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.
THIS IS HOW I SEE IT:
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.