Tuesday, 12 July 2011

How my Daddy inspired me to be a Sports Journalist

My Dad has three daughters, I'm the eldest and then there's Rebekah and Madeleine. I often wonder if he was ever a little disappointed; no boys to take along with him to the football. But he needn't have worried, because all three of us have followed in his footsteps and become avid town fans.

Growing up in Stowmarket, my Dad started supporting Ipswich despite the fact that my Grandad supports Narwich - clearly he saw sense! He's been to watch Town play all over the world; especially in their European Heydays. He also has this uncanny knack of being able to predict match results, many a time have we been driving down the A14 when he's said 'I've got a bad feeling about today' or even ' yep, we'll be ok today'.

Some of the best memories I have involve the five of us (Dad, me, Bekah, Maddie and Town): Inter Milan being the one that stands out. From the moment we left home you could see that he was so proud to be going to this history-making match with his girls. The town centre was swarming in blue and white shirts, coaches and coaches of us there were. I'll never forget sitting at a table outside a cafe, 'Winter Wonderland' coming over the speakers and every single Town fan singing 'There's only one Marcus Stewart....' at the top of their voices. My Dad was beaming, he was in his element and I'm so proud to have shared that with him.

The other greatest memory is one I'm sure you all share: May 29th 2000, Wembley. Dad made sure the whole day was amazing; walking down Wembley Way in a sea of Blue and Red, emerging from the turnstiles into this amazing ground, finding our seats were only about 10 rows from the front. But the image that I will never forget was Reuser scoring that fourth goal: my Dad was so elated, he and the two men in front were hugging! Unlike me, he doesn't often get emotional at the football and I think that was a sign of what the whole day had meant to him.

The overall feeling that I got from these days, and the many other trips we've made to watch The Blues, is that these are stories that should be told. The ups and downs a fan feels supporting their team, the unknown tales about cafes in Milan and a little man with a microphone walking around the ground chanting before every game - these are what should be being published in newspapers and online. That's why I decided to be a Journalist and I've got my Dad to thank for showing me that world.

When I was 21 I got a work placement at the BBC Radio Football department, I was so excited about it and couldn't wait to tell my Dad. Whilst I was there I was involved in some great programmes, and each night on the way home I would call Dad to tell him about it. The best moment? Then Town manager Joe Royle featured as a guest on a show I was researching for and they asked me to look after him. I went to meet him and walk him to the studio. I remember, he was trying to figure out how to use his mobile phone: so funny watching him staring at it whilst walking along and nearly bumping into people - just like my Dad does after every game!

My colleagues there teased me that the reason I got that placement was that I'm an Ipswich fan. For some reason alot of staff there support Town, and those that don't have a huge respect for what they did in the eighties. So I guess I have my Dad to thank for that!

Then a few years ago I bought my Dad what I think was the best birthday present ever! I bought him a stadium tour of Portman Road. We were shown the changing rooms, we walked up the tunnel, we were allowed to sit in the dugouts (that was cool) and then we were shown the media suite. I loved this part!

Literally four months later I was back there again, this time working as a journalist. I got another work experience placement with Town 102, in Ipswich: They knew I was a Town fan so they asked me to go along to the Press Conferences for them and I loved every minute. Steve the Press Officer introduced me to Jim Magilton as 'legs', Jim used to try and get Matt Holland into his answers just for me and straight after every press conference I would call Dad to let him know if anything good had been said. I loved being able to give him the inside knowledge!

In every day reporting on the club he helped me too, he would text me and make sure I knew all the stories that were coming. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Town 102, it was the best job I've had so far, and I think I made a genuinely good impression as a sports reporter. I reckon I have my Dad to thank for that too.

Nowadays, I am, sadly, a little further away from becoming a Sports Journalist than I would have liked: but I'm still trying to get there. When I was a teenager Dad always used to give me advice in 'Ipswich Town terms', and I'm sure there's a suitable analogy for me now too - perhaps he would say 'It took Ipswich five years to get back up to the Premier League, your time will come'.

I'm sure it will Daddy, and I have you to thank for all the wonderful experiences I have had with Town so far - here's hoping there'll be many more in the coming years too.

Happy Birthday Daddy.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Could there be trouble ahead with Town's latest signing? Or will Bowyer bring the success we've all being waiting patiently for?

This summer Ipswich Town have been 'linked' to so many footballers I think I've lost count; but this time last week the name being thrown about on Twitter made my blood run cold.

Seven days later we have signed Lee Bowyer, chequered history and all. But was it the right move?

The debate on Twitter has been interesting to say the least; when I offered my opinion on him I was ridiculed for being childish and judgemental, being told to 'grow up' and 'give him a break'.

But I stand by my thoughts - I am not happy that a player with his personal reputation has come to a place well known for it's polite staff (on and off the pitch) who act as ambassadors for their club. For a fantastic article on this see @GavinBarber's blog, asking whether he is an 'Ipswich type of player'.

And I am not alone: @ant_itfc has been vocal in supporting me on Twitter: 'Put 'Lee Bowyer Emma Keeney' into your search engine and read some of the articles. What he said and did was sickening'.

Bear with me though, because I am not entirely adverse to giving him a chance...

As far as I'm concerned, his headline making behaviour is intolerable - particularly the fact that he is so often claimed to have shown racist tendencies. There is no place for that in football.

How did you feel when the group of people sitting in the North Stand were removed and subsequently banned due to the racist language? Digusted, disappointed, angry that Ipswich had been linked with people like that? Yeah, me too. And I don't see why I should be any less angry that I'm expected to honour someone like that on the pitch.

Along with team mate Jonathan Woodgate, Bowyer was taken to court fir the attack of an Asian student whilst he was playing in Leeds. Whilst there is, of course, the argument that he was acquitted of the charges brought against him, it is impossible to ignore the other stories that have come to light regarding similar incidents.

Former girlfriend Emma Keeney has claimed that he dumped her because he did not want to risk having a 'brown baby'. He was arrested and fined for an attack on Asian staff at a MacDonald's. And have all town fans forgotten him punching our very own Kieron Dyer whilst they BOTH played for Newcastle? I haven't.

As a society I believe that we have got to show that we are not willing to accept racist or violent behaviour. We have to do whatever we can to show the next generations that this just isn't acceptable in a civilised society. And that is why I am voicing my opinions here.


The most significant Tweet for me was from one of my favourite Tweeps, @Blue_Fred: 'He's a prem quality player on a free, what's not to like? His past is exactly that - PAST. Give the guy a break'.

I am willing to accept that these incidents all took place over ten years ago, whilst Bowyer was in his early 20's. Christ, if I was still being punished for all the things I regret doing at that age I would be a very unhappy person. (Having said that nothing I did was violent, and never racially motivated.)

Mostly the #ITFC Tweeps seem to be taking this side of the argument: @mrharrisonpage says 'I think Bowyer is a great signing for us, just what we need in midfield'.

Nowadays, Bowyer does appear to have settled down and I really do hope that the experience that he can bring to the side will help Town. I hope he's the difference between midtable mediocrity and Play Off success this year, I really do.

I am more than happy to trust in Paul Jewell who says: 'He brings bags of quality as well as experience and he will also add a goal threat... I know Birmingham were relegated last year but anyone who knows football knows Bowyer is a winner. He has been that all his career and he will bring that attitude to the dressing room'. (TWTD.co.uk)

There have been some concerns that he is now in his thirties: but, as @Blue_Fred said to me, 'although his age is a concern the deal is very good and he cliams excellent fitness levels'. His age doesn't worry as much as please me; he claims to be as fit as his younger former teammates at Birmingham and, as PJ says, I think that is a result of a pure determination to play football and win. Definetly something we were missing last year, as I repeatedly express.

But I also hope that Jewell and Clegg have made it clear to him that Ipswich Town are not a club that want to be linked to racism in anyway. I hope he has been warned that any sign of his previous behaviour will lead to him being shown the door, and fast.


Imagine your eldest daughter brings home a Narwich fan...

You know you're not going to like him, but you have no chice but to put up with him.

Deep down you might be hoping that he does something wrong and she dumps him.

But you have to give him a chance; because he just might be the one to make a difference, he just might be the one to make her happy - and by extension yourself too.

Equally, if he hurt her in anyway - by golly you would hunt him down and wring his neck...

I don't approve of this signing, I don't like the past that Lee Bowyer brings with him. But I do accept that his past is his past and he deserves a chance to prove himself.

But you mark my words: I will not be a happy bunny if he does anything to hurt my beloved Ipswich.