Friday, 9 December 2011

The last light of hope at Ipswich Town

Last Tuesday night I sat through a freezing cold 4:0 defeat at Burnley and it was gutting.

I spent the whole drive home in deep thought, trying to make sense of what is going wrong with my beloved Ipswich. I came to the conclusion that the most significant contributing factor to the 6 straight defeats was a lack of confidence.

When Burnley's first goal went in the players' shoulders visibly dropped, after a good starting ten minutes or so they were completely deflated... and you just sensed the ball would be plucked from our own net a few more times that night.

Meanwhile, the online forums filled with calls for Paul Jewell's head and frustrated fans bemoaning the terrible performance from his players. Rightly so, in the case of the latter. But my concern became that in times like this it is so easy to shout about what is wrong with the world: when really a little bit of support could go a long way.

So I decided to write a letter to let Jewell and the boys know that there are some fans out here who have resolved to keep the faith. We hope and pray that this will be the start of something big, but win lose, or draw we will be behind them.

The letter was not meant to be a balanced view of what they are doing right or wrong, it was meant to be a signal of hope: here's hoping it might make the difference tomorrow.

Thank you to everyone who wrote to me asking to be involved - you are all truly wonderful fans.

A letter to Paul Jewell and the Ipswich Town team:
From your most loyal of fans.

The recent run of defeats at Ipswich has lead to a lot of complaints from Town fans (perhaps deservedly so). But we're writing today to let you know that the Blue Army is still behind you. And we always will be.

It can be easy for the disgruntled voices to become the loudest voices at times like this, so this letter is an attempt to balance those out and show you there are still some wonderful fans that are worth fighting for.

Nothing will ever make us forget the trip to Peterborough in August. Having enjoyed the build up to the 2011/2012 season, it is impossible to describe how much it hurt to see the team we love lose 7:1. But, do you remember those fans that waited to applaud you at the end? That was us. We wanted to show you that we believed there was so much more to see from you.

A statement we all still stand by today, despite the recent run of defeats. When we watched you play against Coventry, Middlesbrough, West Ham and Brighton, that was the team we'd dreamt of seeing all summer. And we have undoubting faith that you can be that team again.

For when you joined Ipswich Town you joined an amazing club with some wonderful fans, they really are both things to be proud of. The history of this club is what makes it so special, now it's time for you to become a part of it.

From the wins in Europe before I was even born, to winning promotion through the Play Offs at Wembley, through to that first year in the Premier League where we finishing 5th and then travelling to the San Siro the next season. Even up to results as recent as that Carling Cup win over Arsenal last year and the 6:0 annihilation of Doncaster Rovers: this club has provided us with the most wonderful of memories and for that reason we support you through the good times but, more importantly, we'll back you through the bad.

For we have total faith that you will one day be adding to those precious memories, please have faith in yourselves too and turn things around for us.

This was always be going to be a very difficult year, I'm not naïve enough to ignore the league position, terrible current form and difficult run of fixtures we are about to come up against. But, just as Mr Jewell has said the fans lifted the team against Brighton: I believe the fans have a huge part to play to help you through this year. So this letter is to let you know that we are doing just that.

Every time I go to a game, I am in awe the wonderful people I get to spend my time with. Be it on my own to Bristol just to catch a first glimpse at the new signings. Be it by coach from Newmarket with my Dad, who's supported Town for over 50 years (despite my Grandad being a Norwich fan!). Or, be it on a cold Tuesday night in Burnley where hundreds of Town fans battled through traffic on the A1 to show their support for you, despite dreading yet another defeat.

These fans never fail to amaze me: they're so full of positivity, so kind to one another and most of all they love their club more than anything else in the world.

You are all a part of that now: please remember this every time you step on to the pitch. We are the Blue Army forever and always.

In Jewell and our boys we trust.

Yours Sincerely,

The fans of Ipswich Town Football Club

Amy Downes

Chris Andrews

Simon Cox, Cape Town
‘Forever and always ITFC’

‘Tell them I will give them a four second hug of reassurance each’

Daniel Hill

Paul Herring
‘I have total belief the boys can turn this around’

Jon Bayliss

Danny Pearson

Matt Whiting

James Hacker

Liz White

Andrea Copping
‘Paul Jewell’s Blue and White army’

Helen Royce


Andy Cross
‘I am still right behind PJ and the lads’

Darren Rice

Steve Clark

Sam Bakey

Will Driver
‘Think positive!’

Sam Page

Alasdair Ross

Ryan Adams


Bekah Downes

Zoe Wright

Simon Reynolds

Leigh Whatling ‘Bobby Robson didn’t start too well; but we stick with him and look what happened!’

Matt Stannard

Sam Stannard

Mark W
‘Jewell is the man with the credentials to build this team over the next few years’

Frances Johnson

Hannah Williams
‘Keep going boys, we’ll be there through the good and the bad’

Anthony Steele
‘Jewell will get it right’

Andrew Barnard

Aprille Branton

Bev Hurst

Chloe Binnington

Haydn Lyons

Nick Chenery

Jordan Mitchell

Graham Downes

Jeremy Crawley

Bobby Kilometre

Matt Harrison ‘Keep the faith’

Allen Harris

Craig Tayler

Stephen Bailey


Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Town's rollercoaster season takes another twist against Millwall

How many emotions can one football team make you feel just three months into the season?

Elation: Check (Bristol Away)
Anger: Check (Peterborough Away)
Pride: Check (Coventry at Home)
Hope: Check (West Ham Away)
A little bit Lucky: Check (Portsmouth at Home)

Pure Frustration: Check (Millwall Away)

August's trip to Peterborough was devastating because it highlighted what a mess the side were in at the time. Yet, there was still a feeling of anticipation for how Paul Jewell would respond to that result.

Having recovered so well by making our way up towards the play off places, it was truly disappointing to see the boys sink to another low point at Millwall on Saturday. As keeper David Stockdale said: 'We just didn't see it coming'.

The most frustrating thing about the trip to South London was the lack of good football on show. Every other poor result so far this season (Peterborough aside) has produced some good examples of how we are improving; sadly there are few to report this time.

One positive to take from the game was Jimmy's beautiful goal, how proud I am that I got to see that.

Sadly, my beloved curly haired one didn't have a great game, again, with his lack of fitness being highlighted at The New Den. Once more I raise the point that when Jimmy has a poor game; so does the rest of the team.

What I would say though is that his passion for the game was clearly still there. In the build up to his goal you did get the feeling he was about to pull something special out of the hat. He just seemed to be saying, 'You know what, enough of this farting about. Let's get a goal back'. He was pushing forward and organising the midfield well, if only for a short space of time. We need to see more of that this year, but Jimmy doesn't need me to tell him that - he already knows.

I still firmly believe he was the best signing Jewell made this season, thanks to his influence on and off the pitch with players and fans alike. For that reason I hope to see him on the team sheet week in, week out: you can only get match fit by playing full matches and regularly.

Meanwhile, David Stockdale also had the Town fans on their feet numerous times and it is harsh on him that the goal difference has once again entered into negative figures. The youngster is another shining light at Portman Road: his professionalism is an example to us all, astounding too when you consider his age.

I would be foolish, though, if I ignored the problems that were clearly exsistent in our game on Saturday. There are plenty of things to be learnt from our defeat and improve on for the visit of Doncaster this coming weekend.

Most importantly, we need to develop the side to compensate for injuries and suspensions. The loss of Super Sonko and Lee Bowyer in the first half had a profound affect on the team and the challenge of regrouping after that appeared to be too much. Saturday was a visible example that, though we have an excellent line up for the first team, our fringe players just aren't good enough yet.

One might argue that the loss of some key players this weekend provided the chance for our subs to shine, I was certainly hoping that JET and Kennedy would take that opportunity. Sadly they haven't quite lit any fireworks... yet.

In JET we have someone with the potential to become an excellent player. He's becoming a bit of a Marmite character at Ipswich (you either love him, or you hate him), but I hope he will use that criticism constructively and emerge a stronger player - he can learn a lot from this league and I'm excited to see what we have to come from him.

Whilst in Kennedy we have an excellent defender. I was impressed with him in the first game of the season against Bristol. As this was pre-Sonko and Collins, he took on a more central role with Ingimarsson and controlled the back line well. Perhaps he was too far out of his comfort zone this weekend?

Of course, the trouble with his 'discomfort zone' at Millwall was the prescence of Jay Simpson: any defender would find marking him a tough challenge!

Finally, the style of football Millwall play just isn't suited to us: The 'hit and hope, 'have it', hoof the ball as high as you can' style. We like to get it on the ground and actually play some passing football which, credit to Millwall, they prevented us doing.

What we need to do now is show that we are willing to grab the game by the proverbial balls, shake it up and play it exactly how we want to. In a parallel universe, where we hadn't lost two key players to injury, we might have been strong enough to organise the game in a way that suited us. I doubt the Lions would have stood a chance against the confident Ipswich side that beat Brighton.

Sadly that team went temporarily AWOL on Saturday. But you mark my words, they'll be back - bigger and better than before.

Man of the Match: Just as he was at Peterborough, I believe Stockdale was absolutely key on Saturday. The saves he made were crucial and allowed us that possiblity of getting back into the game. Had it not been for him the scoreline would have been far worse.

I've also been thoroughly impressed with his response since the game, he is determined to continue learning and improving - what an asset he is for us.

Also making their mark: Sonko and Bowyer were noticeable by their absence.

I felt that without Sonks we appeared rather 'lopsided': as the right hand side of the formation was pushing forward, poor Kennedy was left dealing with Simpson on his own. I wonder whether the impressive figure and energy of Sonko might have been more intimidating to the Millwall star and thus his threat elliminated, but we will never know.

Meanwhile; though the jury is still out on Bowyer for many Town fans, it seemed to me there was a gaping hole without him. The organisation, control and experience he brings to the midfield, descended into fear - something I hoped we'd banished at home against Coventry. I wish him a speedy recovery but the fact does remain that we need other options in our challenge for promotion.

At the other end of the pitch I thought Liam Trotter did an excellent job of showing Town what they have missed out on since he left Suffolk. I was a big fan of the lad, mainly because of his kind and humble attitude off the pitch but also for his enthusiasm on it. I was thoroughly impressed with his performance, he seemed to be involved in every attacking move the Lions built in the first half.

Bekah's Funny Moment Could be one of a large number of pre and post-match antics we witnessed with the Blue Army in London Bridge. My personal favourite came as we made our way to the ground: Off they marched down a tunnel into the train station... singing along, drawing strange looks from fellow travellers but enjoying every moment thoroughly... Only to find the group had managed to lead itself into the station through an 'exit only' route.... 'We are the Ipswich, we went the wrong way...'

May I take this opportunity to thank Millwall and the British Transport Police for their professionalism. To say that I was a little dubious about booking tickets for this game would be an understatement, but I can now highly recommend it to all football fans. A train can be caught directly to the ground, where you'll find a separate walkway provided for away fans, this path lined with police and the staff at the stadium itself also helpful and professional.

It could be argued that no trouble would be expected at a Town vs Millwall match, but I did feel really safe and that's largely thanks to the staff and police at the ground.

With the exception of the alleged incident at Liverpool Street, Town fans have received some good reports online: one Millwall fan tweeted 'Good to see the ITFC fans so humble in defeat. Fair play to them and good luck for the rest of the season'.

Which leads me to the Highlight of the Day. Having grown up away from Ipswich, my sister and I have never experienced going to football with a group of friends. Though I would never change going to Portman Road with my Dad whilst I grew up, and still cherish the chances I get to do that, the ITFC Tweeps have provided me with an opportunity to experience this other side of being a football fan. I was really proud to be a part of that group who were determined to have a good day and support their team, again. Nice one and thank you to every one of the 1600+ who made the journey down!

So onwards and upwards, as we face the twists and turns the rest of the season will bring. This latest match wasn't our best performances, but I refuse to believe that we have already hit our peak this year. Jewell is building an entirely new team and we must give him time.

Fitness has, by his own admission, been a major issue for us - but that can only improve with more games and a little patience. I am sure that by the end of the year we will be pointing to the experience and determination of our side as the key to our success.

This weekend was a stark reminder that this could be an inbetween year for us, one to build on in future years. Look at QPR, Swansea and even - dare I say it - Narwich. Alot can be learnt from the way they took time to build their team and work hard together to earna thoroughly deserved promotion.

I would prefer to witness the strongest team possible win promotion in a couple of years time, than have us go up this year and come straight back down again. Teams like Chelsea, Man United and Arsenal would have made us suffer far worse than a 3 goal defeat.

I'd really rather not got through 9-0 again, would you?

Have faith that one day soon we will be the team winning 7-1 against Peterborough, 4-1 against Millwall and even 5-1 against Narwich.

The journey there will continue to be a rollercoaster: but I have no doubt we will look back on it fondly.

In Jewell We Trust

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Why the defeat against Palace really doesn't matter all that much

I have a confession to make: there's a small part of me that's relieved we lost on Saturday.

The recent run of good form has been a fascinating watch, and thoroughly deserved after the work the boys put in to turn things around following Peterborough away.

But it had to end some time.

I, for one, am reasonably content that this weekend's defeat came at the hands of a club who are on the up this season, the team that have surprised everyone with their equally good form, fair play to them. As Paul Jewell said after the game: 'Let's give Palace some credit, they played well. They gave us problems with their pace and we didn't give them problems.'

Of course it was disappointing that the team couldn't put in a better performance in front of this season's biggest crowd so far. But Paul Jewell has repeatedly said you cannot fault the boys for their enthusiasm. It's a shame that we look, as he put it, 'flat' at the moment. But I am certain he will figure out how to get them past that. In Jewell I Trust.

I think the result was best summed up for me by the one and only Jimmy Bullard, also in the EADT: 'You get days like that. In sport in general, not just football. I play golf: One day you turn up and swing well and you think you've cracked it. Then the next time you play it bites you on the bum. You have to forget about it and move on'.

When all's said and done: it is just one game, life goes on.

A statement that has taken on a lot more meaning for me in the last three days.

Ipswich Town are my first love, the single most important thing to me after my family and closest friends. But my second love is MotoGP and this weekend my heart was broken.

24 year old, upcoming super-star rider Marco Simoncelli was killed in a horrific crash at the Grand Prix in Sepang. It is a great loss to motorsport, the second in a week following the equally sad passing of Dan Wheldon.

His death has hit me so hard, I realised today it has upset me just as much as it might if it had been one of my beloved Town players (God forbid).

For those less aware of the incredible and exciting world of the MotoGP this touching obituary from the BBC's Matt Roberts explains all. Marco Simoncelli was the one with the MASSIVE afro. He was an amazing talent who was just beginning to reach the top of his game, having moved to the top class of bike racing only last season. On top of this he was such a cheerful and fun character, much like fellow Italian (the wonderful) Valentino Rossi - who has called Sic his 'younger brother'.

In Ipswich terms you could liken this weekend's events to if Connor Wickham were to be fatally injured this season, having only just moved to the Premier League. Or Wayne Rooney suffering that unimaginable fate just after moving to Man Utd.

They would have had so much more talent to show us. Just as Marco undoubtedly did. 'Touch wood' no such thing will ever happen to any young star again, whatever their sport.

These men and women give up everything for their sport. Their lives are entirely devoted to it: through diet, training, travelling away from home and away from family, essentially their life is no longer their own.

I totally understand that racing drivers in particular choose this life and they are fully aware of the risks they take when lining up on the grid. But, for that alone, I believe they deserve our upmost respect.

They give their lives for our entertainment, and this weekend that statement became so horrifically literal in the case of the beautiful Simoncelli.

And this is why when I hear 'fans' moaning about Jewell, publicly berating JET and constantly sending out put downs to Grant Leadbitter or Carlos Edwards I am totally disgusted. What right have they?

It's not just at Town: across the English football league this weekend there's been outcry from 'fans' who seem to think they could do a footballer's job so much better; Manchester United and Chelsea to name but a few. What a shame.

I will miss Marco so much, MotoGP has lost a member of it's family and it is so sad. But he raced for the love of his sport, just as we go to Portman Road for the love of ours. What enjoyment can we get out of complaining all the time? Is it not more fun to get behind the boys and cheer them on?

Can we not do as Marco did and smile hugely through it all, have fun and enjoy it.

From now on I will try to enjoy every moment of the two sports I love. And every day I will do so remembering the wonderful person that we have lost and pray that it does not happen to any more of my idols.

RIP Marco Simoncelli. 58 forever.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Keeping the faith as Town narrowly beat Pompey and move into the Play-Off places

'It's playing poorly and still managing to win that's a sign of a good team'

If I had a pound for every time I've heard that in the last 36 hours I'd have enough money to make Keith Andrews' move to Portman Road a permanent one.

The scoreline suggests that the midfielder's 80th minute strike was the only difference between the two sides, but that wasn't the case. Portsmouth bossed the lack lustre Ipswich side around and will have been sorely disappointed to be heading back to the south coast with no points.

For the first time since our new look Ipswich side has started storming up the Championship, they have come up against a team who figured out how to stop them playing.

For me, the fact that Edwards and Cresswell were unusually quiet was a telling sign - they were closely marked and not given their usual space, which slowed the game down massively. But credit where it's due, the two worked extremely hard to overcome this challenge, particularly Edwards who's been named as Man of the Match by the Evening Star's Dave Gooderham.

Meanwhile, when we did show signs of good attacking football Portsmouth locked down their defence and the penalty area appeared to be surrounded by more people than the entrance to Dale Farm. We just couldn't get through.

It's to be expected of a team like Portsmouth; who are not just a formerly Premiership side, they're a side who were formerly well established in the Premier League. Their experience showed on Tuesday night, but what's most impressive is that we actually managed to overcome that.

For me getting through a tough performance like that, without falling apart at the seams was almost as important for Town as the recent wins we've experienced. The boys battled through, managed to scrape a one goal lead and held on to it, even under huge amounts of pressure.

Yes it was very nervy at times, but isn't it the nailbiting final ten minutes that attract you to the game?!

What's also interesting to note is that when Jimmy Bullard has a bad game, so do Ipswich Town. The curly haired one was, unusually, giving away balls constantly. He never quite got up to full pace and the gap he left at the back of the midfield was plain to see. But rather than criticising him for that, I raise the point to highlight the impact he has had on our side. I don't think you can fault his desire to win - it was just one of those bad days for him. As I say, fascinatingly the performance of the whole team could be summed up in the same way - clearly he is our biggest influence still.

While I'd like to think that Jimmy was distracted by my long awaited appearance at the ground, it has been pointed out to me that he took a knock in the early stages of the game and that may well have had an effect on him. In his post-match interview, Paul Jewell admitted that some of his players are not fully fit at the moment and that may go some way to explaining the below par performance. He mentioned that Scotland hasn't trained much, which is unusual for the striker in recent months, and so one wonders how many other members of the team are carrying injuries but attempting to play through? For that reason I think PJ should be applauded for his clever substitutions - Ellington and JET went someway to bringing the desire to win and energy needed to do so back on to the pitch. For me they didn't quite match up to Chops and Jase, but that's a discussion for another day.

For today, we can take ourselves smugly into Saturday knowing that we need worry a little less against Palace. For now that we have a less exciting performance under our belt we have also ticked the last worrying box - how will we do against a team that know how to play us? This time last year we'd have lost that game by three or four goals, or dare I even say six? But now we've shown we've also got it in us to dig deep and cling on to a result, even if maybe we don't quite deserve it.

In my books, by doing that we deserve it even more.

Man of the Match has been a discussion of real debate on Twitter since Tuesday night, with everyone seeming to opt for a different player. After much deliberation I have opted for Stockdale - once again his saves came at crucial points for Ipswich Town, with the stop in the dying minutes of injury time bringing the whole of Portman Road to its feet in applause of grattitude. Once again, his performance has prevented us suffering from what was happening elsewhere on the pitch. For the first time this season he did look a little 'wobbly' at points and I don't wish to ignore that completely, but I think that's down to the quality of the opposition and I'm impressed he kept a cool head to go with that well deserved clean sheet.

At the other end of the pitch the build up for the return of David Norris fizzled out without even becoming relevant. Our former skipper was quiet to say the least, and though he did have a couple of good chances on goal, the performance we'd feared he would put in to undo us never materialised. Nice to see him settled in his new side, but - as I told the Evening Star - I don't think we miss him any more.

Bekah's funny moment didn't take place during the game itself, mainly because I was too on edge worrying that we were going to concede! However, I did enjoy the half time game - Ipswich fans taking penalties on the half way line and the shot that went at the highest speed won the prize. I've stated my disappointment before that the club did not make enough effort with entertainment at the interval, and explained that I believe it could make a real difference to the atmosphere at Portman Road. Admittedly, it didn't necessarily raise the noise in the ground, but it was a bit of light relief for the Blues faithful on such a bitterly cold night... particularly when one contestant skied his effort and it nearly landed in the Sir Bobby Robson Upper.

The highlight of the day as a whole was, to be honest, just being there. It's no accident that my first trip to Portman Road this season was for an evening match - I love them. Some of my happiest memories are from the quarter to eight kick offs and I always feel that there's a happier atmosphere within the crowd at the late games - no matter how low the temperature gets! As Matt Holland said to me during the day: 'there's definitely something magical about those games'.

So onward and upwards for our boys - and, happily, there's getting to be less and less room for us to move 'upwards' nowadays.

I'm very much enjoying being 6th in the league, a position that is thoroughly deserved from the hard fought games and excellent performances we have put in in recent weeks.

You just wonder how it could possibly go wrong from here and I'm sure there'll be a few wobbles along the way. But thanks to the gritty result on Tuesday, we now know we can overcome those obstacles and it'll all be ok in the end.

In Jewell We (Still) Trust!!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Portman Road avoids Managerial Sacking Season, thankfully

Just 10 games into the season the cull of managerial staff across the Championship has already begun.

But, is it too early?

Steve McClaren's resignation has come as no shock bearing in mind the state Nottingham Forest find themselves in at the moment. But ask a Forest fan how they feel about his exit and they will likely tell you the same thing my Forest fan friend @ibrahimmustapha: 'His heart's not been it for weeks so it was the right thing for him to go, but the problem runs much deeper than just needing a new manager'.

So why does it seem like the former England boss (along with the Chairman) are taking the fall for this? Have the media been too quick to get on his back? Sadly, a story of failure well always sell papers better than one of success.

Meanwhile, is it right that the fans have been up in arms and calling for McClaren's head? Similarly, at Doncaster and Bristol some have been asking for the boss to be sacked for a while: Do they really have the right to make that call? And why on earth are the clubs taking any notice?

The influence of fans and local media over these big decisions has also been discussed in this excellent article from website 'The Sacking Race'.

The current favourite to replace McClaren is a certain former Blues boss. The furore surrounding these latest managerial changes is reminiscient of a not-so-distant time at Portman Road, when one might have thought Satan himself had taken residence in Suffolk in the form of Roy Keane.

It took me until the last few weeks of his reign to decide there was clearly something going wrong, but many of the Town faithful had decided Keane was causing problems long before. There were chants and protests for his head months before he left, not only were the Blues underachieving, the unrest among the players was causing them to self destruct.

But, once again, the local media (who now contain almost completely new staff, by the way, and an altogether more balanced and positive attitude towards the boys) were enjoying the circus. I believe the board wanted a high profile name to lift Ipswich Town's own profile to the forefront of the footballing world's attention. They got what they wanted but not in the way they wanted. The media tore Keane apart at every turn because, like I say, a story of failure sells papers.

So, I ask again what right do the media or the fans have to make the call over a manager's future? And when will clubs stop paying any attention?

Don't get me wrong, I do understand that we put a lot of time money and effort into our football clubs and, as such, seeing them go through troubling times physically hurts. But who are we to tell the board how to do their job? I put a lot of time and money into MacDonald's every month - but I don't try telling Ronald how to light those golden arches.

Fast forward nine months and it's a different story entirely at Portman Road.

Now, Jewell is our king. But for a while it looked like he might end up being the joker. Following the unmentionable defeat at London Road some fans (though I do believe it was a minority) were calling for the scouser to be sacked.

What one earth is he thinking? Damien Delaney's a waste of space, Lee Martin's taking the mick, Josh Carson should be playing, Paul Jewell has no idea. They all knew better than him.

But, a Danny Collins and a Jimmy Bullard later, we appear to be all sorted and the doubts of the big man are all but forgotten.

Aren't we glad Simon Clegg paid no attention to calls to getting rid of PJ now?

As such, Ipswich Town are setting an example to the Championship: have a little faith and allow time for the team to grow. 46 games is a long season.

One tweet I received last night (from someone I had long thought lost to the cause of positivity at ITFC) summed up, rather eloquently, the rocky start to our season: 'PJ knew what he wanted and I think now we are seeing what he wanted with the team from day one'.

Absolutely right, aren't you all glad we kept him? I just hope Doncaster, Forest and Bristol aren't wishing they'd said the same by the end of the season.

Thank you Marcus Evans and Simon Clegg for putting your faith in Jewell and backing him through the rough start. It's all up from here!

In Jewell We Trust

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Ipswich Town FC; the finest football team the Championship has ever seen?

In my state of drunk-with-happiness-following-our-amazing-3:1-win-over-Brighton I made a very bold statement to the researchers at BBC 5 Live's 606:

'Ipswich Town are now the best team in the League'

Clearly I was a little overexcited. But, you know, the more I think about it the more I'm convinced I'm right.

Sam Allardyce was the third manager this season to make the following statement: 'Ipswich Town are the best team we've played so far'.

Ten points from 12 sounds great and it's certainly a statistic even the most faithful of Town fans were expecting. But what's even more impressive is how that compares to the top teams in the league: of the top 6 clubs, none have earned as points as us from the last 4 games.

Position Club Points Form
1st Southampton 6 Beat Watford and Birmingham
2nd Middlesbrough 6 Beat Palace Away and drew other three.
3rd Derby County 7 Beat Forest and Millwall
4th West Ham 5 Beat Peterborough and drew two.
5th Brighton 1 Just one draw after very good start.
6th Hull City 8 Didn’t lose in September.

Consistency is key, and it seems that not only have we found our pace - but it's good enough to rival the teams at the top of our league. Early on in the season I voiced my rejection of fears online that the top teams were running away already and we'd never catch them. Thanks to this great run, I have been proven right.

What's interesting when you look at these statistics is the games these top teams are winning - they're defeating clubs like Forest, Watford and Peterborough. Without wanting to appear disrespectful, these are not difficult games and seem even less impressive when compared with our run of a draw and two wins against Middlesbrough, West Ham and Brighton.

The one team who do make a good impression on me are Middlesbrough, they haven't yet lost this season. That's a fantastic situation to be in and it's that kind of consistency that will win out at the end of the year. However, there is something to be said for the fight that needs to appear within a team following a bad run of results: Something Town have shown in abundance.

And that is another reason I believe we are the best team in the league. When we lost to Peterborough I was loud and clear about my disappointment that the players had given up so easily and that they weren't even getting on with each other. That just isn't a problem anymore.

On Saturday we were gutted to lose the chance to make it four clean sheets in a row - but the character the boys showed to make a come back from that disappointment was excellent. What's more the celebrations following the goals showed they are happy together now. It's something that's impressed other Town fans too, I asked what the highlight of the game was:

@Beazerblue Chopra giving Jewell a hug after one of his goals. Shows good spirit.

@S_BaileyITFC Chops ran straight to Jewell after his second goal and bear hugged him!

@Seanie_S I agree, that was my highlight too!

@83missy Somehow that hug ended up as a mass bundle. Team spirit!

@dc96 Sonko/JB chest bump after 2nd goal.

(Something I've still not seen so if anyone's got a video link please send it to me!)

@clarky_7for19 For me it was something special seeing Sonko tower above everyone for his goal.

@Felstedboy Jimmy going to greet a fan in the disabled section during the warm up. You could see it made his day, tear to eye and lump in throat moment.

Which brings me to the next point I would like to make: the signings we've made this summer are also making us the best team in the league. The return of Craig Mackail-Smith to Portman Road this weekend reminded some that there had been small amounts of rumours that Ipswich were interested in buying him. Some Twitter voices even commented that they thought it was Jewell's biggest mistake not signing him. But, I'm hoping the result on Saturday proved them wrong.

Chopra, Jimmy, Bowyer, Andrews, Sonko, Collins, Cresswell and Stockdale. It may have taken a few games for them to gel, but can you imagine an Ipswich team without them now?!

We now have the best midfield since the days of Mattie Holland, experience and determination with a great ability to read the game (thanks to the now irrepressible Grant Leadbitter).

Our defence looks more solid than it has since Tony Mowbray and Mark Venus ruled the back line. Sonko and Collins finally provide fans with a bit of reliability, while Stocko is a great acquisition both in and out of Portman Road following ANOTHER call up to the England squad.

Whilst the Chopland partnership continues to work it's magic, with 7 goals in four games and Chops finally reopening his account for the Blues we can look forward to a better goal difference this year, I feel.

Meanwhile, I do not doubt for a single second that Chops will reach his 20 goal target this season, and the outpouring of Twitter love for the hit man when he scored his first on Saturday shows the Blue Army are believing that too!

I will reiterate what I have said many times before: we will not win every game, even if we make the play-offs we still may not go up (an experience we're all far too familiar with) and there will still be days where things don't go to plan.

But the important thing is keeping the faith. According to Paul Jewell, the support the fans showed when we went 1:0 down on Saturday lifted the players.

And there you have the final reason Ipswich Town are the best in the league - we have the greatest fans. We are the twelfth man this year, and we will be the difference between making it into the top six and sticking around the midtable.

In Jewell We Trust.

For anyone who's interested in hearing me spread the Ipswich Town positivity message here's the link, I'm at 1 hr 29 minutes on the 6 second challenge!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Always look on the #twitfc side of life!

A win from Town today would see the Blues getting three great results from what we thought would be the three hardest games of the season: Middlesbrough, West Ham and Brighton.

What a wonderful time it is to be a Town fan!

I was speaking to @FelsedBoy this morning and he quite delightfully described today as 'feeling like the first of the season, with the glorious weather and the feeling of hope in Ipswich'.

Sadly, in monmths gone by, the Town faithful have not been feeling so optimistic- and really, who can blame them. The pinnacle of the gloom arriving just after Peterborough United, of course.

But amidst all that was a collection of fans (at games and on Twitter) who became tired of the negativity surrounding their club.

A few of them started up a new hashtag on Twitter - #twitfc- and pledged that this would only be used for positive thinking. Since then it has been used for the Blue Army to voice their support and love for their club.

When some people were calling for Paul Jewell to be sacked, the #twitfc army shouted that they had their faith that he would turn it around.

When some players were publicly ridiculed online, the #twitfc army rushed to their defence and sang out for them.

And when Lee Bowyer scored on Tuesday night at Upton. Park, the timeline exploded with cheers and happiness. I've never known such an out pouring of emnotion from a group of men!

To me, it cannot be a coincidence that the change in attitude, among the players as well as the fans, has been followed by a change in fortunes on the pitch.

Despite there being a low attendance for the Coventry at home game, the mood by then had most definitely been lifted and, for the first time, this was evident on the pitch. Jimmy Bullard's infamous game of rock, paper, scissors was a symbol of the solidarity now being experienced amongst the players.

We had a very rough start to the season, as Paul Jewell told the EADT 'We've had some real body blows in the season so far, but at the moment we have bounced back and are playing with confidence'.

With the addition of on-loan right back Reese Wabara it appears that Town may have found the final piece of the jigsaw, although I hear this morning that the team against Brighton is likely to be unchanged so he may not find his way to the starting line up yet.

We will not win every game left to play, and we may not even gain promotion this year - but we will get there in the next few years and we will NEVER give up.

As I've said so many times before, the ups and downs of this year will form a part of the Ipswich Town story - and I hope the part we play will be for being the finest football fans the club has ever seen.

Keep the faith, in Jewell we trust.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Two points against Middlesbrough and West Ham would be more than we expected

Four words you hate to wake up to in the morning: Narwich 2, Sunderland 1.

Listening to the last 15 minutes of the game last night my heart was in my mouth. Though it was a shame not to hear Connor Wickham net a last minute equaliser against the Budgies - I found it really exciting.

Fair play to the Nodge, they're making a reasonable impression in the top flite - I feel they'll do a Blackpool this year: not embarass themselves too much, but not stay up either.

Something else that struck me while I was listening to the game was that had the team we have now played them in April - the scoreline would not have been the same. I think we'd actually have given them a match.

If the Blues that played on Saturday had gone 3:0 down to the scum, I think they'd have had the passion, character and organisation to make a comeback. Nowadays, Jimmy, Bowyer and Andrews would refuse to lie down and take the embarrassment;Sonko and Collins would have far more control of fat boy Holt; and the forwards (AKA Chopland, thanks to @gavinbarber) would've at least rattled the woodwork up our end of the pitch...!

On that point I move to our current games, which, at the start of the season, were earmarked as our most difficult run of matches.

The opening games of Bristol, Southampton and Peterborough were considered by some to be a reasonably relaxing warm up to get us on our way. Well, you could argue that they did serve to be a 'warm up' to help us get organised. Though I'd have preferred a lower goal difference at the end of them...

While in the next month Middlesbrough, West ham and Brighton were expected to show us what a tough league we are in. Who knew that when the time came there'd be a feeling of more chance for success in the latter three games?!

The result last Monday and following performance on Saturday has, finally, renewed the faith of the loyal Blues supporters. After the Coventry game it was easy to consider that we were not playing the best of teams and the bigger test was yet to game... but against Middlesbrough I think we finally started to prove ourselves.

And who'd have thought that such a #twitfc positive response would come from a nil nil draw?!

I think it was summed up best online by my Town Tweep buddy @samstannard: 'The green shoots of progress are finally starting to show through'.

So, to Upton Park go over 1500 Ipswich Town fans, all hopeful that their boys in blue will get a point or three out of tonight's trip to London.

May I be so bold as to suggest that they will be happy with a point? Just as Saturday seemed to be us demonstrating how much we have improved; tonight will see us holding our own against another 'Premier League' side. So to take two points from these two difficult away games would make me a happy Tractorgirl... that's not to say I can't see Chops sneaking a late winner though!

Something to think about on your way down to the capital; with news filtering through this morning that Carlos Edwards has been arrested (again) for driving without a licence - how much could this have an affect on our new found confidence? For me, he's the one player we cannot replace. If he were to be sent to jail for this latest offence - who would you play instead? Is there anyone?

For me you could swap and change the central defence and even the midfield four, if injury forced you. Meanwhile there are plenty of options up front if Chops or the in-form Jase Scotland were unavailable for some reason. But Edwards and Cresswell are less easy to replace.

To a certain extent Carlos has been forced to play the right back position due to a lack of other options and Jewell has done well to turn that situation round to our advantage, by using it to make our midfield stronger. But what would we do without Edwards?

Hopefully, we'll not need to worry about it, the club have said that there were 'extenuating circumstances' for his actions. But is this not the kind of unreliable player we could do without at Portman Road? Can we forgive him this disgression? Certainly food for thought.

Either way, expect many rounds of 'Oh Carlos Edwards, he's taking the bus' tonight' and if we come home with a point I'll be smug that I got it right!

I expect and hope for a 1:1 draw and the Blues fans continuing to keep the faith...

Monday, 19 September 2011

Ipswich Town see off Sky Blues and 'Sky Curse'

Over the years, the Tractor Boys have become notorious for getting stage fright when the Sky cameras come to visit.

And with the two most recent televised games ending in heavy defeats - last night was the night to emulate Cardiff Away rather than Narwich at Home.

I just had this feeling in my bones that yesterday would be the day the pieces of the jigsaw came together for Town, and I was right.

In the build up to the game the Town faithful expressed concern at Paul Jewell's choice for the starting line up - but it turned out to be inspired. Did you ever doubt it?

Groans about the lack of width were responded to on the pitch by an excellent midfield performance, the like of which I can't remember seeing at Portman Road for months... perhaps even years.

I have commented many times that the midfield has, at times, appeared non existent for the Boys in Blue, but last night they were controlling and organised. The players, who've been accused of being 'too old' by some fans, finally demonstrated that wealth of experience they have between them: most notably Lee Bowyer who looked confident rather than frustrated for the first time since joining us.

@dave_goods of the EADT and Evening Star argued on Twitter that it was Grant Leadbitter's best game in a Town shirt and I'm inclined to agree. He was all over the park, constantly finding space to move for the ball and playing a huge part in the flowing passing game that was on display. @djonesax rightly pointed out to me that he gave the ball away several times: but when you consider the amount of possesion he earned I think you have to allow him the odd slip. For today at least.

Andrews was, once again, superbly determinatined and his contribution to the gamewas immeasurable. Thanks largely to our strong midfield, he was able to leave the defending to others and concentrate on pushing the ball forward for our own attack (And that is why I feel PJ's formation was a stroke of genius). His goal was an excellent 1-2 with Chopra, stuff made of Premiership quality, and demonstrated the great playing relationship those two are developing.

His constant supply of passes finally provided the support both Chops and Scotland needed - and boy did it make the difference. Micheal Chopra will be playing those misses over and over in his head. But, I don't think he needs to worry too much- I was just pleased to see him actually having those chances at last. As @dave_harrison said to me - 'once he gets one the goals start be flying in from him'. So keep at it Chops, I'm still backing you to reach twenty this year.

Meanwhile, the star of the show up front was most definitely Jason Scotland, PJ has said so too. I was so pleased to see him given a place in the starting line up, I thought he worked really hard at Blackpool. There are still some fans who aren't keen on him, but for me he's a quality goal scorer who's been proven at this level - exactly what we asked Paul Jewell for at the start of his ITFC reign. Jason proved me right and the Twitter doubters wrong thanks to a beautiful third goal that buried the game for Town.

At the other end of the pitch kudos must be given to the first half defence who looked solid - albeit with very little to do. PJ opted to make no changes to the back line, giving the new players (very new in Collins' case) a chance to play together and learn about each other.

Sadly, Ibrahima Sonko (who would be set to be my Player of the Season if it weren't for Jimmy Bullard) suffered an injury in the second half, shaking that solid defence slightly. It's true that with him being replaced by Damien 'looks like he'd rob your Nan' Delaney, the back line didn't look so sure. But, personally, I'm not too worried - my argument being that Coventry were 2 nil down and, cleverly, took advantage of Town momentarily taking their foot off the gas following Sonko's substitution.

So Man of the Match ought to be Aaron Cresswell who Sky seem to think will be singlehandedly winning the next World Cup for England, going on their commentary. His goal line clearances saved us and were karma for Chopras misses earlier on. That lad is, undoubtedly, one to watch this year.

But, in the interest of giving you something to think about, I'd go for Grant Leadbitter. He's had a really tough time this season, particularly from Town fans, but I have always said I quite like his way of playing. It pulled off last night and was even more impressive given the number of times he's been kicked whilst he's down. More from him to come, I hope.

The best of the rest would be our energetic front line Chops and Jase. Finally starting to show us what they're made of and, again, I get the feeling there's much more to come.

Bekah's funny moment most definitely goes to Jimmy and Andrews for the now infamous 'paper, scissors, stone' incident. Shouldn't everything in life be decided in that way?!

On a serious note I also felt the way the two interated during and after the match was indicative of the relatioship the players have with each other. The whole team are starting to look like they enjoy playing together, like one big happy family. a family with an amazing array of accents, by the way- the post match interview was amusingly hard to follow thanks to the scouse/irish/cockney twangs!

Favourite quote: SKY REPORTER 'have you all been practising the free kicks in training then Jimmy?' JIMMY 'Well I have, them two obviously haven't', love him!

Highlight of the day is the Twitfc hashtag and my Twitter timeline finally being full of so much positivity. Keep it up: we are the twelfth man and we will make the difference this season.

For what it's worth, I will balance this article with a comment that there is still some way to go for the Boys in Blue. Just as I said after Bristol, one game does not a season make.

The defence was wobbly without Sonko and you can't rely on one player not getting injured - I refer to the loss of Ingimarsson to illustrate my point. The midfield looked tired at the end: I leave it to you to decide if that's age or lack of fitness (for me it's the latter as I mentioned after Blackpool).

And poor old Chops couldn't hit a barn door... But that will improve.

So the clear message this week is 'keep up the good work boys'.

And keep the faith Blue Army!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Blackpool Away: good things come to those who wait

I was privileged enough to be featured in the Evening Star this weekend, as their 'Star Fan' for the game at Blackpool.

Could've picked a better weekend...!

The difficulty being any comment I could think to make felt like I was repeating myself from all but one of the games we've already played.

Our defence is clearly not strong enough, again... but they will get better.

Our midfield was sloppy, again... but they will get better.

Our players lacked confidence again, (particularly when they went two nil down)... but they will get better.

It's hard work keeping the faith when you're seeing the same old problems arise time and time again. But we're Ipswich fans - not giving up is what we do best.

In some parallel universe football matches may only be 45 minutes long. And the Blue Army living in that world will be over the moon at the moment.

Because in the first half we looked impressive, we moved the ball well, looked fairly solid when Blackpool were pushing forward and seemed to be trying to get on the attack ourselves as often as possible.

It didn't look like either team were going to score, to be honest and nil nil at the break was a fair result.

But it did look like this team were beginning to gel together. Some of the passing football we witnessed was back to the well renowned style of play Ipswich Town take credit for. With new signing Danny Collins also making several key clearances it looked, for a while, that we have finally got together the team we've been hoping for.

We matched Blackpool well and, bearing in mind this is a team recently relegated from the Premier League who by no means disgraced themselves whilst playing in the top flite, that is impressive. If it weren't for the traumatic start to our season - we would have been happy with a nil nil draw going in to the game.

But as the whistle blew for half time the heavens opened, and with it the tides of fortune changed for our boys.

As players from both sides began slipping and sliding their way across the pitch you really sensed a change in the game - this was not going to make life easy and with us already being wobbly under pressure this spelt bad news.

When the first goal went in, I wasn't too disappointed. It was a scramble in the wet and although there are clearly lessons to be learnt, I think conditions were difficult for the players at that point. Had the ball been up the other end of the pitch, who knows, we might have been able to scramble it over the line.

Another point is that Taylor-Fletcher was by far the best player on the pitch and him finding the back of the net was inevitable at some point.

However, what felt much less than ten minutes later, Blackpool netted another and essentially killed the game off in the process. We never looked like scoring when we were one goal down, to score two was definitely beyond us on that particular day.

I was disappointed with that second goal, I'd have liked to have seen the boys pull themselves together after the first and take control of the game. It was sad to see them so dejected and from that point on they really looked like they were just waiting for the game to be over.

Not that they didn't care enough to pull themselves out of it, I truly believe they do. My sister and I happened to walk past the team bus just as the players had begun to filter out of the changing room, so we stopped to get some pictures. The players really looked glum. Ever the professionals, they signed autographs and posed for pictures; but each one of them looked like they were carrying the weight of disappointment of the 1700 football fans back to Suffolk. So I don't doubt that they wanted to give us all better, especially after such a long journey up.

For me, there was three things wrong.

The man marking when we were defending was diabolical. That's a school boy error; the thing you learn first in football training so should never forget. They chopped and changed the men they were marking without talking to each other; subsequently leaving Blackpool players free to shoot. It was scary.

But, if you ask me, this is something that will improve with time and more games together. Danny Collins arrived in Ipswich on Friday and was thrown straight in at the deep end, to a team who conceded 12 goals in two games and were still suffering from the nervousness that created. It can't have been easy, and it could have been worse.

What I would say though is this: going into the game who is the one player you were most worried about? Kevin Phillips, by any chance? And did you notice him at all on Saturday? Well, I didn't and it has only in recent hours dawned on me that that might explain why the defence appeared so gappy. Was too much effort concentrated on stopping the notorious hitman? Would you have done any different?!

Carlos Edwards is sorely missed on the right wing, he is not a right back. There's not really much else that can be said here, and conversely I'd also like to say that Leadbitter does not belong on the wing. Both players tried to make the best out of a bad situation, and I think they deserve some credit for giving it a go. Meanwhile Paul Jewell has admitted he is still trying to find the right 'formula' for his new-look side. This will improve.

Finally, fitness - yet another thing that can only improve with time. There were several players who did not look 100 per cent fit - Jimmy Bullard being the most obvious. You know something's not right when Jimmy Bullard is giving away the ball and not making runs when he should be. But the only way to get match fit is to play games.

So, this week I am happy to jump down from the fence and join the supporters calling for other members of the Blue Army to have more patience.

The vast majority of the travelling Town fans deserve praise for the character they showed on Saturday: It was a long way to come for a disappointing result like that but that's part and parcel of being a member of the Blue Army. And I got the distinct impression these weary Blues fans are not giving up hope yet - in fact there's still an air of excitement of what is to come this season. Don't let go of that - I am so proud of the Town fans for their behaviour at the ground, and around Blackpool afterwards (@Samstannard explained they were 'pretending we won 4-2' and therefore celebrating)- we truly do have the greatest fans in the world!

Dave Gooderham asked me who I would put as Man of the Match and I told him I'd been trying to decide that for nearly 24 hours. For me, it was Aaron Cresswell, he was excellent on the left hand side, lots of really good football came from him and he was constantly moving into space and getting himself in the right position. Sadly, he was often ignored or forgotten altogether. Specifically though, he was the one player that shone in the second half, and I think he deserves credit for keeping the faith.

Also making his mark was debutant Danny Collins, who had an air of Gareth McAuley about him in both his physique and calmness under pressure. All we need next is for him to organise the team in front of him and build on what already looked a decent partnership with Sonko in the first half, the HUGE defender has also said this himself. Reports today that his loan move could become permanent are pleasing and will be a good result for Town if they turn out to be true.

At the other end of the pitch Taylor Fletcher was excellent... unfortunately. He gave Chops a lesson in actually making use of the ball when it was in his possession. But it is worth noting that, throughout the first half, shots on goal for them were as rare as they were for us. Perhaps testament to both teams solid defences up to the half way mark.

'Bekah's funny moment' is the greatest example I can give of the strength that Town fans showed on Saturday. As the game neared it's close and the Blue Army resigned itself to another away defeat a chant started up that will forever be one of my favourites. A seagull made it's way above the pitch, swooping and diving - to which the blue end of the ground began singing, 'oooohhhh, seagull, seagull, seagull'. It's testament to what it means to be a True Blue this season, even when times are hardm you have to make the best of a bad situation. We are there to have a good time: so why the hell not have a bit of fun? Brilliant!

The highlight of the day was actually the highlight of the weekend: meeting some fellow Town Tweeps in person. I cannot describe the proud I felt hearing a chorus of Blue Army ring out above the noise in a Blackpool nightclub on Saturday night. For me, it was great to spend the evening with people who share the same big passion that I do, Ipswich Town.

As I told the Evening Star, I truly believe this IS the start of something big for us. Rome wasn't built in a day, even Bobbby Robson didn't fix Ipswich in his first season. These ups and downs are all part of the Ipswich Town story and there WILL be a happy ending. It may not be this year (or even next year), but it will come and I am proud to be a part of that history. Aren't you?

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Where do Town go from here?

The Ipswich Town team seemed to take a while to come out of the dressing room on Saturday evening: what do you think Paul Jewell was saying?

If you were him, what on earth would you have said?

Having not made it to Portman Road yet, this weekend was the first chance I've had to see the rapidly self-destructing side for myself. It's a totally different team from what I witnessed in Bristol, and for 48 hours I have been lost for words.

At first, it all looked hopeful. The players enjoyed a fun warm up: Arran Lee Barrett put some lovely shots past David Stockdale (which he's not really supposed to do!), Micheal Chopra squirted Josh Carson with his water bottle when he wasn't looking, while Mark Kennedy placed his hand on Aaron Cresswell's shoulder - clearly offering him advice and confidence.

This calm side then moved on to the pitch and for the first fifteen minutes we were doing things the Ipswich way: easing in to the game, gaining control and taking shots whenever we could.

Then Andrews scored... and it was down hill from that point on.

It's so upsetting to see the side that filled us with so much hope just a fortnight ago descending into absolute chaos. Every time Peterborough got the ball they scored, and there was seemingly nothing our shaken defence or non-existent midfield could do about it.

The worst thing to watch, though, was the way the players turned on each other, and at some points even the supporters. Chants from frustrated Blues fans of 'you're not fit to wear the shirt' were greeted with unpublishable swear words from Damien Delaney (who I suspect was actually more frustrated with himself than us). I will never condone booing at a match, not even at 7-1 down, but I did approve of this particular chant, this particular weekend - it's a sentiment that's repeatedly being expressed by PJ too.

So I ask again: if you were him, what would you say? How would you set about turning this team around

The obvious answer is to demand Marcus Evans gets his American Express out, but I am a firm believer that throwing money at a problem will not solve it.

We have plenty of perfectly good players in that side, what they need is improved training, better team spirit and a miracle confidence boost.

Two excellent blogs on TWTD have covered this topic very well: 'Is this club rotten from top to bottom?' (which, by the way, it is not), and 'Why the club is not in crisis from top to bottom'.

The former suggests, if a little dramatically, that the club overall is lacking a management strategy - i.e. a structured plan to decide where it is going and how it plans to get there. And the latter highlights the danger of focusing too much on buying in new players and not enough on the team we already have.

The side we have could be good enough - they just need working on. So PJ, I'm asking you: please don't forget that aspect of your job. Because whilst you are insisting on looking for new players the confidence level of our current players is getting lower and lower. They clearly feel they cannot do the job expected of them. In fact I wonder if some might actually be hoping you will buy someone to replace them - to get them out of this hole the easy way.

The sad reality is, there may well be no miracle signing waiting for PJ to snap them up. There may well be no transfer Superman to swoop in to Portman Road and save the day. The buck stops at the players currently taking up residence there, they have to realise they're the miracle we're looking for.

There is no Matty Holland any more, no Marcus Stewart or Finidi George. No Matteo Sereni, or Tony Mowbray, or Johnny Wark. And the chants regarding these Ipswich legends should not be taken as a dig at the poor quality of the current side, but as a direction that the players should be aiming for, the former glory years they should be aspiring to reach.

You know what I would like to see? Some of these former stars coming out and voicing their support for the Blues. Jamie Scowcroft's done so already, simultaneously backing the Blues and speaking the thoughts of many an Ipswich fan on Twitter:

'After yesterday's debacle still fancy Ipswich to do well this season'

Comments like this serve to distract and defuse the negative attention being placed on the club, whilst also giving the fans a boost and some form of reward for sticking with their team. Thanks Jamie!

Incidentally, one Ipswich affiliate I do not want to see go public is Marcus Evans. The entire media world have been waiting for that moment and if he were to make an appearance the attention on the club would be monumental. With the team already failing to live up to becoming the Championship's 'underdogs', I fear they would crumble beyond repair under the pressure that would bring.

When it comes down to it though it really doesn't matter what I say, nor what the former players say, nor Marcus Evans, or even Paul Jewell. When it comes down to it, all that really matters is what the players say and do next.

It's their turn to start giving us answers.

On the pitch.

I'm pleased to see my thoughts echoed by Mark Kennedy today. The defender, who surely ought to be captain next weekend, has been urging players to take a long hard look at themselves:

'We have to take repsonsibility. Any manager can only do so much. The training was good in the week and it is a disappointing situation when we players get on the pitch and don't do what we were told. It boils down to the players.'

While my Man of the Match Stockdale has also been speaking about the need for a new approach from Town players:

'Back from training. Lads are keen to improve and a new outlook. Let's go!!!'

Here, thank god, are two voices of reason from the only side of the story that really matters - the players. Only they can turn things around, so it is fascinating to see what is going through their minds at the moment. I only hope the whole squad are following in Stocko and Kennedy's determined lead.

So, with that we can try to look forward to a new week and hopefully a new chapter in the Ipswich Town history. All this frustration and pain will be worth it when (not if) the boys turn things around. Saturday sees the visit of Leeds, the team all Town fans love to hate - wouldn't it be nice to begin the story of our recovery against them???

In my previous blogs you'll find my call to action for the fans (who, by the way, ended Saturday evening in proud form - many, including me, staying until the very end to clap the players).

Consider this blog a call to action for the players: This is your time.

Promotion will not happen this season, I think the most sensible of Town fans understand that. But it will happen soon and you can be the ones to make sure of it.

The Ipswich fans are willing to give you everything they've got, follow you around the country and sing out and support you, come what may.

Now's the time for you to match that investment and show us everything you've got by putting it into this club too.

I'll leave you with another of Stocko's inspiring Tweets, try and remember it this week to erase the memory of those seven goals from your mind:

'Alot of great fans here at ITFC, so enough of feeling down! Got a game to work for on Sat and back to winning ways!'

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Why we are Town's Barmy Army: Through thick and thin, and heavy home defeats

So, how much stock are you taking from the statistic 'Ipswich Town have lost two out of three games'?

At the risk of stating the obvious, it's not a great start! And if you include the fact that Town have already been dumped out of the Mickey Mouse Cup, it looks even worse.

But there's still 43 games to go. So, how much should this slow start really be worrying us?

To put it into perspective I wanted to know how our start compares to the teams who were promoted last year:

QPR - Won all three of their first games.

Narwich - Lost the first game of the season, but went on to win the next two.

But, Swansea - Like us, won one, and lost two.

(Thanks to @godeangogogo and @ohwhenthehull for confirming those for me!)

I don't think any of the Town fans are expecting the boys to reach the dizzy heights of Automic Promotion this season. But, there is a glimmer of hope that PJ's new look side may make it to the Play Offs instead. And, if you want to base your hopes and predictions on statistics, then the early form of Play Off Champions Swansea should give you something to smile about.

But, in reality, can a league like the Championship really be explained by statistics. Can you really ever hope to predict the outcome of any game in a competition where any side could win any game on any given day?

The only thing that's predictable about the Championship is that it's so unpredicatble.

I paraphrase the tagline used for my 'other' favourite sport British Superbikes here, because I believe it to be the best way to explain why we love being Town fans so much.

My two favourite sports in the world, the two most fascinating and exciting competitions in the world - Championship football and British Superbikes. The fact that you just never know what lies at the final whistle or finish line is what keeps me going back, again and again.

Let me explain further: for twenty minutes on Tuesday night I was ecstatic. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, I was bouncing on the sofa, and I could not take my eyes away from Sky Sports News. I know you know which twenty minutes I'm talking about!

That feeling of almost coming back from being 3:0 down is what I will treasure most from this second week of the 2011/2012 season. I want to hold on to it so tightly because it is the reason I am a Town fan. Yes, it's a shame it didn't last longer. Yes, it's a shame it didn't devleop into the delirium of a third goal and equaliser. But it all contributed to making my Tuesday night experience even more intense.

So, although I am obviously not impressed with the start Town have made to this season, I'm not panicking just yet. There's still so long to go and so many ups and downs to experience yet.

I want to also take the chance to applaud the fans who've been showing that level of support and optimism. PJ has commented that he too was impressed with the support:

"3-0 down at half time and at home, at some places you probably wouldn't even get to the tunnel . But the supporters were terrific... I said to the players 'You see the response when we're up at them and on the front foot'."

Meanwhile, several of the #itfc regulars have pledged to only Tweet their most positive feelings about the Boys in Blue. The optimism is definetly catching.

At this stage of the season I'd like to think that this is the feeling of the majority of the Town fans and from what I can tell the mood is generally positive (with the exception of certain Supporter's Clubs statements, obviously).

If you're feeling down about the Town I urge you to jump on the #twitfc bandwagon: this season's going to be so much more fun if we enjoy backing the boys through thick and thin... together.

Starting with Peterborough where I will be experiencing watching a game from the terraces for the first time as a Town fan (though I have had the 'privilege' of doing so as a neutral at many Cambridge United games). Should be fun!

Come On You Blues!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Are Town aiming too low? Or are the fans aiming too high?

Being a Yorkshire Blue nowadays I rely almost entirely on the coverage provided by t'interweb and I don't mind telling you it made for dismal reading this weekend.

The trouble with not being able to make it to the games is that you have to rely on the opinions and moods of others, which - in the aftermath of Saturday's match against Hull - was rather gloomy.

Understandably, the Town Tweeps were disappointed with the result. There was some direct criticism of manager and players alike - with JET getting the worst of the hits (what a difference four days makes, eh?!).

So, as I couldn't make it to the first home game, I turned to the media for an objective report.

The first problem with this situation is that there is so little of that around, media coverage of the boys I mean. Trusty EADT Sports writer Dave Gooderham looks set to be my rock for this year's reports on Town. But other than that there are little or no places to turn.

The national newspapers lost my confidence the day they started the witchhunt against Roy Keane (which was quickly picked up by our former local journalists I would like to add) and I grow tired of their opinion that games outside the Premier League can be covered significantly in one paragraph and from one point of view.

Sky Sports News are also guilty of this, with more than a large proportion of their coverage this weekend focusing on the top flite. Constantly hearing the phrase 'the first weekend of the season' when you are already two games in (three if you count the Mickey Nouse Cup) grows tiresome and frustrating, but such is life in the world of commercial media.

But more than anything it was the BBC's The Football League Show that disapppointed me. For the second week running we have been relegated to less than a few minutes of their time, this despite the fact that we were Top of the League, still sporting fabulous new signings and playing against a fellow promotion favourite. They must do better this year or else my Sky+ series link will be quickly cancelled and I'll opt for imagining the game in my head... at least I'll see more of it.

But back to the matter in hand, for the second problem I encountered in the media this weekend is what was actually said: namely, Paul Jewell's comments about 'playing for a draw'. If you missed it in the post match press conference here's what he said to the EADT:

'We have got to get used to drawing games, it's either win or lose with us'.

And to the club website:

'I said at half time, if we can't win don't get beat'

I'm no football manager and maybe I'm just a little naive but is that really how a manager thinks? I'm gobsmacked.

Throughout the whole of the last season the frustration always came from the fact that the poor results had come from the boys just not trying hard enough. If we tried our best to win and lost then we wouldn't mind, in fact we applauded our boys for doing so.

Of course, I can see where PJ is coming from: sometimes you have to make a considered decision on how to play against a team that seems to have got your number. But surely you change the tactics a bit? Bring on some super subs, put someone else up front, find out what's going wrong and sort it (I refer here directly to comments that Chopra didn't get enough support). Don't just say, 'well lets aim for a draw' because then you get beat by a sloppy goal (See Saturday's game for perfect example of this).

I cannot see how this kind of play is going to get us anywhere and, had it been further into the season, I fear we would've looked on this result as the one that cost us the play offs.

But, as it is, we still have plenty of time to fix things, something else PJ said:

'I'm not getting carried away with the defeat, just like I didn't get carried away with the win at Bristol last week.'

Just as I would never expect anyone without an MA in Journalism and three years work experience to tell me how to write an article for the news, I would never expect to be able to tell a man with PJ's CV how to do his job.

I continue to chant the mantra 'In Jewell We Trust' as I still believe he will be the one to take us to the promised land. I just need to keep reminding myself that may not be this year.

PJ failed to turn the team around in time for the difficult first home game, and I'm reminded of comments among the Town Tweeps that it will take some time for this new side to gel. Perhaps tonight's game against Southampton will bring the big revolution we're all waiting for... after all, we have a habit of winning the games we're not expected to don't we?

As long as we don't play for the draw....

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A Week of Two Halves: Ipswich Town vs Northampton Town (Carling Cup)

Its seems that Town's Barmy Army is once again divided.

One half are angry that Paul Jewell played a second choice team last night, effectively dumping us out of the one ray of joy we had last year - the Carling Cup.

The other are relieved, if bothered at all, that we don't have to worry about losing players to injury and exhaustion in 'The Mickey Mouse Cup'.

So which side of the fence are you sitting on?

Was PJ right to make NINE changes from the side that made such a good first impression at Ashton Gate?

In the immediate moments after the game on Tuesday night, it seemed that fans were angry. Presumably, as they were walking down the Narwich Road, the first reaction of many was to ridicule the team for being rubbish. 'Premier League, you're having a laugh', said one.

Understandably, they were angry: they'd made the effort to attend this low profile game to see their new look Ipswich side, but they weren't even graced with the prescence of Chopra or Bowyer. Others argued that PJ should have played the strongest side to help them gel for the Championship. As my new favourite Town Tweep @rockchickbrooke argued, 'It's only the second game of the season - they can't be tired yet'.

I can, of course, see their point. Nothing angered me more during the reign of Roy Keane than the swapping and changing of players in the first team. The lack of continuity on the pitch reflected directly the lack of continuity on the team sheet. Has PJ made the same mistake?

But how important is the Carling Cup to us as a Championship side? Barnsley, Coventry, Derby, Hull and Portsmouth were all knocked out in the first round too - and you wonder how many fans will be relieved about that. A club cannot survive in this league forever, every single one is aiming to prosper in the Premier League. It is not possible to go on year after year as a mediocre mid table club. So you have to make a choice sometimes. PJ has clearly chosen the league.

And think of it this way: 8,000 fans attended on Tuesday night. Not even a third full. If the game didn't mean enough for people to come out, why should PJ rate it highly enough to risk our first team players?

I'm not criticising, it would be hypocritical of me to do so seeing as I couldn't make it either. Nor am I belittling the competition itself, I loved the great run we had in the cup last year and truly belive it is a great tournament for clubs outside the top flite.

But, if you'd have said to me last year: Good cup run or top six in the league? I'd have said top six before you even got to the end of your sentence. We need Premierhip football, we are starting to look like we may even deserve it and risking our growing side in the cup is not going to get us there. What would be the point in them 'gelling' if PJ ended up having to chose between me, my nan and my goldfish to play against Hull?

So, I'm firmly on the PJ side of the fence this week and I look forward to seeing how he moves the team on this weekend.

What I would repeat though are the words of my ever wise Dad and all knowing Town Tweep @Seanie_S: 'The game showed that the fringe players are not good enough'.

'Fringe' is a word that I've not really come across at Ipswich for a while. Perhaps because we're used to having such a small squad that every player is vital to the side. But it is a valid point - if and when we get to the point of injuries and bookings we are going to need something more to fall back on.

But panic not because this is clearly what Jewell is thinking too - he's made it quite clear that his shopping trolley isn't full yet and I doubt it will be until the transfer window tills are shut down and locked up.

I continue to wait with eagerness to find out what this year brings for the Super Blues and me, I got a feeling it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

*Quck note to everyone to please stay safe over the coming days. Was so pleased to see the riots didn't make it to Suffolk, but if they are affecting you we'll all be thinking of you.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Dare to Dream: Is the Bristol result a sign of things to come?

Word has it that on Football Focus this weekend Ipswich Town were tipped to be this season's 'dark horse'. I wonder if they're thinking a little differently now?

As The Football League Show's Steve Claridge said on Saturday night following a disappointingly short review of our match:

'Dark horse? I think they'll be a bright light in the Championship'

Paul Jewell's new look side did the 1,700 travelling Town fans (including myself) very proud in this first game of the season: and not just with the fantastic scoreline.

What we saw this weekend was an excellent display of football, especially when you consider what we were watching last year. No, it wasn't perfect and, yes, we have things to learn. But it wasn't a bad starting point was it?!

The main thing I noticed was how interesting the game was. Last year I got to the point where I felt I was watching the Blues out of loyalty rather than the possibility of actually enjoying it. Some of the games last year were tedious, to say the least, but I'm now starting to think that will no longer be the case.

Personally, I felt there was some good football on show. We pushed forward constantly and took our chances on goal. Whilst at the other end the defence seemed fairly well in control, especially with such a solid keeper in Stockdale.

The BBC's coverage of the game failed to show any of this, particularly the three spectacular saves from the young keeper, so if you have the chance I would definetly try to catch the review on the Ipswich Player this week.

Man of the Match should probably be Chopra: for an absolutely beautiful first goal (his 13th minute shot was the first of the 3pm kick offs, by the way). And a rather more lucky - but no less satisfying - third goal, which wrapped up the game for Town and ultimately secured the win.

Chops looks set to be a Town legend already, with every single Town fan singing his name for almost the full ninety minutes. He was active up front and looked a real threat for us every time we moved forward.

However, my Man of the Match was Mark Kennedy. I didn't see much of the defender last season, and what I did see really didn't impress me. But yesterday I thought he was solid and instrumental to a lot of Town's best moves - that stunning opening goal was a result of his well timed pass. He looked sterdy at the back and I'll be keeping my eye on him this year.

It's suprising to me that in a team starring so many exciting new players it's a player from last years terrible side that caught me eye. Perhaps it's my natural apathy for defenders (being one myself, when I do get to play), or maybe I just have an exceptional eye for talent, ahem...!

Also making his mark , in my opinion, was young defender Aaron Cresswell - he's definetly the one to watch this year. He was very quick up the left hand side and reminded me a lot of Jaime Peters - mainly due to his height, he's tiny!

Meanwhile, I shocked myself when I found I was singing 'Lee, Lee, Lee Bowyer'. It's no secret that I'm not his biggest fan, but Town fans told me he would bring leadership and knowledge to the team... and they weren't wrong!

The midfield looked like a force to be reckoned with, unlike last year where you'd have been forgiven for thinking it didn't exsist. I'm hoping him and Leadbitter will be the ones to lead us to the Play Offs - or beyond - this season... and when he does I'll definetly be eating a slice of that humble pie.

At the other end of the pitch it was nice to see John Stead get such a great reception from the Town fans. He's a popular player among the Portman Road faithful and so I was pleased to see him receive a standing ovation from our end of the ground when he was substituted.

'Bekah's funny moment' was the chant from the Blues fans: 'Is there a fire drill'. Amusingly thought up to goad the Bristol City fans following the third goal, as the ground appeared to empty in a few seconds.

But, of course, the Highlight of the Day as a Whole has got to be getting home and turning on the Teletext:

With West Ham losing yesterday, the terraces can continue to sing 'We Are Top of the League' well into next weekend's first home game against Hull. Fow now, we can bask in the glory, no doubt it will be one of the highlights of this year. I just pray it isn't the only one.

Because whilst my post-match feeling was one of pure happiness, there was an undeniable feeling of wanting to keep a lid on it for the time being.

As my Daddy said: 'It's only one game'. An opinion that is reflected by boss Paul Jewell. I was interested to read on the Green 'Un website that he wasn't unreservedly happy with the performance:

“We are keeping our feet firmly on the ground... It is the start of a very long and arduous season and we have got off to a good start.”

All we can do, as loyal supporters, is keep up the excellent support that we showed this weekend and hope this is a sign of things to come.

Less than 48 hours after the game, the footballing world has already moved on. Stockdale has been called up to play for his country and Marton Fulop has left the club - leaving us with serious worries about having enough talent between the sticks. Rumour has it Tamas Priskin will follow Fulop, which has disappointed the Town Tweeps - but one wonders how much he would have featued in a side that's pinning all it's hopes on Chopra? While there's also hopes of signing Everton defender Duffy to increase our choices at the back.

Savouring the moment didn't last too long did it?!

We cannot and will not expect 3:0 wins every time the boys walk on to the pitch, it's going to take time and effort for them to become a team worthy of promotion - let alone one that will survive in the promised land that is the Premiership. It is nice to daydream, though, that one day we will look back on this game as the start of ' The Glory years' for this generation of the Boys in Blue.

Dare we Dream?

In the meantime though - I'm more than happy to bask in the glory... shall we just see that picture one more time...?!

By the way: my top Town Tweeps this weekend have to be @Hacaman for bringing me my brand new replica shirt over from Ipswich! And fellow blogger @gavinbarber whose lad did us proud as the Ipswich mascot!

If you're not following him, do so... and of course find me on Twitter @tractorgirlamy

I'd love to hear what you thought of this weekend's game, who your Man of the Match was and how many times in the last 24 hours you've punched the air in delight as you relive those three beautiful goals!!!