Monday, 5 November 2012

"Come the final whistle, I felt like we had won promotion": a fans eye view of ITFC's trip to Birmingham

At 16:54 on Saturday afternoon I received a phone call, it was one I'd recently come to dread - but this time it was different.

That call was just after full time at St Andrew's and came from a very good friend of mine: Jordan, a Town fan for 15 years, who had made the trip up to Birmingham to watch his team play for the first time under their new manager Mick McCarthy. I answered the phone to hear over a thousand Town fans singing, 'And it's Ipswich Town…'.
Listening to those travelling fans via the commentary on Ipswich Player, they were - once again – a credit to the club. And hearing the celebrations at the final whistle really brought home what a relief these three points were, how much hope Big Mick had brought and, sadly, the realisation that perhaps it might have been better to have parted company with Paul Jewell a little sooner.
I have long argued that the mood of the crowd can have a huge influence on the result of the game: a point I felt is somewhat proven when you compare our terrible home record to the increasing frustration or even apathy felt among fans at Portman Road. This is, of course, due to the inconsistent performances from our team – but I have always felt this creates a vicious cycle that's hard to break. The departure of Jewell may have ended this through and I was keen to find out whether the atmosphere had changed after an exciting week at Portman Road.
As I was unable to make what I saw as the most important game of our season, Jordan, who's studying to be a sporting psychologist, agreed to write the report for me. He has missed barely a handful of games so far this season and has witnessed the mood of fans fall lower and lower. Like me, he's always tried to have a positive outlook (despite the recent tough times), but this weekend sounds like it pushed those emotions to the extreme:
"Trying to capture the emotion, happiness and pure rush of Saturday is one of the most difficult things I think I've had to do.
Even after all these years, l sit down of a Friday afternoon and look ahead to the game; usually with excitement, but more recently with apprehension and nervousness. I'm often far too optimistic, but this season has been different to those previous to it and I predicted an actual mid table finish rather than the high hopes of a play-off push.  Rightly so, it seems.
Despite this, I had a feeling we'd break our duck this weekend. Yes I may have said it before Hull too, but I really felt our luck would change. It seems as though this feeling was shared amongst the other Town fans that made the trip to Birmingham from various corners of the country. Chatting with a few in the pub beforehand, I began to get the impression that 'MM' does in fact stand for Merlin Magician and not Mick McCarthy, as the Yorkshire-man famously said in his first press conference at ITFC. 
The mood was the same at St Andrews too, feeling even more buoyant in the build up to kick off: walking into the stand I was hit with a wall of noise as the Blue Army were already in full voice, singing the praises of the new boss.
This continued as the game started, but reached another level when crowd favourite DJ Campbell rifled in the opener. Fans have definitely taken a liking to the QPR loanee I think, more so than any other of the borrowed players brought in by Jewell; he seems to have three songs on the terraces, all sung by the masses, which is a very strange occurrence amongst Town fans!
The change in mood was hard to believe, to be honest. After witnessing fans fighting at recent home games, boos when we lost the ball and constant shouts for both the manager's and chief executive's head, the constant singing and banter I experienced this weekend was exceptional and unlike anything I've experienced for a long while. 
As the game progressed, one Birmingham fan became particularly annoyed by our buoyant mood: anyone that was there will know what to do if ever again they hear the words "Let's all do the chavvy"…!
Come the final whistle, I felt like we had won promotion. After battling and holding on for most of the game, there was a fear we would see the "same old Ipswich" creeping in. But with block after block by the tireless back four, there wasn't that eerie silence that so often hangs over stoppage time for a Town fan. Instead there was singing and the large majority of the travelling thousand were on their feet begging for that final whistle.
If I could describe to you the noise and relief when the final whistle blew then I would, but really can't put into words how it felt
After long trips to Blackpool, Barnsley, Hull and Brighton, coming away feeling like we'd lost even when we hadn't, it was an incredible feeling to finally get that monkey off our backs and come away with 3 points.
These blog posts are normally finished with a choice for man of the match, but I couldn't possibly pick one player who played better than the other. For once, all of the men in white played for the shirt and showed that desire and fight that we had all been longing for. I left St. Andrews on Saturday feeling as though, to some extent, we had our Ipswich back."
It kills me to be missing another important game for The Blues tomorrow night, but if you have enjoyed Jordan's report and you'd like to write one for our game against Palace please get in touch – or @tractorgirlamy8

Sent from Samsung Mobile

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Will it be third time lucky for Town at Hull?

They say good things come in threes and this weekend Ipswich Town travel to the KC stadium for the third time in 2012.

In January, I made my first trip to what is now one of my favourite away grounds; thanks to the modern stadium, easy access from the train station and a great pub for away fans right next to the ground. Sadly, the football didn't live up to our pre-match 'Jimmy Bullard banter' with the home fans. Town were dire and slumped to a 3:1 FA Cup defeat to The Tigers.

Just two months later I made the second trip to East Yorkshire, the result was slightly more enjoyable this time as The Blues came back from 2:0 down thanks to a brace from former midfielder Grant Leadbitter. It was a great game from him, which formed part of our climb from the slump we found ourselves in in January.

Could this be the same again?

Then, as now, we were suffering from a terrible fall in confidence that was seeing us throw away leads and stupid individual errors leading to us conceding goals (I distinctly remember Sonko being shrugged off by Cameron Stewart to allow Hull their third goal).

But we have something different this time, something people won't like me stating as a 'positive' to Town's current predicament... our loan players.

Much has been made of Ipswich having signed their eighth player on loan this week, it's not what we'd hoped for our long-term development. However, I had an interesting chat with Dave Gooderham from the EADT about this today which unearthered a way that these short term acquisitions could work in our favour.

They come to our side without the pressure of the last two months weighing on their shoulders, as it visibly is on Scott Loach, Michael Chopra, Tommy Smith and co. Not only that but they bring a desire to prove themselves, even if it is for their future away from Ipswich.

It's not an ideal situation - and I'll be discussing the pro's and con's of loan signings with a Nodge fan in more detail next week - but it could well be just what we need at the moment.

I've seen three matches so far this season and each time the most important thing that appears to have been lacking is confidence, especially after half time. Against Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Cardiff we performed reasonably, if not very well during the first 45 minutes. We controlled the games, we played some good football and we looked like a side that could be competing in the top half of the table later on in the season.

But then the boys go off at half time and it's like someone sticks a pin in them. They deflate and come back out through the tunnel completely deflated and nervous about conceding a goal. They then start ot defend too deep (presumably under instruction from the management) and the onslaught from the opposition can only be withstood for so long.

Whether you blame that on the quality of players in the side or the man that's organising them we need a solution. Personally, I believe it is down to Paul Jewell that they lack confidence and it is his job to improve this - which he isnt' doing. But the fact is we now need a way to solve that... and the loan players could well be it. Fresh faces work well in any line of work: they bring something different, new ideas and a little bit of confidence. I certainly feel like the quality players we have in Reo-Coker, DJ Campbell and Henderson can add to a team that seems to be heading for rock bottom at the moment. Even if it is short term.

Whatever works to get us off the bottom of that table, surely?

Anyway, back to the day. As Dave said to me 'the one thing you can't fault this season is Town's amazing away following' and how right he was.

As I say, Hull away is one of my favourite away days - not least because it's one of the closest games to me!

The ground is a typical 'modern' ground and some mnore traditional fans may not like it - but I really do. It's really attractive and when you're there you really get the feeling your on a trip out for the football. It's on the edge of the city, so you don't have to venture into the dull surroundings of Hull itself, but it's close enough to the station to make it an easy journey for travelling fans.

If, like me, you're travelling by train - head through the bus station which is attached to the train station on the left as you exit the platforms. You'll come out of there with a shopping centre on your right: head past the petrol station, cross the road, and take the first road left. This road leads you straight to the ground, less than half an hour away. See? Easy!

One of the best things Hull has going for it is the great little pub that's recommended for away fans. Following on from the above directions, keep walking once you arrive at the ground. A path takes you across a park and you'll see a road running alongside it straight ahead. Along there you will find 'The Brickmakers Pub' where we were made to feel very welcome last year by Hull fans with a round of Jimmy Bullard songs pre-match. Their chant regarding the curly haired one differs slightly from ours, as you'd imnagine!

If you are at the match early I can definitely recommend that pub for a quick visit, come and see us!

As for other ways to travel to the KC, it is a very easy drive: the A63 dual carriageway takes you right past the ground (keep an eye out for the impressive Humber Bridge before you get there). But, I was warned by a colleague this week the A63 is the ONLY road in and out of Hull and as such becomes VERY busy on match days. So be warned! That said, to my memory, the car park at the ground is large and inexpensive and so the rest of the trip should be relatively stress free.

I've reached the point, as an Ipswich fan, where I am so confused about what to expect on the pitch when I go to a game that I decide to focus on the day I'm going to have as a whole. For that, Hull is perfect and I look forward to seeing my Ipswich family again so soon, after  - that's what makes being an Ipswich fan worth it!

Things in my life seem to happen in threes, lets hope a little of that rubs off on Town's third trip to the KC this year! 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

One point gained or two points lost?

I must say, I'm starting to really feel for Paul Jewell and anyone else put up for interview at Ipswich.

They're in a position where, no matter what they say, they're going to annoy someone. For example, even I complained when in the build up to Charlton at home Carlos Edwards slipped into the terribly cliched expression of Portman Road needing to become a 'fortress'. I tired phrase which, to be honest with you hurts all the more because our beloved spiritual home moves every day further away from being a 'fortress'.

Jewell himself has this week come into some criticism for saying a draw at Barnsley was a good result. The trouble is these one line quotes don't go far enough to explaining the full extent of the situation.

And this is why I sympathise with him.

I wanted to open this article with 'a point away at the league leaders is an excellent result', but it didn't do enough to explain what a predicament that leaves us in as a club.

Before the game I'd have taken this scoreline and the performance we reportedly put in too. I'm happy with that. But that's not to say I'm happy with the fact that we let a one goal lead go or that we didn't build on that lead.

I'm happy we have now managed two games undefeated and hope we can now build on that to start winning again. But that's not to say I'm happy with the fact we've only won once so far this season.

I just think these things need perspective... and that's were Super Blue Stephen Bailey comes in!

Stephen has been to and intends to be at every Ipswich game this season, so his 'perspective' on Town's current performances is one I trust very much. He kindly offered to give me a few words after the game:

Town played really well and it was a much improved performance all round. 

We're looking alot more solid at the back with Danny Higginbotham at centre back.

The first half was, at times end to end and at other times one side to either team. Town had some good spells but didn't really create the chances, until we scored our goal.

Edwards delivered a beautiful cross and it was met by a great Daryl Murphy diving header to send the Town fans wild. Town ended the half on the up and were unlucky not to add to their goal count.

The second half was much like Barnsley on Saturday, with Town soaking up a lot of pressure, and throughout the half you knew they would have to get another goal. It wasn't completely one sided though with Daryl Murphy having a great chance to put us 2 up at the far post, but summer Town target Kuszczak pulled off a great save.

You could sense the Brighton goal coming, as I say, much like Barnsley and eventually it did come. There was maybe a little defensive mishap from us, a cross was delivered it took a deflection and went straight to an unmarked Will Buckley to slam into the empty net. So perhaps an unfortunate goal to concede but it was probably deserved as Brighton had upped there game for the second half.

It was now a case wether we would hold on or not, but we managed it and secured an excellent point away at the league leaders.

The Town away support was amazing. Great atmosphere throughout the game, all standing and all singing. The second (Watford first) best away atmosphere so far this season. The players showed appreciation at the end with Chambers, Edwards and Scotland all throwing their shirts into the crowd and Scott Loach his gloves.

My favourite moment has to be when we scored. It was right down the other end to us but we could see it clearly. As soon as the ball hit the next we went wild and loud. Brilliant.

MOTM: Carlos Edwards, great all round performance from Carlos 'He can't drive a car, he's getting the bus' Edwards. He's improved massively defensively and he's very handy going forward.

It's now time to build on these two away points and get a win on Saturday in front of the SKY cameras at Portman Road against Cardiff. 

Don't forget there's a special offer on for this match: season ticket holders can get up to four tickets for just £10 each. Keep an eye out on Twitter as Town fans have been pulling together to get as many of these tickets used as possible by allowing friends and followers to use their season ticket number.

Get behind the team and sing your hearts out for the lads!


Don't forget there's a special offer on for this match: season ticket holders can get up to four tickets for just £10 each. Keep an eye out on Twitter as Town fans have been pulling together to get as many of these tickets used as possible by allowing friends and followers to use their season ticket number.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Brighton will teach Ipswich some lessons on and off the pitch tonight

Some very intellegent comparisons have been made today between Ipswich and their opponents tonight: Brighton Hove Albion.

Over the years I've heard of Brighton's fight up the leagues, their struggle to rebuild after being forced out of their stadium and the loyal fan base that pulled together for the sake of their club.

The hard work was richly rewarded last year when their first season in the Championship saw them storm up the table during the first half of the year: much like this year, they were top of the table in September. During the second half of the year they dropped momentarily out of the top half, before flirtating briefly with the play offs but finishing in a very respectable 10th place.

By comparison: Ipswich Town, the club with a rich history of success who most football fans expect to be doing well, are stumbling from one mediocre year to the next. The long term plan that has lead to Brighton's recent success seems like a dream to Town fans, who see player's contracts running out, loan players in and out of the side and a severe lack of youth players coming through from our once renowned academy.

Whether we like it or not our club currently bares more resemblance to our previous opponents, Barnsley. The Tykes are a club facing year after year of midtable finishes and a slow build towards a challenge for the Play-Offs.

Is it time to accept this may now be our own destiny? Or should we be fighting for a vision and plan that has given Albion their bright future?

Of course, before that we need rescuing from the very real scrape we find ourselves in at the moment. Until Saturday it felt too early to be worrying about our position in the league, but I'm afraid when the full time whistle blew at Oakwell on Saturday, I found myself thinking for the first time: 'I don't see how we'll get out of this'.

It seems there's always some drama taking place of the pitch at Portman Road nowadays, none more so than this week with Paul Jewell remaining absent from the Under 21's match on Sunday and the press interviews yesterday.

When it comes to match-day though, the only thing that really matters is the result. We (the manager, players and fans) must focus on that tonight.

To help prepare us for what lies ahead, I've been speaking to Brighton fan Brett Mendoza ahead of the match:

1. Last year, was it exciting to do so well as a newly promoted side or disappointing to not be able to carry on the good form enough to go up? 

Going up, I was always going to be happy as long as we didn't get relegated. When we got within touching distance, I started to believe the impossible would happen, but in reality we were an over achieving League One team in the division above. I'm glad it fizzled out with a few games to go. If we had missed out on the last game or in play offs, it would have been much harder to take.

2. Clearly been an amazing start to this year though, can you sum up the season so far?
The season has gone far better than I expected. We have added some real quality to our team. We've signed players from Manchester United, Manchester City and Valencia. The experience we have been lacking from last season has been added. Most importantly a goal keeper, Tomasz Kuszczak who has been (I think) our best signing of the summer. Ipswich nearly took him off our hands too.

3. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses as a team? 
Weakness: maybe a lack of height and strength in the team. Maybe you could say we don't have a plan B, if our "pass pass pass" game isn't working.
Strengths: we have pace all over the pitch and can create and score goals from any number of players.

4. What are you expecting from Ipswich?
We are at home and have been playing well. We should win comfortably with Ipswich being out of form of late, but football has a habit of throwing up strange things. Ipswich have some great players on paper, so will give us a decent game.

5. We play you at Portman Road on New Years Day... do you expect both sides to still be in the same position at that point in the season?
I'd be amazed if we were still top in January, but I would like to be in the play off mix. Ipswich should have improved by then, so maybe both teams will be in the top 10, but Brighton higher up.

6. A lot is being said at the moment that Ipswich could learn a lot from Brighton's 'long term planning' compared to our own apparent lack of vision for the future. What would you say to that?
The long term planning is the way forward. However it needs a chairman with a great vision and him to find the right person to implement it and stick to the plan. It started off rocky for us, it took Poyet 18 months to sort us out, but we are almost 3 years into his reign and things have never looked better for us in my life time. Not all fans bought into it straight away, but with our chairman and manager I believe we have a very bright future.

7. One thing we do have in common is the lovely Mauriccio Taurrico, is he as popular at The Amex as he was at Portman Road? 
What's not to love? Tano is like a silent assassin, we don't see or hear much from him, but we all know that without him, Poyet's reign would not be as successful as he is now. He even played for us last season and his flair on the pitch as a defender at his age was a joy to behold. The fans definitely love him!

Finally, can I please get a score prediction and a 'player to watch from your side'?
Brighton 2 - 0 Ipswich
Player to watch: Bruno (our right back). He is way too good to be playing in the second tier of English football. Why he is at Brighton I have no idea, but watch out for his bombarding runs forward and Spanish flair.
Every game at the moment seems to be 'must win' for us, it's become a bit of a cliche that starts to mean very little. What we must do is our very best and the fans must continue to support the boys in the way they have.
I was very proud of those that attended Barnsley on Saturday, I'm sure I will be of those wonderful souls making the trip to to The Amex again tonight.
Have a great night and may this finally be the game we start to turn things around.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Ipswich fan in Barnsley: match preview

Barnsley fans are a funny lot. Wherever you go in the town you will see people's who love that club. A bit like Ipswich, I'd like to think.

It's a funny place for an Ipswich fan to live too. Friday nights routinely consist of me asking the pub which game they would like to discuss: Wembley 2000 or Oakwell 2011. Give them their dues, they always take it in good humour.

Their amazing 5:0 win against Birmingham at the weekend is a long awaited, long deserved one. They're proud of the new manager, proud of the players they've managed to keep hold of (Vaz Te leaving last year was a disaster) and yet they seem to have an everlasting patience. I hear no whining about how long they've been in the Championship and, though they have hopes this may finally be the year they reach the Play Offs, it's not the be all and end all.

My feeling is Town fans could learn a lot from them - though that's not to entirely discount the understandable concerns about our current situation.

That game at Oakwell stands as one of my favourite ever Ipswich games: it's up there with Wembley and the San Siro in the pure emotion and pride I felt for the club and fellow Blues fans.

I'd love for that to have an affect on the player's moods before the game today. But, interestingly it's a very different side to what it was less than 12 months ago.The starting line up on December 10th last year was: Stockdale, Cresswell, Collins, Sonko, Edwards, Martin, Bowyer, Andrews, Murphy, Chopra and Scotland. 

Just five of those are likely to be playing today, admittedly one of those not doing so is Chops who Paul Jewell has confirmed as unfit to play.

More significantly though we've no Keith Andrews to pull us out of a rut this year, he really was the engineer of that victory. I thought Taylor could be our man, sadly his long term injury is a real blow.

But enough about us, I've spent too long worrying about us in recent weeks, what are the Tykes expecting? I've asked fan and blogger Liam Fountain for a match preview from their point of view.

1. Barnsley have had a mixed bag of results so far this season, how are you feeling about it?

It's definitely not a true reflection of where we are in the league table so far this season, that's for sure. We've only really deserved to lose one game, and that was away at top of the league Brighton after which Keith Hill said the team's performance was 'unexplainable'. 

Apart from that we've looked like an extremely strong team who will give anyone a tough game. We ought to have beaten both Blackpool and Blackburn by two or three clear goals but we're just one or two players away from having a squad capable of anything. 

At home we're unbeaten so far and have only conceded once - it was Tom Ince who scored for Blackpool and he's probably the best player in the league which speaks volumes.

2. I still can't believe your result on Saturday, was it expected or a bit of luck?

It was an excellent result and it's a bit of both - the performance in the game against Blackburn was just as good if not better, but undeservedly we came away with nothing. I'd say around half of the fans expected a performance like that, but based on our away record and Birmingham's home record, it was a bit of a shock to see a five goal margin in our favour. All the more sweeter with it being live on TV! 

I think the result has made every team in the league aware of what we can do and how unpredictable the division is.

3. Our last game against you was our last win at Portman Road, how have you changed since then?

We've got more strength in depth and we've replaced the players we didn't in January, to put it simply. If you play us between August and December there's a bigger chance we'll beat you, as we're known for getting our squad ripped apart in January and not repairing it. That may change this year with there being no chance of Jacob Mellis leaving and Craig Davies has stated he wants to stay with us which is a massive boost. 

We're also more of a unit since we last played you, which is obviously key in any squad. Keith Hill's philosophy at the club is paying its dividends and these are exciting times for all connected to the club!

4. What are you expecting from us this weekend?

I'm expecting you to throw the kitchen sink along with everything else you've got at us on Saturday. You're in bad form at the moment with one point from five games, however, you were in worse form last season and you thumped us in front of millions, so who knows. I think we will run out as clear winners, maybe 3-0. 

It sounds arrogant, but with Paul Jewell in charge you're not going up the table any time soon. I had you down for relegation before the season started and I believe he will take you down. 

5. What would you say are your strengths and weaknesses?

Our strengths? Well, we're a brilliant team that play on the floor and in Keith Hill we've got one of the best managers outside of the Premier League. We've also got the top scorer and second top assist leader in our ranks, and if that fact doesn't fill any team with fear, I don't know what will. I'd say our biggest weakness is our inability to put away all our chances; if we'd done that with the ones that strikers put away 99/100 times then we'd be sitting pretty in second place right now, and it'd be nothing more than we deserve, but that's football for you. 

However, a temporary factor that you may be able to take advantage of is if this takeover talk gets our players into the wrong mindset for Saturday's game. The last thing we need right now is something that may cause a lapse in concentration while we're in this rich vein of form. As a team you should be worried all over the pitch; up front we can score plenty of goals and our strikers put in endless effort (excluding Harewood, ask any fan), in midfield we have creativity and composure in abundance, and at the back we have extreme solidity but have a tendency to switch off sometimes, and between the sticks we have Luke Steele - the league's best shot stopper without a doubt, though he's injured so it's thought Ben Alnwick will continue to deputise.

Score prediction: 3-0 (Davies, Mellis, Cywka) 

Player to watch out for: I couldn't give you just one because it's so hard to pick; Craig Davies - has an eye for goal and is as strong as an ox. Jacob Mellis - bags of potential and can pick out a pass. Tomasz Cywka - very exciting to watch and is brilliant when on the ball. He'll have your defenders quaking in their boots. I could go on; Dawson, Cranie, Stones...

So, welcome to Barnsley those of you who are making the journey up here. As a local resident I wanted to give you a few 'inside tips' for while you're here.

Journey up:

If you're driving it is an incredibly easy journey thanks to the roadworks that I've had to put up with for the past 5 years or so! The A1 is now a straight road with no roundabouts to deal with and I'd say it'll take you 3 - 3 1/2 hours.

Your sat nav will try to take you via the M1, ignore it and keep going until junction 37 of the A1. If you turn right on to Park Springs (A6195) and then follow through to Barnsley (past my house!), you will be on the road that takes you to the ground (A628). This way also avoids the notoriously terrible Stairfoot roundabout.

Top tip for parking is the Ward Green Kia garage on Oakwell View, opposite the ground. If you're there reasonably early there will be plenty of space on the road and it's free! However, other street parking around there is mostly all permit holders only.

Failing that, the two multi-storey car parks are a short walk and really priced or there's Barnsley College, which is well sign posted as parking for away fans.

Off t'pub?

Away fans are recommended the Barnsley Metrodome, which we really enjoyed last year. It's right next to the ground and over the road from the station.

If you're in town, like us, there are quite a few nice pubs around: Joseph Brammah's Wetherspoons is a great little chain pub but gets very full of Barnsley fans just before the game.

On the square in the middle of town there's a sports bar but also my personal favourite The Corner Pin. If you go there make sure you have the Club Sandwich: I make trips into town just for that!

Whilst you're here you have to try chips and gravy too...

Wherever you go I am sure you will have a great time because they really are a great bunch up here.

I just hope we have as good a time whilst we're watching the game...


Sent from Samsung Mobile

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Middlesbrough Away Match Preview

The Riverside is a totally new experience for me and I'm looking forward to adding that to my list of visited grounds.

But I hate to admit that's the only part of today I expect to be exciting. It just feels to me like we are in limbo, and that's a feeling I am getting all too familiar is.

I've spent the international break trying to right a blog to explain how I feel about our dealings in the transfer window, or lack of them.

To summarise, it basically says:

I'm getting tired of hearing 'we need a centre back'. We know that, Jewell knows that. Stop stating the bleeding obvious.

For whatever reason, it hasn't happened for us and I've considered the possibility it may be down to Evans, Jewell, Clegg, the club itself or even just there's none out there. I just wish the club could be more open about it.

But the fact is we don't have one, we must do the best with what we've got and I honestly believe the first team we have now are better than this time last year.

So I say it every week and Ipswich fans always make me proud with the support they give on match days, but let's leave the worries behind and see what we can get out of today. The last trip to Middlesbrough was far more successful than we expected, could it be the same today?

On the other side of the fence, it seems Boro fans are similarly dubious about the start of their season. The big difference for them is that they have had a few reasonable new players sign up. Including, of course, the man Town fans inexplicably loved to hate: Grant Leadbitter.

I spoke to Chris Powlay, Boro fan and great tweeter to follow.

1. How has the start of the season been for you? 

Not so much happy, rather disappointed away from home with losses to Barnsley and Millwall. At home no complaints, some superb football vs. Crystal Palace and a well fought victory over Burnley.

2. What was the transfer activity like for you?
I personally thought the transfer activity was very good, Jonathan Woodgate returning was a huge signing. The guy is head and shoulders above anything else in this division. The club did a lot of work very early in the window for once and brought in a lot of players for no, or little transfer fees.

3. How has former ITFC midfielder Grant Leadbitter been getting on for you? What was your view on him before he came and has that changed?
He has settled quickly, he adds some bite to the team that went missing when Barry Robson went on his Canada trip. I knew what to expect as i'd seen him play for Sunderand. A very committed player who will do ok at this level but may lack that little something for the premier league.

4. Our result against you at Riverside last year was one of our most unexpected of the season (even if it was only a draw), any memories from that for you?
Scotland smacking the post and Sonko being an idiot in the way he went about himself. It wasn't a match for the home team to want to remember, we were the second best side that day and were lucky to get a point.

5. What do you expect to see from ITFC on Saturday? Any players you expect to be impressed with?
I hope that Scott Loach doesnt have a game like he did for Watford against us last season. The guy was amazing, stopped everything that was thrown at him. I've seen some of players like Carlos Edwards, Daryl Murphy and Chopra from their time in the North East. Chopra on his day is as good a finisher as there is in this league. Hopefully he has an off day.

6. Is there anywhere you can recommend for the traveling ITFC fans (including me!) to go before the match? Any good places to eat and drink? Tips for parking!?
If people are driving in just for the game and not a pre match drink then stay on the A66 until you get to the ground, come off and aim for the ground and there is a roundabout just before the bridge in front of the Riverside, turn right there. There are cars parked all the way along that road and its a few minutes walk to the ground. In the ground definatly sample the Parmo in a bun. Its a local food and its worth the experience. Chicken with a bechemel sauce then breaded, in a bun. Pop a bit of Garlic Mayo on and wowzers. You will see why the people are so fat!
Otherwise go into the town centre and find a pay and display park probably near the cinema just off the A66. (make sure you dont park in a leisure bay as you will be ticketed!) There are plenty of pubs in the centre places like walkabout, Yates etc. Im not a pre match drinker so im not the best person to ask that question to!

7. Finally, can I have a score prediction and a Boro player for us to watch out for please?
Middlesbrough have not got the best record against ipswich but i feel our home form is crackling a little. Players are combining well. Adam Reach is a young youth player (and of course from my twitter @boroyouths you can tell i keep an eye on those!) who has been on fine form this season. He smashed a wonder goal in vs. Burnley and Speroni of Palace had to be alert when Reach let rip from 40 yards a few times vs. Palace. If he starts then expect a fine performance from a classy young player. If he doesnt start then...George Friend. A cheap summer import from relegated Doncaster. Has come in at left back and the sale of Joe Bennett doesnt look all too bad. Friend looked brilliant so far this season, accomplished going forward (won a penalty vs. Millwall) and not half bad in defence!
Prediction. Middlesbrough 2 Ipswich 1.

Will definitely be getting a Parmo I think! Enjoy the day all who are going.


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Thursday, 23 August 2012

The rollercoaster ride from Blackpool to Blackpool: my year supporting Ipswich

This weekend marks almost a year since my life as an Ipswich Town fan changed forever.

The travelling faithful have an amazing weekend ahead of them as the Blues face Blackpool, no matter what happens on the pitch.

You see, when my sister and I went to Leicester away on the final day of the 2010/2011 season we made a pact for which games we would definitely be at during the next season. Both of us live away from Ipswich so it was nice to have these games to look forward to.

First on the list was Blackpool away, so as soon as the date was announced we booked a hotel (for the female fans reading this I can highly recommend Christine's Hotel, though we didn't realise until we arrived that this is a lesbian hotel, the welcome here was warm and it's a great location).

I also tweeted in the week leading up to the game to see if any other 'ITFC tweeps' were staying for the weekend and would like to meet up and celebrate the game together. It seemed a popular idea.

After the match we went to the Wetherspoon's pub and were happy to discover a line of young men at the bar discussing the game in Suffolk accents, we'd obviously made the right choice to stop around after the game.
We were ushered over to a table full of blue shirts and sat for quite a while chatting about the game and being given advice for our night ahead in the bars of Blackpool. Two months later we were to be reunited with this group at Barnsley away and it was the beginning of a new way for us to experience games - with lots of other people!

Much later on, we had been invited to meet a group of Town fans in the Revolutions bar so we made our way there, not before stopping off at a VERY dodgy karaoke bar-cum-strip club.

We had a wander around a packed 'Rev's' but couldn't see anyone we recognised, so decided to head to the bar for another blue cocktail… but then above the noise of the crowd we heard a rousing chorus of 'Oh Jimmy Bullard….' And so a new chapter of my life began.

For me, it's never been about the desire to go to a pub and drink before a match - I've never really understood that football tradition - it's about finally being with people who share my one big passion in life.

Growing up away from Ipswich, I've never been able to share the ups and downs of the season with anyone other than our wonderful Dad. It was a great trio for many years (me, him and my sister) but now I get to do it very differently when I choose. And I'm so grateful for the chance to do that.

Since Blackpool away I have been to eight more away days with this group and they have been so welcoming. I can honestly say it feels like I've known them all my life and I consider several of them good friends who I hope to be travelling with to away games when I'm 70.

Our little group has grown and grown as others who, like me, had no-one to share their experiences with can now do so. For me, this is what football should be about: no matter what is going on on the pitch or behind the scenes at Portman Road, we all stand together as one club. We celebrate like we've won the cup when we score the 5th goal at Oakwell, we sit in silence after we've lost 4:0 to Burnley and we stand on a roundabout in Doncaster to wave the team bus off at the end of an amazing season (for us anyhow). And we do it all together.

I know some people don't approve of some of the things that the groups of friends that travel to matches together do and when it comes to destruction of property or causing a nuisance we are the first to agree. But nothing is done with the intention to harm and it really is a great little community to be involved with.

The thing I really have to thank for my life changing so drastically in the last year is Twitter. Because it's not just this 'away day' group that have welcomed me in, the social media network has been my refuge from a life over 200 miles away from the place I call home - Portman Road.

In the past year this other community of ITFC fans have seen a lot: we've celebrated births, we've congratulated a friend who tweeted a picture on his wedding day, we've consoled others on the deaths of a family member, we've helped one seven year old boy with a brain tumour raise awareness for his dream to help other children who are ill like him.

When I made the massive decision to quit a job where I was unhappy I received so much support from my followers. I was so grateful for that and it gave me the strength to start again in my career, it even lead to one Tweep offering to help me get a job in his office!

If you're reading this you have probably found my blog through Twitter and I want to say thank you, thank you for helping me fill the hole in my life left void by far away fellow Blues!

But most of all thank you to the group of people who I've enjoyed so many great away days with, you know who you are. From Barnsley to Leeds and then Doncaster, you make this rollercoaster worth putting up with and I really can't wait for you to come up to Oakwell again next month.

And if you are off to Bloomfield Road tomorrow, firstly good on you for making such a long trip. Secondly, have a brilliant time and enjoy yourself. Trust me - you'll make memories there that will last you for a life time!


Ending the Hornet Hoodoo: Ipswich vs Watford match review

Town's first 3 points of the season are an absolute relief.

When the fixture list came out in June there was a real consideration that we may not pick up any points for the first 3 games of the season. 

I hoped for a draw against Blackburn, but did not expect it, and I fully envisaged us coming home from Watford empty handed: how could we dare to think about anything else against the 'bogey team'!

When Michael Chopra scored in the dying minutes at Vicarage Road, he lifted a weight from my shoulders. It wasn't just about finally ending the Hornet Hoodoo, it was about sealing an unexpectedly decent start to the season.

What a relief it was to see Chops score his first, the striker says he's desperate for a total of 20 this season and the look on his face when he celebrated with Martin showed how much that meant to him.

What a relief it was to see JET have a far better performance than Saturday. We still need him to find a way to the back of the net, but I have heard his name mentioned by several Watford fans since Tuesday night.

What a relief it was to have our hopes for Scott Loach proved right. The keeper put in two decent performances, by all accounts, but more importantly has genuinely cheered each goal, just as any fan does. His support for the team lifts fans and players in equal measure I'm sure. 

All this is not to say I'm getting cocky, the same old cracks are appearing. After listening to commentary on Radio Suffolk I summed up the first half to my boyfriend as 'we can't hit a barn door'. As good as it was to see Chops score we had plenty of chances to bury the game and didn't, just like so many times last year.

The other noticeable worry was how terrifying it was every time we conceded a corner. I quote Radio Suffolk co-commentator Mick Mills after one corner in the first half: 

'Their two players managed to find better positions for that than all 3 of our defenders' (Cresswell was on the far post as he always is!)

Quite frankly it's still not good enough, but to balance that it was widely reported that Chambers had a good game. Perhaps I am being a little harsh, it's hard to know for sure when you haven't been able to see the game first hand.

I wondered at full time, was it as nerve wracking for the 1400 (incredible following for an everything match btw) in the stands? 

Daniel Crackers kindly talked to me about it on the way home to Suffolk on Tuesday:

Thoughts on the game?

Thought we were great yet again, Lee Martin was quality and JET had a great first half. He was quiet in the second half though and I was nervous at times, especially at set pieces.

It was nice to hear he played better and I'm glad he was chosen to start, were you happy with the line up?

Definitely, I thought Chops was isolated again though. 

Yes, that's something we were discussing on Twitter after the game. He had lots of chances on goal, as did a few of the players - did you worry we might live to regret missing those chances?

Yeah I did, I was definitely thinking they would equalise after we scored. There was a corner really close to the end and I had my scarf over many face! Luckily the ref blew the whistle soon after that!

So, how did it feel when Chops did score? 

The reaction from the crowd was great, everyone went mental and their were flags waving - it was great.

Finally, who was your Man of the Match and what was your best Moment of the Match?

Man of the Match was Lee Martin, though you couldn't fault anyone tonight in many opinion. I just thought Martin was very quick and showed a lot of skill. 

The best moment was definitely the goal, everyone went nuts and it was fully deserved.

Can Town make it 3 games without defeat? I've decided if I don't expect it it just might happen!

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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

'We have Almunia now which is probably an upgrade': Watford vs Ipswich Preview

  • Ipswich Town head to Watford tonight, a team they haven't beaten for eight years…

    As if you haven't heard that enough today, right?!

    I've spoken to a Hornets fan about whether that record makes him more confident. But first, what can Town fans expect from their trip to West London today?

    The truth is, whether they return with three points or none Vicarage Road has long been one of my favourite away days.

    Being so easy to get to from Central London is definitely it's biggest plus point: there's three train stations to chose from which use National Rail, Overground and Underground trains. I recommend Watford Junction, from where you can walk down Clarendon Road onto Watford High Street.

    Here there really are a huge number of pubs to chose from. It's always easiest to go for a Wetherspoons pub and the Moon Under Water is one of my favourites: it has a massive bar, lots of seats and a sizeable beer garden. I liked it so much here I made a return visit when my sister and I went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour in April.

    Alternatively, I know a lot of town fans enjoyed their welcome at Old Fellows on Fearnley Street which is just behind the High Street and a little closer to the ground.

    If you're driving, plenty of multi-storey car parks are signposted the minute you get into Watford and they're all based on the one way system - I have used Church and Queens. I've tried finding on street parking here before but never succeeded, you've been warned!

    Finally, a MASSIVE tip for the ladies -go to the toilet BEFORE you get to the ground and refrain from drinking until you leave!! There are THREE cubicles for ladies in the whole of the away stand and last year the queue went from the concourse, back into the stadium and down several steps. One steward actually apologised to me for the wait and explained 'we have this problem every week'.

    So I can pretty much guarantee you a good evening off the pitch, but what about on it? What can we expect from Watford tonight?

    I spoke to Watford blogger James Fitz about his views on tonight's match:

    It's been an interesting summer for Watford, can you sum it up for us?

    It is a Summer which one would never want to end; but, with the closing of the transfer window, the reality of hard work and graft are just around the corner and it's something everyone is keen to focus on. 

    The Pozos are now the new owner of Watford FC and their ownership of Udinese and Granada has offered a loan facility to the club. Sean Dyche is unfortunately gone and Gianfranco Zola is now the new manager of the club.

    You had a great start to the season (two late goals saw Watford seal victory at Crystal Palace in the 90th minute), what were your first impressions from that game?

    It was a great result, but Palace can consider themselves unlucky to lose having been 2:1 up. I dare not take negatives from a win on your first match, let alone your first away match, but I'm afraid defensively we will either have to improve, or expect the bottom half of the division to gobble us up effectively.

    What are your expectactions for Watford this year?

    This question is best answered after about four weeks ,but I will say this: if the 'loanees' from Udinese and Granada (example Pudil with 22 international appearances for The Czech Republic) play well then I expect we will challenge for sixth, if they flop, then we could struggle to be outside the fight in the bottom six.

    What are you expecting from Ipswich tonight?

    I'm expecting a feisty encounter from a young Ipswich side with a lot to prove. They have the talent in Chopra and Scotland you constantly flatter to deceive and a young group. 

    Ipswich have spent a lot, they have a good manager who at one stage was in for the Republic of Ireland job, so I expect them to turn up to win.

    You're known as our bogey team, are your fans as aware of that as ours!?

    I'm sure the fans know the names of the teams we beat on a regular basis, as there are not many we have such a great record against! You don't have a John Wark up front any more, but you do have good players.

    Tonight sees a very quick return for keeper Scott Loach; how do you think he'll be received and what are your opinions on him?

    He's obviously a good keeper, but whether the fans will give him a good reception or not may be down to him deciding to jump the other way if we get a penalty! We have Almunia now which is probably an upgrade but maybe Scott will be as good if not better in the future.

    Finally, can I get a score prediction and a 'player to watch' for you guys please?

    Murray is the player to watch: the Irish International is highly rated by the Manchester teams amongst others. Vydra from the bench is class too.

    My prediction is Watford 1: Ipswich 1, 
    Murray to score for us and Chopra for yourselves.

    Many thanks to James for taking the time to talk to me, you can read his blog Watford Hornet at 

    Have fun tonight those of you who are going!


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Sunday, 19 August 2012

A View From The Stands: Ipswich Town vs Blackburn Rovers

After a divisive season last year and an equally frustrating summer, it was nice to see the Ipswich Town faithful united once more.

For a few hours at least.

We do have a talent for debating and arguing over manager, owner and players outside of match day, but once we cross the threshold of Portman Road all that is left behind and we have one goal - back the boys.

From where I was sat, at my computer in Barnsley listening to the action on Ipswich Player - as I do every game that I can't attend in person - it seemed that all the right noises were coming from Suffolk. 

A lap of honour for the county's Olympians set the tone nicely for a day of being proud of our home grown talent. Jewell's new young side (as described on the BBC's Football League Show) more than measured up to their opponents on the day; newly relegated Blackburn were given a shock treatment in the need to bury a lead early when you are in this league.

Having not been able to be there myself, I asked Jordan Mitchell (who sits in the Sir Bobby Robson Lower) to pass on his thoughts after the game:

We started well, attacking right from the off but faded as the half went on. When Blackburn scored we went into our shells. Then in the second half we didn't get going at all, but we got what I feel we deserved eventually. 

Before the game I'd have taken a draw for sure, even more so after not playing our best.

Can you see any improvements from last year?

It's hard to tell at this stage, you can't base a summer's work on one game. Early signs show that we've improved our passing game but, at times, this seemed to have been focused on too much.

Conceded from a corner, did you see much of that?

That was at the other end to me, so wouldn't want to say too much. We looked shakey from set pieces as a general note though.

How about our goal? I know it was an own goal but was there good build up play?

That was a result of constant pressure for a good 5 minutes from us. It wad well deserved though and the ball in from Hyam caused the own goal.

The noise from the crowd sounded impressive on the radio, what was the mood like where you are?

The atmosphere was superb. There are still the same old idiots popping up every now and then, but on the whole it was great support, especially in the first and last 15 minutes.

Finally: your Man of the Match and favourite moment of the day?

Luke Hyam ran non-stop, he really shone for me. 

Favourite moment of the day was the new anthem "My Way" being sung by the masses before kick off. This, followed by the roar as the players left the huddle was the stuff of hairs standing up. The moment that told me that football was back!

No matter what does or doesn't go on off the pitch this week, with regards to transfers, I'd really like to let Jewell and the boys do their talking on the pitch.

They did almost everything we've asked for on Saturday: Jewell played Hyam and he lived up to expectations, we managed a good draw against the promotion favourites, we looked fitter and showed the desire to go on and win once we'd equalised.

That's not even to mention how nice it was to hear of Scott Loach, proudly making his debut at the club he loves, celebrating 'like a fan' when we equalised.

Of course there are concerns, the defensive errors that led to the goal are worryingly familiar and I pray that JET was just having an off day and doesn't take half a season to get going again. But, in my opinion, the positives outweighed the negatives.

Whether or not Davies does sign this week, I think that's a great jumping off point for the season.

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Saturday, 18 August 2012

'Ipswich will be a tough nut to crack': match preview with Blackburn Rovers fan Mike

My earliest memory of Blackburn Rovers goes back to 1995.

I was in my last year at primary school and a classmate of mine was a huge fan. We used to tease each other about results and argued over who's team was better, of course he eventually won that argument: Rovers became Champions of England while town were relegated to the second tier.

Since then I've always kept an eye out for how Rovers were doing and always kind of took it for granted that they would continue to be a Premier League side. So their relegation last year left me a bit shocked and, from the massive media coverage they and their manager Steve Kean have attracted, I'm guessing I wasn't the only one.

As one of the Championship's newest members they make an incredibly tough first opponent for Town. I spoke to Blackburn Rovers blogger Mike Delap to see how they are feeling about their exit from the top flight and their first test of the season.

How much has changed for you over the summer? 

The short answer is a fair bit has changed, in the circus that is Blackburn Rovers things always change!

We've lost two big names in Junior Hoilett and Yakubu which was inevitable given relegation but we have surprisingly been very active in the transfer market without losing 3 or 4 more which was the fear given the "mass exodus" warnings the papers were firing out in May.

In have come Danny Murphy, Dickson Etuhu, Leon Best (who's already injured sadly), Nuno Gomes, Colin Kazim-Richards and an influx of cheap Portuguese talent which stands us on 8 new players as we try to reshape for a new division.

Player wise it's been a rather unlikely surprise given the aggressive cost cutting and talented player stripping we've witnessed so far from owners Venky's, so as far as the squad quality goes, for the Championship it's very strong.

How about Kean? Have fans got any faith he'll get you promoted, or even last the season!?

Any faith in Kean? None whatsoever. Sure he gets stick in places where it just isn't merited but largely the vitriol and abuse you see heading his way is because I don't think you'll ever meet or see anyone in your life who is quite so sneaky. He plays the media to his advantage, he's a smooth talker and he knows his way around the footballing world. 

The problem is most of what he says is total bullshit and he's spent the last 18 months getting sections of the crowd to turn on each other, promising us actions that haven't been delivered and generally just being a yes man and a mouthpiece for the owners who've hidden behind the Scot.

That and he's just simply not very good. His win/loss record tells you all you need to know.

We could still go up in spite of Kean, but I doubt this time round he'll last the season given the change of operation at the club implemented over the season.

With that in mind: ITFC fans have been split by their opinions on Paul Jewell this last year, do you sympathise or does it annoy you given the rough time you've had as a club?

Doesn't annoy me at all, every club and every fan has a right to be annoyed and voice concerns. Given the character that Jewell tends to be I am not surprised he divides opinion.

As a fan of Rovers I would wager we've had a fair bit rougher time than most this last season or so but that doesn't mean problems don't exist elsewhere. For what it's worth I've always thought Jewell was a little bit underrated.

What are you expecting from the Championship? 

It is shaping up to be an incredibly competitive league. Looking down the squad lists I can see as many as 10 teams fighting for the the top 2 spots and that's not accounting for the usual surprise packages that emerge out of nowhere with the mandatory "didn't see that coming" push for the top.

The promoted sides don't appear to be weak and seem to have big ambitions so I expect every game to be worth something which in it's won way makes it a better watch than the Premier League (I'm not bitter honest).

It'll be tough, it'll be different, but I'm looking forward to it.

And what are you expecting from Ipswich today? Are you going to be there?

I'm not personally at Ipswich on Saturday, I was at Norwich last season (yes, I know, boo hiss) but I can only make that long, 12 hour return trip once every so often!

I'm expecting Ipswich to be a tough nut to crack and as with most Jewell sides to play with a freedom that should create an open game - not to mention we're not the greatest defensively!

I've always rated Carlos Edwards who has a skill and a flair to him that makes him an easy watch and not to mention Michael Chopra who's been in and around the Premier League and the Championship scoring goals in both.

I tend to hear good things about Ipswich given the set up at the club, it's always come across as a family club (like Rovers) so I expect the banter to be strong and fair.

Finally: can I get a score prediction and a 'Player to watch' from your team.

Absolutely. As always I'd like to think we'll get off on the right foot so I am predicting a win for the Rovers - 3-1 if you want a scoreline with Kazim-Richards, Gomes and David Dunn the scorers.

If you want a dark horse to watch keep an eye out for young Fabio Nunes, you won't have heard of him but he's looked the business in pre-season pacey winger with a bag of tricks in his locker.

Thanks to Mike for taking the time to talk to me, see what he has to say after the match at  

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Tommy Smith: Olympic games or Cambridge United Away?

Tommy Smith made a welcome return to the Ipswich Town side today after his New Zealand team were knocked out of the Olympics.

The Oly Whites ended their London 2012 experience bottom of the group, but that won’t have been too disappointing for the side which also included Chris Wood (Bristol City) and Ryan Nelsen (QPR).

But was Tommy’s involvement in this tournament a good thing or a bad thing for the club that pays his wages? I’ve seen fans debate either side of this argument and wanted to offer an opinion based on my experience whilst watching him this summer.

 I was at the City of Coventry Stadium last week to see Tommy Smith become the only Ipswich Town player to feature in these Olympic Games and was able to speak to him after the game.

He seemed genuinely proud to be a part of the competition and, despite a disappointing defeat to Belarus, he was in good spirits. He explained what an honour it was to have been able to do that with family (his parents and girlfriend made the trip up from Suffolk) and Ipswich Town fans supporting him – he repeatedly thanked us for being there, ‘I’ve seen lots of blue shirts, it’s been amazing’.

At the time he was looking forward to his next match against Egypt at Old Trafford, ‘I’ve never played there before, it’s a dream come true’ and, of course, the final match against Brazil was on his mind too. These are experiences he’ll never forget and that is my first reason for saying I believe he absolutely did the right thing in taking part in the Olympics.

It is important games like this that can ‘make you’ as a player, how much did playing for the Republic of Ireland benefit Matt Holland? And I don’t recall anyone questioning his commitment to our club. Hopefully, the experience will have added to Tommy’s ability to perform under pressure.

There is also the argument that the quality of football Tommy was involved with this summer will be much higher than if he’d played in our pre-season friendlies. With all due respect to Cambridge United and Luton Town, Tommy will have learnt so much from playing against tournament favourites: Brazil – surely no-one can deny that?

So how about the game itself? How did Tommy do?

To be honest it was probably one of the slowest football matches I’ve ever seen and the passing ability of both sides left a lot to be desired. It was sloppy and, as you’ll have seen if you watched any of the matches, New Zealand seemed to lack the finishing touch despite having good possession of the ball for the majority of the game.

In defence they were okay, but only okay. The goal seemed like poor marking, not Tommy, and it was a shame that that goal that made the difference in the end. I felt Tommy did, occasionally, seem to lose the man he was marking, something I’ve often seen him do in a Town shirt. But, in general, he was solid, showed a lot of intelligence and most of all I was impressed with the way he organised the team.

Tommy was given the captain’s armband for the World Cup qualifying matches earlier in the summer and he seemed to be carrying the influence he’d had then into these games. I hope this is a skill he’ll continue to show on the Portman Road pitch.

The only other concern was that Tommy, by his own admission, began to look very tired towards the end of the game. He explained that it was his first full 90 minutes since he’d played in the Solomon Islands (for the World Cup Qualifiers) but he was sure it would get easier now. As we said to him, it was a great way to get fit for the season!

His fitness levels therefore will be great after the number of games he has played this summer, but that - of course - plays into the hands of fans who are concerned he will become tired too quickly because he hasn’t had a summer break.

Well, I put that to Tommy after the game and the thought had clearly not even crossed his mind. He said, ‘I had a bit of a break after the World Cup (due to a hamstring injury picked up in training with Ipswich Town) but I’m raring to go now’.  

Tommy’s only 22, he’s not in desperate need of a rest and – from what he said to us – I don’t think he wanted one. He’s keen to work on his fitness, something most Town fans would have put at the top of their list for every single first team player to work on over the summer. So, again, I feel the summer of playing will have benefited Tommy, and therefore will benefit Ipswich too.

I can only see it as a positive that he has been allowed to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity and am glad the club have supported him in it. But I’m glad he’s back now and, judging by the half time score against West Ham, we have missed him!

Here’s to what will possibly be Tommy’s most important year yet, the year he proves himself.