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!

Friday, 28 April 2017

ITFC heroes make wishes come true at charity football match

As the Easter holidays drew to a close, my nerves were beginning to build. I'm used to feeling like this before an Ipswich match, but this time it was different...

Because last Sunday I was going to Bury Football Club's Ram Meadow to see the Town Legends charity match in aid of My WiSH and the Ipswich Town academy.

It's the third year running that this event has taken place but the first time I've been able to attend and so I took a raincheck on my favourite away day of the season (the Blues were travelling to Rotherham) and travelled from Leeds to Suffolk instead.

As it turned out it was the right decision not to head to Rotherham! We lost 0:1 in a dire game where the fringe and youth players of our side failed to take their chance to shine.

But there was one very special reason why I made the decision to make the journey down to East Anglia, my Vlog about the day explains all:

Friday, 10 March 2017

Barnsley v Ipswich Town: a match preview through the eyes of a Tyke

In Issue 2 of Kings of Anglia I had the chance to talk about my favourite topic: Ipswich Town away days.

I picked out my favourite grounds to travel to and among them was Barnsley.

This fixture is something of a 'home' game for me as when I first moved to Yorkshire I lived there for some years. I have written about my experiences living there, here.

As a result, I have many dear friends who are season tickets holders at Oakwell and the Reds have become rather dear to me.

I was so pleased for them as their journey to promotion picked up pace last season and was over the moon when they were promoted through the play offs.

Of course, that soft spot I have for them will be completely ignored on Saturday, as I head out for what is only my fourth game of this season, but one I've been looking forward to since the fixtures were announced.

As part of the build up to the game, I spoke to my friend Tom who once took me to a local 'home fans' pub before a game against Town, where a change in the toilets to hide the colours of my shirt sadly did not stop my southern accent standing out like a sore thumb!

"I've been going to Oakwell since the glory years of 1997/98, our only ever season in the top flight.

A season ticket holder for fifteen of the last twenty years, I sit in the East Stand Upper and get to about ten or twelve away games every year.

Strangely, I prefer the away games (I don't think that's strange at all Tom, I'm exactly the same!).

You can't beat five and a half hours on a coach to Yeovil, supping warm lager, seeing your side get three points, then knowing you've got to do it all over again on the way home.

I have a lad who I've taken to just one game (it didn't end well!).

He'd just turned four last season and we had Fleetwood in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy semi-final at home.

He wanted to go, so I took him.

All day he were excited, sat with hat and scarf on at 10 in the morning all ready - we weren't setting off until 2pm!

Anyway, we got in our seats and those words that I were dreading came out of his mouth.

It were 3:05 and he said, "can we go home yet? This is rubbish."

I weren't impressed, we ended up leaving at half time.

I were devastated!"

Asking Tom about last season, it's clear that he, like all other Barnsley fans at the moment, is still so proud of what they achieved.

"Last season's success was really strange, after Christmas it was when we really got things together.

I started enjoying going to the games again, we outplayed a very good Walsall side twice to get to the final.

Before the final we were stood on Wembley way about an hour before kick off and I could see worry on a few of my mates' faces.

I reassured them that we'd win that final, I'd never been as confident that we'd win a game in twenty years of being a fan.

I were proved right, we scored after about 80 seconds of the game, and that's when the lads started to relax and enjoy the occasion."

So, after such a good season last season, what were Tom's hopes for their first year back in the Championship?

"To be honest, I'd have been happy with fourth bottom come May, but it's not been that way.

We hit the fifty point mark in February, but success comes at a cost.

The big money boys have decided they want all our best players.

Hourihane, Mawson, Bree and Winnall have all gone to new clubs and that's left a big gap in the side. We never had a big squad to start with.

But we're coping; it's strange because our away form is a lot better than our home."

The last time Barnsley faced Town, the Blues appeared to be by far the better side, with a thrilling game at Portman Road that ended 4:2 to the home side.

Sadly, Town haven't lived up to the hype of that match back in August, so what does Tom expect to see from them this weekend?

"I don't know what to expect really.

 I think Ipswich are a lot like us, not a bad side exactly but can't put a run together for a chance at the play offs.

There could be a lot of goals, after the opening game of the season which was a goal fest. (Sorry Tom, I don't think we are going to see that given our current phobia of the back of the net!)

I'm a big fan of McCarthy.

In the last twenty years we've had about twelve or thirteen managers and I always thought that when one of them got the sack he'd be given the job. But it's never happened.

Maybe he's never wanted it? Who knows. Either way, if he'd been appointed it wouldn't have been a bad thing.

Back to Barnsley and they've certainly made their mark on the league this year. Which players should I be watching out for?

"A player to look out for is Marley Watkins who, rumour has it, Ipswich made a million pound bid for in the August transfer window.

To me, he's been our best player of the season followed closely by goalkeeper Adam Davies.

Marley's fast and strong, can play up front, or out wide on the wing.

He's decent on the wing because he's got bags of energy and doesn't stop running.

I've always liked Ipswich as a club (apart from the sunny May bank holiday afternoon in North London in 2000, but the little said about that the better!).

I'd like to say I wish you all the best for the rest of the season, after Saturday of course!

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to talk to us Tom, we loved having you on!

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Feeling the frustration at Ipswich Town

Such is the reliability of Town's inconsistency this season, that I should really have put money on us losing to QPR this week.

The Christmas period has been a rollercoaster with our emotions: defeat to Fulham on Boxing Day, then a decent result against Bristol City before the new year, inevitably followed by a disappointing game at Loftus Road in front of over two thousand Town fans.

Now, I can forgive the result against Fulham, who are a much better side this season. But what I can't forgive is the way our performances and results are up and down like a yo-yo.

It's getting tedious and even I am reaching the end of my tether.

So, me being me, I thought I'd write about what I'm feeling.

Hopefully it will resonate with other Town fans and, if it does, please do share this so we can let each other know we aren't alone!

I'm fed up my weekends are lovely  til, shock!
I'm full of dismay come 5 o'clock.
I'm fed up with pouring myself a drink,
To stop this team taking me over the brink.
I'm fed up of hearing we've played too deep,
Just four shots on goal makes me want to weep.
I'm fed up of all this to-ing and fro-ing,
Should he stay? Should he go? Endless debating.
I'm fed up I can't often make it to games,
And I hate having to watch the score on my phone.
Meanwhile people I know, who go every week,
Are left wishing they'd been the ones to stop at home.
I'm fed up of seeing those friends looking sad,
People who care about the team feeling angry and mad.
I'm fed up with wondering who my son will support.
He'll watch the best, so at Town he will snort.
I'm fed up of seeing people ridicule each other,
Having to calm their moods down like I am their mother.
I'm fed up of being called nasty names,
Deluded, rose tinted, blind to the games.
I'm fed up of worrying where the club's going:
Ticket prices and low sales,
An ever increasing debt,
Owner who doesn't care
Boss on who I wouldn't bet.
I'm fed up of wondering how long we must wait,
A lifetime in the Championship seems to be our fate.

Relief for Ipswich fans in a foggy Wigan

It was an unexpectedly enjoyable game for me and the Ipswich fans who travelled to Wigan just before Christmas.
Frustrating too, having been a goal ahead in the first half.
My Vlog will hopefully give you a taste of the mixed emotions we experienced that day...
From the anger of fans when we went a goal behind, to the joy of singing adapted Christmas songs on the way home.
Please share this if you enjoy it, and let me know your thoughts via @tractorgirlamy8 on Twitter.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tricky Trees Continue Trials of Town Fans

After Ipswich put in such a good performance against Sheffield Wednesday, I was foolishly looking forward to our home game against Nottingham Forest.

Because this game was on Sky, I spent Saturday evening with my friend Mark, who also lives in West Yorkshire.

We meet up often, though not often enough, and our conversations generally revolve around The Blues.

That's why it's always good to watch games together whenever they are live on TV.

A fellow long distance Blues supporter, he almost always holds a different opinion to me about the team, manager and owner.

But, we are united in our passion for Ipswich and frustration with the way things are at the moment.

Here, in my first football Vlog, I show how watching Town lose 2:0 to Forest felt from our side of the television screens: