Tuesday, 28 February 2012

GUEST BLOG: Hypocrisy in Offence

Those living in the world of Twitter would be forgiven for forgetting a game of football took place this weekend.

For, on Saturday afternoon the #ITFC hashtag was temporarily altered to #bannergate.

I say temporarily, discussions about the not-so-clever message a group of Town fans decided to unveil at The Amex went on long into the night and through to Monday morning.

Here, for the first time, I've invited a fellow Town fan and regular feature in my own timeline to offer his thoughts on the 'drama' at Brighton.

Some of you may know him as 'Disgruntled', though following The Blues amazing 4 wins in a row he changed his twitter profile to 'Contented'! As a special birthday treat I though you all would enjoy the chance to hear from him in more than 140 characters!

If you've ever thought of writing about Town please do feel free to get in touch with me: tweet me @tractorgirlamy8

We did play a game of football on Saturday, didn’t we?

Because from the #itfc TL it seems to me the only issue of note for many people who went to the game...was a ‘banner’.

Had the perpetrators of this heinous act been dressed and made up like ‘black & white’ minstrels, whilst burning a rainbow flag and saluting fascism: I may have the same outrage as everyone else.  

But they weren't. The only things the 'banner boys' are guilty of are not being funny and unforgivable crimes against English grammar.

Yet, the Twitterati appear to be vying for a Frankenstienesque mob hunt. So be it. But, before we grab our pitch forks, light the torches and storm The Buttermarket looking for these monsters; can I just make sure we truly are the righteous mob we think we are?

If you don't mind, could you please answer these few questions:

1. Have you ever sung or clapped along to ‘There’s a Circus in the Town’?

2. Have you ever referred to a Norwich City fan or player as scum, inbred, 6 fingered or web toed?

3. Have you ever questioned Nugent’s parentage?

4. Have you ever made fun of Paul Jewell’s attempts at entering the adult film industry?

5. Have you ever sung ‘Where were you, when you were s**t?'

6. Have you ever referred to Grant Holt as either fat, a diver, a cheat or worse?  

If you answered yes to even just one of those: you are as guilty of causing offence as the 'banner boys'.

If you answered no to all, then you’re truly righteous, go grab your pitchfork...

All I’m trying to say is that there is a great deal of hypocrisy when it comes to taking offence in Twitterland. My own brush with this came when I pointed out that people complaining about the bullying approach of another, were quite happy to engage in the same behaviour they so abhorred in response.

For making this reasonable point, I was given a sanctimonious reply coupled with a patronising end statement! Imagine my surprise when the same person called another ‘retarded’ just a few weeks later, obviously he doesn’t listen to himself.

My plead really is to ask everyone to stop being so sensitive of any comment that doesn’t go with their opinion. Twitter has a block button use it! But, the human brain has a better option ‘IGNORE’.

Just to be very clear: this does not apply to racism, sexism, homophobia etc.  We all have a duty to rid society of those evils.
So I say: 'Save the ‘banner boys’ from the hypocrisy at least'.

And next year I’ll be at the Amex with my own banner “A SENSE OF HUMOUR, I DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT”.

Thanks to 'Contented for contributing to Diary of a Tractor Girl. I look forward to being able to publish his work again in the future and, again, if anybody else would like to see their writing out on the #ITFC timeline: get in touch via @tractorgirlamy8

BTW, Happy Birthday @ITFC2802!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Is this a defence which I see before me?

Town's result against Cardiff City has left me wondering if I'm hallucinating.

For months I've been citing the wobbly defence as the core to all our problems, but on Saturday the solid defence of days gone by made a welcome return to Portman Road and achieved their second clean sheet in two games.

Though credit is due to so many players for our run of 4 wins, I don't feel enough has been made of the improvement shown in the back four. So that's what I wanted to discuss today.

Could it be that Ipswich Town are finally becoming the team we've hoped they would be all season? If so, it seems the turbulent Act 1 of the season could be about to give way to a fascinating Act 2.

Manager Paul Jewell paid tribute to Cresswell, Smith, Delaney and Edwards in the Green Un after the game:

“Whatever back four has played this year has made basic individual errors and cost us goals. Some months ago I guess we would have conceded during that dodgy spell in the first half, but we’re now playing with confidence and belief and desire.

“We’re defending and attacking as a team at the moment and look like a decent team.”

Tommy Smith is becoming a key player for me: several times during his BBC Suffolk commentary on Saturday afternoon, Steve Foley praised him for 'taking charge of the back four'.

Following Town's painful defeat at Leeds, I feared Sonko losing confidence would lead to a loss of organisation in defence: but Tommy has stepped up his game in recent weeks and I’ve felt very proud of him.

(Tommy Smith... WORLD CUP PLAYER - as you may have heard shouted in the North Stand!)

Meanwhile, Steve Foley also credited Damien Delaney with two vital blocks that prevented Cardiff from scoring. He too is showing a clear head and determination to play, despite suffering a barrage of criticism from fans this season. He’s done well to pull through that and though he probably would not have been in the first team if it weren't for Ibrahima Sonko's injury it's nice to see him stepping up to the challenge too.

Meanwhile, Carlos Edwards had a fine game and as such he was rewarded yesterday with an inclusion in the 'Team of the Week'. In the abscence of Sonko, he was given the captain’s armband on Saturday and, for me, appeared to represent everything that is good about our current side.

He was credited with a good block from a Miller shot during the first half, which looked set to go in and would have seen Cardiff equalise and probably a totally different game unfold.

Meanwhile, he was also heavily involved in the build up to Michael Chopra's goal: his excellent cross from the right found it's way straight to Chops, who was able to find the net from close range. Here Edwards is showing his versatility at the other end of the pitch and what a key player he is this season.

But it wasn’t just the back four that provided food for thought this week: as has been reflected many times on my Twitter timeline, 'it’s great to see #ITFC defending right through the team'.

For me the perfect example of this is Jay Emmanuel Thomas. I’ve long been a JET fan, I enjoy watching him play. But, it seems now that he’s finally showing willing to add to his talented attacking play by using that great physical presence to help us out at the back. In recent games he's been getting involved with tackles and blocking balls; things I’d never imagined seeing from him earlier in the season.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a very good reflection on the game if I didn’t mention ALB’s yellow card. Yes, he was lucky – very lucky. Had it been closer to the centre of the field, perhaps, it might have been considered more of a goal scoring opportunity. But Delaney WAS covering for him and I suspect that is why the referee made the decision he did.

If I were a Cardiff fan I imagine I would be absolutely livid with the decision. However, I maintain that it would have been extremely harsh to send a goalkeeper off at such an early stage in the game. Furthermore, I feel karma may have played it's part: following the terrible decision to award them a penalty late on against us when we travelled to Wales and came home with just 1 point when it should have been 3. Swings and roundabouts I say.

The truth is Cardiff ran large sections of the game, once again I point to a Steve Foley quote from the first 20 minutes: ‘Ipswich can’t get the ball into Cardiff’s half let alone find any meaningful possession’.

For me the Town players weathered that storm well and the defensive play was impressive: At one point Cardiff had 8 corners, something you wouldn’t expect for any away side, so for us to hold out against them is quite an achievement. I also remember a time where set pieces were a sure goal for our opponents, so it's nice to see we've learnt from that and are now defending against them in a much better way.

Isn’t that the whole point of football? Sometimes you run the show and score at every chance you get; but sometimes you have to dig deep to grind out a result, even when the run of play is going against you.

Let’s not forget: Cardiff came to us knowing a win would leave them 3rd in the Championship. They will also have been hoping a win against us would give them a boost ahead of their Carling Cup Final this weekend. This wasn’t a top side who came looking like they didn’t care about the result – as some have suggested West Ham approached their appearance at Portman Road. This was a side hungry for some positivity – but we sucked it all up for us.

What a great time it is to be an Ipswich Town fan.

In Jewell, the players and the wonderful Blue Army I trust.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Keep calm: but get a little bit excited!

What a joy it has been to wake up to hundreds of Twitter messages wishing Sir Bobby Robson a Happy Birthday.

Having something all Town fans can pull together to celebrate has been a rare occassion this season and I am really glad to see it happening.

It's not just today, though. Slowly but surely it feels like the family of Ipswich Town is getting itself together and enjoying supporting the team again.

A little under a month ago I checked in with the boys during their visit to Elland Road - a game that had me feeling there was nowhere left to turn for ITFC and only hard times lay ahead.

But, the following three games saw Town earn 9 points from a possible 9. Suddenly, instead of looking over our shoulders at the relegation battle, we seem to be calmly striding our way back to midtable mediocrity.

There's no denying these last 3 wins have been an incredible turning point for the boys, but - in my humble opinion - this is what we've been working towards since Forest scored that winning goal against us in the dying minutes of the game. Twice.

A little while later Town played well against Birmingham City, seeming to have learnt somewhat from their mistakes in the recent run of defeats. To lose again in the final minutes of a game we thoroughly deserved to win was heartbreaking.

By the time West Ham came around, though there was serious discontent off the pitch (due to a lack of player purchases during the January transfer window) the players at least seemed up for it. Finally they showed us the team we've been waiting for for months. Winning 5:1 against the team who are top of the league was a phenomenal result and brought some much needed joy to the long suffering Blues fans.

But, to take these improving performances and grind out a win at relegation-battling Coventry was a far more important result for me. The Ipswich from earlier games of this season would've succumbed to last minute nerves and missed that chance that lead to Chops' late winner (most likely, they would have then watched the ball go straight up the other end of the pitch and into the back of their own net instead).

I am so pleased to see the boys finally overcome their nerves and have a little faith in themselves. It's about time they started fighting for the win and showing the rest of the league what they're made of.

And so we moved on to a rather disappointing day last weekend, when the match against Middlesbrough was called off. Having made the trip from Barnsley to Suffolk myself, I will never forget the way my heart sank when the referee was called over for a discussion with his fourth official. I had really been enjoying what I was seeing: for the first time since the second half at Barnsley I was given an insight into what Paul Jewell must be picturing for his side.

A team that were playing with passion, intelligence and a mutual respect for each other. JET was superb, Tommy Smith was playing with a new found confidence and Martin was - as usual - a key part to every move we made. It felt there was more organisation to the side, and finally they are playing well as a team as a whole.

The following win against trouble-hit Portsmouth on Tuesday night was yet another example of a side in control... And so Pompey once again lead us to a great record of four games unbeaten - just as they did earlier on in the season.

But with these four wins in a row comes the pressure of keeping that going, and it unnerves me to consider what that might be doing to the side. I truly believe that they are now showing the strength to deal with that, but what will help them with that is YOU.

Regular readers will know that the positive atmosphere is something I've long cited as a contributing factor to Town's better performances. That support from the crowd was clearly evident at Portman Road against West Ham and I honestly feel it has gone a long way to helping the boys start to turn their season around.

What I'm trying to say is: whatever happens today, back the boys. Win, lose or draw these recent results have been exactly what we've been hoping for. Please show them the support you have done so well in demonstrating in recent weeks and remember: football is meant to be fun!

Though we must not to get too far ahead of ourselves with the wonderful recent results, I want to also give you a nudge and say 'go on enjoy yourself a bit'. After all: it's quite fun being an ITFC fan.

In Jewell and the players, but most of all the Blue Army we trust.

Happy Birthday Sir Bobby, I hope you're watching today's game too!