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:

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The real Price of Football

Every year, BBC Sport release a study which claims to 'analyse data to find out how much it costs football supporters to follow their team'.

Several articles are released, looking at ticket prices across the football league, summarising the main points and grouping together the stats under the banner 'The Price of Football'.
It's an important topic and one us football fans talk about regularly, because it affects every one of us. There's no getting away from the fact that football isn't cheap.
But the BBC, once again, seem to miss the point of the conversation and an opportunity to send a strong message to our clubs - prices are getting to high.
To me, the article reads like someone let the work experience student go mad with stats and then picked out the biggest numbers to create a 'shock'. Perhaps I am being naive, perhaps that is exactly what journalism has been reduced to these days.
For Ipswich in particular, it betrays the average fan by portraying the details of a far more premium experience at the club that most of us will ever actually pay for.
Sadly, it's a stat that hits their headlines every year: the most expensive season ticket in the Championship is... *drum roll please*... Ipswich Town with £842.
"Eight hundred quid!!?" the neutrals cry, "that's an outrage. You can get a season ticket at Barcelona for less than that".
Except, like I say, that isn't what a 'normal' Ipswich fan will pay. I follow a lovely chap on Twitter who sits in one of those seats and he has explained in the past that he enjoys sitting there, so he is willing (and able) to pay that price.
The average Ted, sitting down in the Sir Bobby Robson stand in his blue and white replica shirt (more on that later), will have paid a generally more manageable fee of £500. It's still a lot of money, of course, but far less shocking.

So what actually is the Price of Football?
I don't intend to speak for all football fans, but I can talk through what the Price of Football is for me:

Matchday tickets: £30 per month - ish.
I don't go to many home games per season, so my focus here is on away ticket prices and those can vary greatly: for Leeds in September I paid £35 but for Wigan next month I am about to pay just £20.
I always budget around £30 for a ticket as that's what I am willing to pay to get into each game. I am happy if it costs me less than that and I do try to select games which will cost less to allow my budget to go further.
For home games I usually pay just over £30. It is more than I want to pay, especially when you add in the cost of travel, but I believe season tickets are the lifeblood of our club and so the cost of those should be more attractive then the matchday tickets.
For a season ticket holder, each individual game costs around £17 - almost half of what I pay - which I think more than reasonable. If you are unable to pay that in one go, you can pay by direct debit for around £30 a month: the same amount I pay each month for just one game!
In addition to that, the club currently have a special offer where you can buy a number of tickets for a reduced price. You do need to know which games you plan to go to, but surely we have all planned our lives around football games?
Just me?


Travel: £20 per month (£60 if travelling to a home game)

As an away fan, I generally opt for games that are easy to get to via public transport. £20 is usually the limit for my budget when booking train tickets, it is equivalent to half a tank of petrol and I can get to most grounds on that amount of fuel.
I truly feel sympathy for the Ipswich fans who travel up to the northern games, which usually involves four or five hours in the car (and no drinking), or several changes and a large cost if going by train.
Ipswich is such a difficult place to get to, with journeys up north often involving two or three changes at places like London, Grantham and Peterborough, changes that increase the prices. As a result, I have known many friends book their travel months in advance to take advantage of lower prices, only to find the game has been moved to be shown on Sky and they lose the money they have paid for that ticket.

Food and drink: Between £10 and £30
This is an entirely subjective cost, which fluctuates depending on how much time I have for pre- and post-match drinks. The Price of Football for me though will inevitably involve a few pints and a couple of shots, because, as you know, my enjoyment of match days is based heavily on the social side of the day.
I know from when I was pregnant last season that I could easily find somewhere to eat lunch and have a soft drink for less than a tenner. It doesn't have to cost a lot, in the same way that one doesn't have to buy a pie despite it being included in the BBC survey.

Programmes and other memorabilia: £50 a season.
I recently moved home and, being pregnant at the time, I was unable to lift most of the items down from my first floor flat.

So, you can imagine the delight of my partner, Luke, when he came across my boxes of ITFC programmes. "Do you really need these?" he asks, before quickly scurrying away when given 'the glare'.
The same was true when my Dad moved home a few years ago, my Mum could not understand why we were carting boxes and boxes of the things all the way down to Cornwall. "Mum", I said, "these are from the eighties. Come on, be sensible".
The truth is, both Mum and Luke have a point. We really don’t need those programmes. But throwing them away would be like throwing away the treasured cuddly toy of your first born, or the little tag the hospital put on their teenie little ankle when they are born. You just can't bring yourself to dispose of memories that have had a profound effect on your life.
Yes, I did just compare my son's hospital name tag to my programme from Huddersfield away five years ago and, no, I'm not sorry.
As a result of realising how right Mum and Luke are, I have decided not to buy programmes when at games. I find I rarely get the chance to read them at the game and tend to prefer to find stories online in the days leading up to the match.
I have also made the decision not to buy a replica shirt each season. However, if I particularly like a shirt, like the 'Tractor-lona' away shirt we had last year, I purchase it at the end of the season at a reduced price.
I have cut back on the typical bits, but I do buy generic items that won't go out of date in 12 months time. Like the time I travelled to Ipswich only to realise it was much colder than I'd expected and I hadn't packed a coat. So, I popped to Planet Blue and paid £30 for a gillet, which I wear almost every day two years later.
My new expense, of course, is Ipswich Town babygrows for my son, Harry. I am not sure if I am brainwashing the child or being duped into spending money I don't need to... but the feeling of seeing him in blue and white, smiling at me when we've won is worth every penny.
In total then, it seems I spend around £850 per season. So, for the price the BBC has given the impression Ipswich fans pay for season tickets, I get a whole year of enjoying watching Town (I use the word 'enjoying' very loosely).
The thing that frustrates me is that this is actually an important topic, but the BBC miss the point by trying to focus on too many things at once.
People are being priced out of watching the game, particularly those who have children to pay for on top of their own tickets.
The prices at Portman Road are not great, particularly when compared to the amazing cost of a season ticket at Huddersfield this season.
But, those points are part of a much wider conversation, one which I'm sure I will return to at some point this season. In the Championship, it's not a simple case of the clubs profiting from their fans like it is in the Premiership and comparing the two is unfair and unhelpful.
£500 is a lot of money but the truth is, I am able to pay that at the moment and so I am willing to. Football is a huge part of me, the hobby that makes me happy. And, whether it's decoupage or watching sport that takes your fancy, hobbies cost money.
And I'd much rather be supporting Town than gluing together bits of paper.

I'm interested to hear hoe much you spend on football, so please do tweet me on @tractorgirlamy8

Friday, 11 November 2016

Memo to McCarthy: How not to make friends and influence people

There is no better feeling in this world than a last minute winner.

My three month old son's smiles are special... but they've got nothing on the moment I heard Luke Chambers had scored against Sheffield Wednesday.

The skipper joined Richard Chaplow and Noel Hunt in the hall of fame for goals that will long remain in the memories of those who witnessed them live.

My friend Anthony, who has only ever seen us draw at Hillsborough, was ecstatic: 'Absolute scenes when Chambers scored', he told me in a text after the game, 'Ben must have fallen down about 5 rows of seating'. We've all been there, right?

How happy I am for those who travelled to South Yorkshire on the back of a disappointing result the weekend before. They, more than anyone, deserved to experience that win.

This year has seen difficult times at Ipswich Town, so supporters back in Suffolk surely enjoyed that victory?

Oh no Amy, of course they didn't.

No sooner had the final whistle blown, than I saw tweets appear on my timeline declaring the three points were 'papering over the cracks'.

For many, it's going to take more than an unexpected away win to renew confidence and you can understand the continued frustrations of those who wish to see the end of McCarthy's reign (though hearing fans actually wanting us to lose is unfathomable).

So, what of our controversial manager? He, surely, would be smiling after that result?

Oh no Amy, of course he wasn't.

"Asked if it’s only fair to judge him now he’s got close to a fully fit squad available, he replied: “If you or anyone else wants to judge me then crack on. That performance today and that result reflects my time at Ipswich, my four years and 202 games, far more than the performances that some choose to carp on about." EADT

McCarthy aims these weekly digs at a set of fans who have endured over fifteen years of struggling to get out of the Championship. It is growing tiresome and is the main reason he has lost the support of a great number of fans.


But, to what extend are his comments justified? Are they really as offensive and arrogant as some would have you think?

Here's some other examples of his comments:

"Jonathan Douglas isn’t injured, I just left him out,” explained McCarthy. “That was the team I wanted to play, that strangely defensive team I wanted to play, to play s**t football, that’s why I did it.” EADT (Following criticism for defensive tactics.)

“I’ll just tell you that the more they shout the less chance there is they will come on." EADT (Responding to fans calling for McGoldrick, Bru and Pitman to used in the team.)

"Some people might be frustrated with that result? Some people can f*** off." Football website 'Joe' (Defending a draw away at Leeds.)

And in a similar conversation: "McCarthy was delighted that his side were able to deny a fellow relegation-threatened side all three points, admitting that he ‘wouldn’t have bothered getting on the bus’ had he been offered the draw prior to the match." Ipswich Star

Sometimes I read his post-match interviews and feel like banging my head against a brick wall. With the mood as it is, comments like this further rile those who are criticising him. In short, he is giving them ammunition.

I do wish someone with his many years of experience would have a little more diplomacy. But, I also wonder why people take it so seriously. Take, for example, his comments after that draw with Rotherham:

“If you are ever looking for a point in a season to turn a bad moment around, maybe that could be it, a wonderful strike from a really good player.” EADT

The accompanying headline ('Rotherham draw could be turning point, says Town boss McCarthy') created uproar online, with fans calling him deluded for thinking a point at home against bottom of the league was a 'turning point'.

However, when reading what he says in the context of his other comments, I get a very different impression.

Whilst giving a balanced view of the game, admitting that the second half wasn't good and that we looked nervous, he looks to the moment that saved us - David McGoldrick's late but great strike.

To me, he is saying the performance wasn't good enough but a goal like that, which will be a contender for goal of the season come May, could be the start of something better. The result itself isn't what he thinks is the turning point, but the confidence gained from that lovely goal could be.

Sometimes I think his comments are interpreted harshly by fans who already have an issue with him, those who complain are often the ones who have already decided they want him to go.

I also find it laughable when people take offence to the things he's said. McCarthy has always been an up front, blunt manager - it's the reason his interviews have become something of a legend.

‘I don’t intimate things, do I? I’m not clever enough to say one thing and mean another. I say it as it is, as I always do.’ Daily Mail (Apologies for linking to this website, an alternative was not available. #StopFundingHate)

Throughout his interviews over the years, a clear trend is visible: the majority include a sarcastic answer to a question or a little joke. It's just what he does.

Having lived in Yorkshire for almost eight years now, the bluntness of the locals has taken some getting used to, but they generally have kind intentions: McCarthy is, quite simply, a typical Yorkshire man.

In the early days of my time as a journalist, I attended an Ipswich game at the Molineux during McCarthy's tenure there. He came to speak to the press a little earlier than Paul Jewell, Town's boss at the time, so I took the chance to listen in to what he had to say.

As he made jokes and spoke frankly about the game, he held the attention of every person in that room.  He came across as knowledgeable and likeable, so much so that I missed the beginning of the interview with Jewell because I had been listening too intently to what Mick had to stay.

I don't know him personally, but I have known people who do. They have spoken so highly of him I find it difficult to imagine he doesn't care about the team or he is using the club for a final pay cheque before retirement: two things he has been accused of by some of our fans.

This is also the reason I find it so difficult reading the nasty names and even threats of violence aimed at him on the internet. When I questioned one fan on his wish to 'smash a glass around McCarthy's head', thinking perhaps it was a poorly thought out joke, he responded that his feelings were 'justified'.

This kind of criticism is something McCarthy has faced many times before and he has always been honest with reporters about his feelings towards it, this quote is an example from his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland:

'The Irish media, incredibly, will tell you they have not been hard on me, but they're liars. They've given me a hard time and they all take exception to it when I say it to them, which doesn't bother me.' The Guardian

The quote rings true of things he has said about his time at Ipswich, where he has said he doesn't care if people don't like his tactics. To some this comes across as arrogance; to me it is a case of having to rise above the hate and get on with his job.

He has had to deal with far worse than 'criticism' at the hands of our fans:

“I’m a boring c***, somebody called me last week. I wish they would call it to my face on my own because his pint of lager ... he would have been wearing it." Independent

Though I would not condone the use of the 'c' word, unless referring to Grant Holt, I felt the focus on his use of it missed the point entirely. The criticism from a section of our fan base has turned nasty and personal, no person should ever have to deal with that.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the vitriol that has been aimed at McCarthy in recent months, explaining I think it is unhelpful. In fact, it is counter-productive and shows those who resort to it as extremely petty.

Nasty names are never justified and there are, sadly, more examples of fans being offensive directly to the manager and players. A friend of mine retold her experience of waiting to meet the players after an away game this season:

'The way [a group of fans] spoke to Luke was so rude and disrespectful, they pounced on him when he came out of the gates. I tried to defend him but they said we didn't know what we were talking about because we are female. I made a quick exit'

How awful to think that our fan base is resorting to this kind of hate, but it is not the first time a story has come out describing nastiness on the part of our fans. I am reminded of the time that Paul Jewell told a reporter about his experiences on a garage forecourt.

Nor is it the first time we have had to put up with our manager committing a faux pas in the media room. Compared with a sexist comment about a female official or shouting at a journalist for forgetting to put their phone on silent, these errors from McCarthy don't seem as offensive.

If your opinion on the team differs from Mick McCarthy, that is fair enough. But, if your difference of opinion with him is based on, or influenced by your dislike of him personally, I would suggest you are doing him and our club a disservice.