outsider's point of view on our recent managerial changeover - do you think we did the right think letting McCarthy go? And what are your impressions of Paul Hurst.

To be honest I don’t think I realised McCarthy had gone, he was one manager I did know about. He always managed to get your team to get the better of us though.

I don’t really know anything about Paul, but as my friend’s husband comes from Shrewsbury I seem to recall them saying he had something to do with them getting out of the doldrums.

In recent years, there have been similarities between Leeds and Ipswich in terms of the discontent that fans have with the owners - but things have settled at your place now. Can you explain to us what has changed under the new management?

The club are now talking to the different fan groups, which is great progress, but they know they cannot take the support for granted.

After having years of different owners getting a great quantity of players in who were not fit to play for the club, they have realised that we need quality over quantity. Getting a first class manager in shows they have ambition too. Having stability will be key and to know not to panic if things don’t go as we want it all the time.

Finally, I've written a (tongue-in-cheek) blog about how 'we all hate Leeds' and wondered what you think of the impression that some football fans have of Leeds fans? Do you find it frustrating? 

I think we are used to everyone hating us so we just get on with it. Some clubs don’t even register on our radar but all of a sudden we find there is a hatred for us which seems to be like sheep following a crowd.

The media played a big part in this during the seventies, they portrayed Leeds as dirty when all teams had hard men at the time. We played to win and there was nothing wrong with that and the football I saw at the time was absolutely fantastic.

It was that team that has made me the Leeds fan I am today and we just end up with the gallows humour taking over. The -15 season for us galvanized our support as it was us against everyone else but you know something that really was a great time to follow our team despite relegation to the third division!

Thank you ever so much for taking part in this guest post Heidi, I'm off to order you book as I'd love to read more and if anyone would like to check out your blog they can click here.

10 things I hate about Leeds United

I should begin this post with a little background information: I’m from Ipswich originally and am a lifelong Town supporter. But I moved to Yorkshire almost ten years ago and I’ve lived in Leeds for three and a half of those.

So, before anyone expresses concern that I’m jumping on the ‘we hate Leeds bandwagon’, I’ve lived here long enough now to know what I’m talking about.

I have met numerous Leeds fans, some of them are even quite nice (wash your mouth out Amy), my best friends' fiancee is one... but I still loathe them with a passion. 

I even dated one, for my sins, and though I’m probably tainting them all with his utter shitness, I put up with him for two and a half years – so I’m allowed.

As we prepare to head off and support Town at Bellend Road… sorry, Elland… I thought I’d share with you all why it’s the club I love to hate:

The ticket prices. £37 quid for a midweek game, are you serious? It’s the same every year and it drives me mad that they get away with it.

The away stand with a restricted view. You pay almost 40 quid for a TV gantry and three poles to get in your way.

The endless rounds of the same bloody song. When people tell me the atmosphere at Elland Road is excellent, I laugh at them. Singing ‘We are the Champions of Europe’ for 90 minutes straight doesn’t make it good, it makes them a bad joke.

The concourse. If you have more than 100 fans up in the terraces, beware, you’ll be packed in like sardines and there won’t be a route through to the toilets. Plus, the food is terrible and the cider is warm.

The away fans pub. Actually, I quite like Drysalters as a football pub, but it’s too far for away fans to travel if they’ve come by public transport so it’s always dead and going there means you completely miss out on the amazing city we live in. Town fans, bypass this and head to Whitelocks.

The constantly looking out for trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I have never seen an ounce of trouble at a Leeds game, but that doesn’t stop the constant worry there might be some because of their reputation. They need police escorts to away games for goodness sakes and they take pride in the fact people think this.

The superiority complex. Yes, you were once a big club, but you’re not any more and no amount of sold-out away attendances are going to change that. Get over yourselves.

The fact most of their fans don’t actually go to the games. Before I moved to Leeds I lived in Wakefield and there were many Saturdays when I would pop into a pub to see how Town were getting on. Every single one was packed, filled to the rafters with Leeds fans getting hammered and watching the game on telly. You’re literally a 15-minute trip away – be a supporter and go to the chuffing game.

The time they threw coins and bottles at our disabled fans because we'd relegated them with a draw. Enough said.

The fact it’s the closest game to me so there’s no way I can miss it. Living so far from home, I can only really go to a small number of games and travel is an obstacle because of the cost. In truth, I simply can’t sit here at home and not be down the road watching my boys. No matter how much I hate the ground, the club, and a huge number of their fans.

      Anyway, to those Blues fans making the not-so-enviable journey up the A1: be safe and I hope you have a lovely time. 

      Well... as much as you can when watching the current Ipswich side at that place. Halloween is about to come a week early for the Tractor Boys.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

'The rest of our season is going to depend on whether Chis Martin can find some form' - Hull vs Ipswich Preview from a Hull Fan

After a well deserved international-break from what is already proving to be a not-unexpectedly challenging season, Ipswich Town return to football this weekend with a trip to Hull.

As it's a Yorkshire game, I will be popping across from Leeds to sample the delights of the former City of Culture, and will be hoping to enjoy my time inside the KC Stadium too.

The Tigers are a team who have experienced far more success than us with promotion to the Premier League in the last decade, but in recent years conflict between the fans and the owner has placed them in the headline more than the results on the pitch.

Sadly, all of that has lead in no small part to their current position just one place above the relegation zone with just one point more than Town.

Kathryn with Hull player Jackson Irvine.
Listen out for chants about his lovely long hair this weekend!

So, I asked Hull fan Kathryn Batte for her thoughts ahead of our game this weekend:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself - how long have you been watching Hull, how did you start supporting them, how often do you see them play, etc.

I’ve been going to watch Hull City since the age of 5 when we were in the depths of League 2! My early years of supporting saw us gain back-to-back promotions under Peter Taylor before Phil Brown took us to the Premier League for the first time in 2008. It’s fair to say I’ve only seen mainly good times as a supporter compared to my Dad and Grandad before me! I go to all the home games and try to make as many away games as possible.

2. Fantastic to see that you won an award for your journalism this year, could you tell me some more about that (perhaps a link to some of your work too?)

Thank you! I was Sports Editor for my University Radio York last year and wrote articles for the student newspaper as well as being press officer for the women’s football team which I played for. I’m starting a Masters in Journalism at the University of Sheffield in a couple of weeks which I’m looking forward to.

3. How has the season been so far for Hull? 

We’ve not got off to the best start, mainly because we failed to replace the players we lost or sold in the Summer. We’re currently on 4 points after an away draw at Sheffield Wednesday and win at Rotherham but we’ve lost our first 3 home games for the first time since 2006. We were unlucky to lose late on to Derby in the last game and have new loan signings Tommy Elphick and Chris Martin (who I’m sure will get a warm reception from the Ipswich fans on Saturday!!) who will probably come into the starting XI. 

4. I see you've been predicted by some experts for relegation this year (don't worry, so have we!), do you think it's too soon to worry?

I think the lack of recruitment and the players we lost in the summer is probably the reason for the predictions. It’s early in the season but we’re certainly in a battle due to the lack of depth and experience in the squad. We have shown some promising signs in patches in games and Nigel Adkins will certainly work hard to get the best out of the players he has. Thankfully there’s a few teams who seem to have similar problems - Birmingham, QPR etc so like you say we’re not alone!

5. What are your predictions for the rest of the season?

I think a lot of it is going to depend on whether Chris Martin can find some form in front of goal and if Jarrod Bowen can rediscover his form of last season. Hopefully Elphick will help to cut out some of the silly mistakes we’ve been making in defence but that’s assuming he manages to stay fit for the season. There’s never a huge gap between the teams in the relegation zones and the ones just below mid table so I think we’re likely to be battling it out near the bottom with 6-7 teams other teams.

6. Are there any players I should keep an eye out for on Saturday?

As mentioned already - ex-Norwich player Chris Martin may get a start but Adkins usually only starts one striker and he’ll probably stick with Frazier Campbell from the start. Jarrod Bowen was the spark for us last year but hasn’t scored yet this season. He’s a match-winner if he’s on form and if Jackson Irvine is fit he’s another one to look out for. 

7. Moving on to Ipswich, what are you expecting from them on Saturday?

You seem to be in a similar position to us in terms of losing big players like Martyn Waghorn without perhaps replacing them with the same level of talent. I noticed you signed Jon Walters, (who used to play for us back in 2004!) on-loan who is an experienced player and capable of scoring goals at this level. I think Paul Hurst is a good manager having seen how he did with Grimsby and Shrewsbury but might need time to get the team playing to how he wants. I’d expect him to come for a draw on Saturday however he may fancy his chances at getting a first win with our current home record.

8. I'm interested to get an outsider's point of view on our recent managerial changeover - do you think we did the right think letting McCarthy go? And what are your impressions of Paul Hurst.

It’s difficult to assess whether letting McCarthy go was the right thing as I didn’t watch the team play every week so don’t know how performances were etc. McCarthy is one of those managers who probably would never have taken you down from the Championship but obviously the style of football may not have been exciting to watch or particularly progressive. He’s a good manager to steady a ship but perhaps not to to take a team up anymore - unless he has substantial financial backing. Like I say, I think Hurst has done well elsewhere but it was obviously at a lower level and he’s clearly finding managing in the championship a step-up. 

9. There are similarities between Hull and Ipswich in terms of the discontent that fans have with the owners - but I often use you guys as an example of how things could be a lot worse for us. What are your views of your owner?

There’s been conflict with the owners ever since they tried to change the club’s name in 2013 and relations with fans have only got worse since then. The removal of concessionary ticket pricing as well as other issues such as changing the club badge and a general lack of investment since Steve Bruce was forced out of the club has driven a lot of fans away. Whilst the owners have met with supporters, nothing has changed and they’ve held two ballots to gage supporter opinion but refused to release results. The only way the club can move forward is through a change of ownership but that is unlikely to happen until the current regime have recouped their loans to the club plus interest.

10. Finally, Hull have charged us just £12 for a ticket this weekend - which has made me and lots of Town fans very happy. We did hear that Hull fans are not happy with this and see it as the owners way of reducing ticket sales, is this true? Do you agree?

£12 is a good price for adults but as the club refuse to give concessionary tickets this will be the price for everyone. The price is cheaper due to yourselves being lower down the division but compare this to the upcoming visit of Middlesbrough, fans will be charged nearer £30 - and this will be for all age groups meaning if family were to come for the game they’d be spending £120 roughly without including travel expenses - this goes for home fans as well. You can get cheaper tickets depending on where you sit in the ground but many people but if you want to sit near the halfway line for example your ticket will cost more etc. Concessionary tickets have also been removed from season memberships which are now paid on a monthly basis and everybody pays the same rate regardless of age - the only variable is where you sit in the ground. Attendances are at an all-time low because of this and the other on-going issues. 

Thanks ever so much for your thoughts Kathryn, good luck with your Masters and I hope you enjoy Saturday - although not too much!

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Ipswich Town and Norwich City: Back on a Level Playing Field

As we came to the end of last season, there was a sense of huge relief for this Tractor Girl. 

It wasn't just that we had finally said goodbye to our pain-in-the-arse manager that was making me feel this way, the final position of our bitter rivals Norwich was also making me smile.

As another Town settled into their familiar spot in the middle of the table, our noisy neighbours over the border in Norfolk had finally returned to the realms of mediocrity. Back where they belong.

We all know the Blues are the bigger and better club. We've seen more success, we’ve held more trophies, we’ve produced the two greatest managers England has ever had. So, this recent feeling of being the underdogs has felt odd to me.

Nine long years since our last victory over Norwich, we've watched them promoted to the Premier League twice, continue to sell out their ground and have money to spend thanks to parachute payments, the ludicrous reward for teams who are relegated.

When we faced our rivals for the semi-finals of the play-offs in 2015, I was proud of the way we performed. City fielded a team of ex-Premier League players worth millions, while our manager had spent just £110k on our side, yet still the Canaries needed a second leg and a sending off to get past us and into the finals.

Even their short time in the Premier League was overshadowed by ours, they never did equal our superb achievement of finishing fifth in the top flight.

(*Edit: I've been, rightly, called out on this one as Norwich did finish 3rd in 1993 - my mistake for not explaining myself. For me, the achievement of finishing fifth when we did and competing against the teams that we did, far overshadows the Canary's achievement almost ten years earlier, it was a very different league then.)

Since then, the beautiful game has begun to show them you need more than money to make it in this league, something they should have learned from us three years ago.

After years of yo-yoing between the first and second tiers, they have joined us back in the Championship and slipped further and further away from the chances of promotion back to the big time. What that means, of course, is that they face this season without the boost of the parachute payment.

Don't get me wrong, I know many Norwich fans and they’re alright, I guess. Friends and family have enjoyed the Canaries’ recent brush with success and I have been happy for them to see what it was like to be a success, it must have made a nice change for them.

When you live in East Anglia you know you're going to bump into three types of football fans: Ipswich, Norwich or Manchester United, so it’s inevitable we’re going to associate with the Budgies and I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

My 94-year-old Grandad is a Norwich fan and, until recently, was a season ticket holder who trekked from Stowmarket to Norfolk every other week. My Dad's first game was at Norwich, but because they lived in Suffolk, Grandad gave him the choice of going to Carrow Road or Portman Road.

It was the Alf Ramsey era: my Dad was already smitten. Ray Crawford or Bill Punton? There was no choice really, was there? I love hearing stories of my Dad taking a milk crate into the North Stand and I’ll always be so glad he made the right decision that day! 

Please don’t hate me for what I’m about to say: when it comes down to it, Ipswich fans and Norwich fans are cut from the same cloth. We've grown up in the same area, with very similar backgrounds. We’ve all chosen to support our local teams over the Premier League superstars, and that deserves a pat on the back.

But there will always be one huge difference - we have our history.

I've lost count of the number of times I've read Norwich fans teasing us for the 3 stars on our shirts. Do you know why they do that? Jealousy. They mock us because it’s something they don't have and, boy, do they wish they did.

There has even been speculation about a statue for the recently departed Wes Hoolahan. As I saw someone quip on Twitter: Statue? More like a doorstop! My Dad reckons they’ve probably even thought of erecting one for Grant Holt, but there is not enough plaster in the country to make it life size!

I know what they’re going to say… but, but, Norwich participated against Bayern Munich that time. Oh, and their programme was voted the second best in Britain for three years in a row. And all of Ipswich’s success is in the past.

It may be 40 years since we won the FA Cup and almost as long since we were champions of England and Europe - but at least we've done it. Our younger fans may not know what it's like to play in the country's top league, but they know what it's like to feel proud of their club. 

So, I say to the Budgies: you may have experienced more joy than us in recent years; but look what we've been through and we're still standing. We haven't had to go down to League One to enjoy promotion, we haven’t bought our way to the Premier League and we haven't stopped looking at our trophy cabinet with its proud history.

We will always be the Kings of Anglia: here’s to proving that this season, when we finally right the wrongs of recent years and win both our derby games.

This article originally appeared in the Kings of Anglia fanzine, you can purchase the current issue and all previous copies here:

Thursday, 29 March 2018

And now, the end is near - Mick McCarthy faces the final curtain at Ipswich Town

When I first graduated, I was lucky enough to have my dream job as a freelancer for a radio station in Ipswich and as part of that job – the best part – I got to report on Ipswich games and go to press conferences.

One Saturday afternoon I headed up to the Molineux and enjoyed us take a late equaliser through Tommy Miller. Then after the game, as we were waiting for Jim Magilton to come up from the dressing room, I decided to sit in on Wolves’ manager Mick McCarthy’s interview.

It’s one of my favourite memories from my short-lived time as a journalist, his interview was like no other I had listened to. The room was relaxed, he joked with the press that it felt like a defeat and even popped in a couple of swear words which made everyone laugh. He was relaxed and genuine… a nice guy.

Despite everything, I still trust that first impression and I still believe he showed traits that should be valued in a manager. Having had the pure nastiness of Roy Keane followed by the puppet that was Paul Jewell – I, for one, welcomed and have enjoyed Mick’s 'Barnsley-style' attitude of just being honest about what he thinks.

The trouble is, that approach is exactly what has got him in trouble – and rightly so. It’s been his undoing.

In my opinion, there has been a small section of our fans who have expected (nay, wanted) him to fail since he was appointed our manager. 'He wasn’t the right fit for Ipswich, Wolves fans have reported bad things and he’ll never take us anywhere', they said.

On the latter, they were wrong. 2015 was a tough year for me personally, but I will always remember it for that afternoon at Ewood Park, standing next to a chap I recognised only from Twitter who was listening to the radio through headphones.

‘They’ve got a penalty’ he said of Derby, the team we needed to lose if we were to make it to the play-offs. Then he held his finger to his lips and I swear the whole of the away stand went quiet… a few seconds passed, then – he thrust his fist into the air and we all cheered. Derby had missed the penalty – we’d done the impossible.

And that was the point – Mick McCarthy had taken a team on the brink of relegation, destroyed by a succession of two very poor managers, spent just £110k on them and reached the bloody play offs. It was unexpected, a miracle and, to me, it didn’t really matter that we lost to Norwich in the semi-finals – I was so proud that my little Ipswich was proving the world of big, bad, money-mad football that they were wrong. Winning can be achieved through passion and drive, this is how it should be done.

For that, I thank Mick from the bottom of my heart. For making me happy, for making me fall in love with my team and being a football fan again, for – however briefly – pulling our fan base back together to make us proud of our club.

He is well respected throughout football and rightly so. He is an excellent manager at this level, even if you don’t appreciate the way he does it. He will, I’m sure go on to manage another Championship side and no doubt we will lose to them when we play.

But his time with us is over and I am relieved, but sad it’s ended this way.

That small section of fans who have been openly against him all along has slowly grown and grown. As times have become tough, more and more people have gone against him, encouraged by his unnecessary digs.

Conversely, I’ve been a big supporter of him and have openly defended his sarcastic comments. He’s honest and that’s what I like, I agree that he knows how to do his job better than the section of fans that think it’s okay to sing ‘your football is shit’ in the middle of a game.

Hell, I even understand why he reacted like he did to the away section after Chambers scored his goal against the scum. He’s been on the receiving end of some nasty abuse from our fans and I think I’d have been hard pushed not to feel smug that the tactics they so loudly criticised had just seemingly won us the game.

But, to me, that moment signalled the point it had gone too far. The hate between our fans and our manager has become so much that he – in a moment of passion, probably without even thinking – directed the emotion at them, instead of celebrating with his own players.

This feeling of divide has grown and grown and I think there is fault on both sides, let alone the contribution Ian Milne and Marcus Evans’ actions (or inactions) have made. Something should have been done about it a lot sooner than it has – things didn’t need to get this bad.

It’s reached a point now where I actually started not wanting to go to games any more. Me, the girl who has long argued that I will always want to go to the football, no matter what the score, because it means spending the day with my friends. I just couldn’t be bothered with how miserable everyone had become, I couldn’t be arsed with the stress.

I honestly expected him to go last summer. Who knows why he didn’t: perhaps Evans is just happy because McCarthy doesn’t expect more money, perhaps Mick really does want to honour his contract, perhaps we couldn’t find a replacement for him (given how long it took to replace Daryl Murphy, I wouldn’t be surprised).

As we go into a new era for the club and finally answer the question – who could do better? I want o say thank you to Mick. Genuinely, you’ve given me a lot of joy over the past five years and I’m grateful. I’m also grateful you’re finally out of the door and we can hopefully start to get our club back.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Finale at Forest: Ipswich Town match preview

Laura and her Forest fan friends joined us in the Black Horse pub
after the final home game of the season in 2015 
As I prepare myself to head for a weekend in Nottingham, I become very aware that, while we could have an impact on the relegation battle in this league, our own season has been completely insignificant.

Forest go into the game needing a result, as they face the possibility of playing in League One next year. How nervous their fans must be.

Meanwhile, the Tractor Boys are letting loose a collective sigh of relief that another inconsequential season is over and we can take a break from the frustrations of following our team.

On speaking with a friend of mine who has been a season ticket holder at the City Ground for many years, one thing has become clear: we are so similar to them and it could easily have been us in that position.

Below you will find my interview with Laura, who I first met some years back in a bar by the river before a very foggy midweek game.

Laura's comments bear a huge resemblance to the complaints and fears that have been expressed by many Town fans this season, including myself.

Their best player was sold and not replaced, money from player sales was not reinvested and the team were inconsistent despite managing good results against some of the top teams.

The situation they find themselves in should serve as a warning to Ipswich Town - fans and those running the club - that this is where we could (some would say 'will') find ourselves if we continue as we are.

However, I feel they do also serve as proof that things could be far worse at Town. As you'll see, Laura mentions the restrictions enforced when they broke FFP rules and the effect that has had.

Whilst we all would like to see Evans spend a little more on the squad, it's important to note this very real consequence of spending too much. 

Forest fans, like us, have become increasingly frustrated with the way their club is being run. 

As we watch the feelings of either relief or devastation unfold in front of the Sky cameras on Sunday, perhaps it will stir something in us, because relegation to League One would be disastrous for us and it may well be for them.

With that in mind, here are Laura's fascinating thoughts on the match and their dreadful 2016/17.

Easier said than done, but can you summarise how your season has gone this year?

I don't think I need to summarise how our season has gone...people only need to look at the league table to see! 

We started with a new boss, scoring goals and playing more exciting football, but that didn't last long. The owner sold the best player to have come from the academy in years but he didn't replace him and it just went downhill from there.

Two new managers later and we are in a total mess. This is all thanks to the owner destroying the club.

Why have things gone so badly wrong?

This has been coming for years.

Under the current owner we have had transfer embargoes, unpaid bills, winding up orders and lack of staff because people have lost their jobs.

This cannot help matters on the pitch, especially when you hear whisperings of players being paid late (of course, no one knows if that is true).
The blame has to lie at the feet of our owner. 

We have had a managerial merry-go-round throughout his tenure: no-one ever gets time to build a squad. Then we have some players who simply aren't good enough and don't seem to care about the club

At the start of the season where did you expect to finish? Did you ever think relegation would be a worry?

With a new manager who I had never heard of along with new players who, again, I had never heard of I wasn't particularly confident for the season ahead.

Unfortunately, yes, I did think we might flirt with relegation for a short time. But, no, I did not expect to be fighting for our lives on Sunday!

Can you tell us about more about your views on the owner of your club?

I think the fact that most Forest fans I know own a 'Fawaz Out' badge/scarf/or both, speaks volumes! 

The man is the poison of Nottingham and he hasn't even set foot in the City Ground since September. This tells you the type of owner he is!

I think he could have been good for the club, had he got in staff who understand the English game. But, he didn't do that: he cut staff, he changed managers too often, he simply would not be told. It would have damaged his ego too much.

He lost the fans a long time ago. He did still have a few loyal to him, but I believe that changed when he sold our young star in August.

The lad's name was Oliver Burke, he came through our academy and was absolutely amazing. The big clubs wanted him, but rather than get a bidding war going amongst the likes of Bayern Munich and Liverpool, he took the cash up front from Red Bull Leipzig and pocketed it.

He took the money and I don't believe he reinvested it, despite what he claims. 

He had the opportunity to sell us to an American consortium in January but this fell through at the last minute.

But, things are about to change on that front as you are about to be sold to new owners?

Yes, that's right. Fawaz had dealing with the Greeks before last summer until the deal collapsed.

Fawaz said the failed takeover in January 'wasn't in the best interests of the club'. We saw their plans, they had great plans for the ground, they had staff ready and waiting to go - namely Rowett as manager.

My initial thought this time was that he's selling to his friend Marinakis, maybe he'll keep a stake, but it's a 100% deal.

Maybe he knows there's no way back for him or maybe his family have pulled the plug, no one really knows.

In January, Forest were rumoured to have been interested in our captain Luke Chambers, who used to play for you. Would you have been happy to see him return?

We needed all the help we could get in January so, yes, I'd have taken him back!

You know yourself what a passionate player he is and a true leader too. I always rated him.

I would take him back, we need players who understand what is means to play for this club.

What do Forest need to do on Sunday to survive?

We need to win a game of football! 

We must better Blackburn's result at Brentford. It will come down to who wants it more.

Forest have beaten five out of the top six at home this season and we have left the City Ground absolutely buzzing.

But the following week it is always 'business as usual' and we are back to being poor. 

So for Sunday, we just need to win!

What are you expecting from Sunday?

I am absolutely dreading Sunday. I am expecting a lot of nerves, frustration and shouting! 

I expect our senior players to lead by example, something we often lack. I expect Warburton to start the game with proven goal scorers.

We need to come out fighting, we need to prove that we deserve to be a Championship side.This is what I expect from Nottingham Forest. 

I also expect a lot of alcohol to be consumed by us...Forest drive you to it!

Have you any expectations of Ipswich?

Ipswich are a decent side, a proper club like us. This hasn't been their best season for whatever reason. 

I expect them to give us a good game, but I'm hoping that with nothing to play for their minds will be on their summer holidays! 

Who knows...maybe Chambo will help us out (clutching at straws here!).

I will just add here that Ipswich is also a great away day,love meeting you and the guys for a drink and love the fact the landlady of the Black Horse pub is a Forest fan!

Are there any of your players we might like to keep an eye out for?

Ben Brereton is a fantastic young player, really talented, exciting to watch, a great eye for goal and still so young. 

Assombalonga is always one to watch as well.Give him the service and he will score!

What will it mean for you, as a fan, if you are relegated?

As a fan, I will of course be devastated if we are relegated. The owner always said he'd get us out of this league, he just didn't specify which league!

But, if this happens, I will 100% renew my season ticket, back the new owners and the manager and hope next season we have people at the club who know how to run a football club rather than a refrigeration company. 

The good thing about being a Forest fan is the supporters are so fantastic, even when the club is on its knees the fans keep going.

A special mention should go to the guys behind Forza Garibaldi - a group who have organised some cracking pre-match events over the last year.

The 90 minutes in the ground may be mainly awful, but these events at least get you to the ground in a good mood full of optimism (and beer!).

And alternatively, what if you stay up? What needs to change next year?

If we stay up... gosh I hope we do! 

The new owners from Greece need to get proper staff in and leave people to do their jobs. 

We need to back the manager and actually give him his own players. We also need a massive clear out and to get rid of a lot of players who are not good enough.

We need to lower prices and pack the City Ground out again. We need a bit of life back at Forest! 

The current owner has lost us thousands of fans who will come back once he's gone.

Good luck Laura, I truly do hope you get enough to stay up...

 Knowing us this season, I don't think it'll be too much of a challenge!