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!


    Sent from Samsung Mobile


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.

Sent from Samsung Mobile

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.