Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Tricky Trees Continue Trials of Town Fans

After Ipswich put in such a good performance against Sheffield Wednesday, I was foolishly looking forward to our home game against Nottingham Forest.

Because this game was on Sky, I spent Saturday evening with my friend Mark, who also lives in West Yorkshire.

We meet up often, though not often enough, and our conversations generally revolve around The Blues.

That's why it's always good to watch games together whenever they are live on TV.

A fellow long distance Blues supporter, he almost always holds a different opinion to me about the team, manager and owner.

But, we are united in our passion for Ipswich and frustration with the way things are at the moment.

Here, in my first football Vlog, I show how watching Town lose 2:0 to Forest felt from our side of the television screens:

Thursday, 17 November 2016

The real Price of Football

Every year, BBC Sport release a study which claims to 'analyse data to find out how much it costs football supporters to follow their team'.

Several articles are released, looking at ticket prices across the football league, summarising the main points and grouping together the stats under the banner 'The Price of Football'.
It's an important topic and one us football fans talk about regularly, because it affects every one of us. There's no getting away from the fact that football isn't cheap.
But the BBC, once again, seem to miss the point of the conversation and an opportunity to send a strong message to our clubs - prices are getting to high.
To me, the article reads like someone let the work experience student go mad with stats and then picked out the biggest numbers to create a 'shock'. Perhaps I am being naive, perhaps that is exactly what journalism has been reduced to these days.
For Ipswich in particular, it betrays the average fan by portraying the details of a far more premium experience at the club that most of us will ever actually pay for.
Sadly, it's a stat that hits their headlines every year: the most expensive season ticket in the Championship is... *drum roll please*... Ipswich Town with £842.
"Eight hundred quid!!?" the neutrals cry, "that's an outrage. You can get a season ticket at Barcelona for less than that".
Except, like I say, that isn't what a 'normal' Ipswich fan will pay. I follow a lovely chap on Twitter who sits in one of those seats and he has explained in the past that he enjoys sitting there, so he is willing (and able) to pay that price.
The average Ted, sitting down in the Sir Bobby Robson stand in his blue and white replica shirt (more on that later), will have paid a generally more manageable fee of £500. It's still a lot of money, of course, but far less shocking.

So what actually is the Price of Football?
I don't intend to speak for all football fans, but I can talk through what the Price of Football is for me:

Matchday tickets: £30 per month - ish.
I don't go to many home games per season, so my focus here is on away ticket prices and those can vary greatly: for Leeds in September I paid £35 but for Wigan next month I am about to pay just £20.
I always budget around £30 for a ticket as that's what I am willing to pay to get into each game. I am happy if it costs me less than that and I do try to select games which will cost less to allow my budget to go further.
For home games I usually pay just over £30. It is more than I want to pay, especially when you add in the cost of travel, but I believe season tickets are the lifeblood of our club and so the cost of those should be more attractive then the matchday tickets.
For a season ticket holder, each individual game costs around £17 - almost half of what I pay - which I think more than reasonable. If you are unable to pay that in one go, you can pay by direct debit for around £30 a month: the same amount I pay each month for just one game!
In addition to that, the club currently have a special offer where you can buy a number of tickets for a reduced price. You do need to know which games you plan to go to, but surely we have all planned our lives around football games?
Just me?


Travel: £20 per month (£60 if travelling to a home game)

As an away fan, I generally opt for games that are easy to get to via public transport. £20 is usually the limit for my budget when booking train tickets, it is equivalent to half a tank of petrol and I can get to most grounds on that amount of fuel.
I truly feel sympathy for the Ipswich fans who travel up to the northern games, which usually involves four or five hours in the car (and no drinking), or several changes and a large cost if going by train.
Ipswich is such a difficult place to get to, with journeys up north often involving two or three changes at places like London, Grantham and Peterborough, changes that increase the prices. As a result, I have known many friends book their travel months in advance to take advantage of lower prices, only to find the game has been moved to be shown on Sky and they lose the money they have paid for that ticket.

Food and drink: Between £10 and £30
This is an entirely subjective cost, which fluctuates depending on how much time I have for pre- and post-match drinks. The Price of Football for me though will inevitably involve a few pints and a couple of shots, because, as you know, my enjoyment of match days is based heavily on the social side of the day.
I know from when I was pregnant last season that I could easily find somewhere to eat lunch and have a soft drink for less than a tenner. It doesn't have to cost a lot, in the same way that one doesn't have to buy a pie despite it being included in the BBC survey.

Programmes and other memorabilia: £50 a season.
I recently moved home and, being pregnant at the time, I was unable to lift most of the items down from my first floor flat.

So, you can imagine the delight of my partner, Luke, when he came across my boxes of ITFC programmes. "Do you really need these?" he asks, before quickly scurrying away when given 'the glare'.
The same was true when my Dad moved home a few years ago, my Mum could not understand why we were carting boxes and boxes of the things all the way down to Cornwall. "Mum", I said, "these are from the eighties. Come on, be sensible".
The truth is, both Mum and Luke have a point. We really don’t need those programmes. But throwing them away would be like throwing away the treasured cuddly toy of your first born, or the little tag the hospital put on their teenie little ankle when they are born. You just can't bring yourself to dispose of memories that have had a profound effect on your life.
Yes, I did just compare my son's hospital name tag to my programme from Huddersfield away five years ago and, no, I'm not sorry.
As a result of realising how right Mum and Luke are, I have decided not to buy programmes when at games. I find I rarely get the chance to read them at the game and tend to prefer to find stories online in the days leading up to the match.
I have also made the decision not to buy a replica shirt each season. However, if I particularly like a shirt, like the 'Tractor-lona' away shirt we had last year, I purchase it at the end of the season at a reduced price.
I have cut back on the typical bits, but I do buy generic items that won't go out of date in 12 months time. Like the time I travelled to Ipswich only to realise it was much colder than I'd expected and I hadn't packed a coat. So, I popped to Planet Blue and paid £30 for a gillet, which I wear almost every day two years later.
My new expense, of course, is Ipswich Town babygrows for my son, Harry. I am not sure if I am brainwashing the child or being duped into spending money I don't need to... but the feeling of seeing him in blue and white, smiling at me when we've won is worth every penny.
In total then, it seems I spend around £850 per season. So, for the price the BBC has given the impression Ipswich fans pay for season tickets, I get a whole year of enjoying watching Town (I use the word 'enjoying' very loosely).
The thing that frustrates me is that this is actually an important topic, but the BBC miss the point by trying to focus on too many things at once.
People are being priced out of watching the game, particularly those who have children to pay for on top of their own tickets.
The prices at Portman Road are not great, particularly when compared to the amazing cost of a season ticket at Huddersfield this season.
But, those points are part of a much wider conversation, one which I'm sure I will return to at some point this season. In the Championship, it's not a simple case of the clubs profiting from their fans like it is in the Premiership and comparing the two is unfair and unhelpful.
£500 is a lot of money but the truth is, I am able to pay that at the moment and so I am willing to. Football is a huge part of me, the hobby that makes me happy. And, whether it's decoupage or watching sport that takes your fancy, hobbies cost money.
And I'd much rather be supporting Town than gluing together bits of paper.

I'm interested to hear hoe much you spend on football, so please do tweet me on @tractorgirlamy8

Friday, 11 November 2016

Memo to McCarthy: How not to make friends and influence people

There is no better feeling in this world than a last minute winner.

My three month old son's smiles are special... but they've got nothing on the moment I heard Luke Chambers had scored against Sheffield Wednesday.

The skipper joined Richard Chaplow and Noel Hunt in the hall of fame for goals that will long remain in the memories of those who witnessed them live.

My friend Anthony, who has only ever seen us draw at Hillsborough, was ecstatic: 'Absolute scenes when Chambers scored', he told me in a text after the game, 'Ben must have fallen down about 5 rows of seating'. We've all been there, right?

How happy I am for those who travelled to South Yorkshire on the back of a disappointing result the weekend before. They, more than anyone, deserved to experience that win.

This year has seen difficult times at Ipswich Town, so supporters back in Suffolk surely enjoyed that victory?

Oh no Amy, of course they didn't.

No sooner had the final whistle blown, than I saw tweets appear on my timeline declaring the three points were 'papering over the cracks'.

For many, it's going to take more than an unexpected away win to renew confidence and you can understand the continued frustrations of those who wish to see the end of McCarthy's reign (though hearing fans actually wanting us to lose is unfathomable).

So, what of our controversial manager? He, surely, would be smiling after that result?

Oh no Amy, of course he wasn't.

"Asked if it’s only fair to judge him now he’s got close to a fully fit squad available, he replied: “If you or anyone else wants to judge me then crack on. That performance today and that result reflects my time at Ipswich, my four years and 202 games, far more than the performances that some choose to carp on about." EADT

McCarthy aims these weekly digs at a set of fans who have endured over fifteen years of struggling to get out of the Championship. It is growing tiresome and is the main reason he has lost the support of a great number of fans.


But, to what extend are his comments justified? Are they really as offensive and arrogant as some would have you think?

Here's some other examples of his comments:

"Jonathan Douglas isn’t injured, I just left him out,” explained McCarthy. “That was the team I wanted to play, that strangely defensive team I wanted to play, to play s**t football, that’s why I did it.” EADT (Following criticism for defensive tactics.)

“I’ll just tell you that the more they shout the less chance there is they will come on." EADT (Responding to fans calling for McGoldrick, Bru and Pitman to used in the team.)

"Some people might be frustrated with that result? Some people can f*** off." Football website 'Joe' (Defending a draw away at Leeds.)

And in a similar conversation: "McCarthy was delighted that his side were able to deny a fellow relegation-threatened side all three points, admitting that he ‘wouldn’t have bothered getting on the bus’ had he been offered the draw prior to the match." Ipswich Star

Sometimes I read his post-match interviews and feel like banging my head against a brick wall. With the mood as it is, comments like this further rile those who are criticising him. In short, he is giving them ammunition.

I do wish someone with his many years of experience would have a little more diplomacy. But, I also wonder why people take it so seriously. Take, for example, his comments after that draw with Rotherham:

“If you are ever looking for a point in a season to turn a bad moment around, maybe that could be it, a wonderful strike from a really good player.” EADT

The accompanying headline ('Rotherham draw could be turning point, says Town boss McCarthy') created uproar online, with fans calling him deluded for thinking a point at home against bottom of the league was a 'turning point'.

However, when reading what he says in the context of his other comments, I get a very different impression.

Whilst giving a balanced view of the game, admitting that the second half wasn't good and that we looked nervous, he looks to the moment that saved us - David McGoldrick's late but great strike.

To me, he is saying the performance wasn't good enough but a goal like that, which will be a contender for goal of the season come May, could be the start of something better. The result itself isn't what he thinks is the turning point, but the confidence gained from that lovely goal could be.

Sometimes I think his comments are interpreted harshly by fans who already have an issue with him, those who complain are often the ones who have already decided they want him to go.

I also find it laughable when people take offence to the things he's said. McCarthy has always been an up front, blunt manager - it's the reason his interviews have become something of a legend.

‘I don’t intimate things, do I? I’m not clever enough to say one thing and mean another. I say it as it is, as I always do.’ Daily Mail (Apologies for linking to this website, an alternative was not available. #StopFundingHate)

Throughout his interviews over the years, a clear trend is visible: the majority include a sarcastic answer to a question or a little joke. It's just what he does.

Having lived in Yorkshire for almost eight years now, the bluntness of the locals has taken some getting used to, but they generally have kind intentions: McCarthy is, quite simply, a typical Yorkshire man.

In the early days of my time as a journalist, I attended an Ipswich game at the Molineux during McCarthy's tenure there. He came to speak to the press a little earlier than Paul Jewell, Town's boss at the time, so I took the chance to listen in to what he had to say.

As he made jokes and spoke frankly about the game, he held the attention of every person in that room.  He came across as knowledgeable and likeable, so much so that I missed the beginning of the interview with Jewell because I had been listening too intently to what Mick had to stay.

I don't know him personally, but I have known people who do. They have spoken so highly of him I find it difficult to imagine he doesn't care about the team or he is using the club for a final pay cheque before retirement: two things he has been accused of by some of our fans.

This is also the reason I find it so difficult reading the nasty names and even threats of violence aimed at him on the internet. When I questioned one fan on his wish to 'smash a glass around McCarthy's head', thinking perhaps it was a poorly thought out joke, he responded that his feelings were 'justified'.

This kind of criticism is something McCarthy has faced many times before and he has always been honest with reporters about his feelings towards it, this quote is an example from his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland:

'The Irish media, incredibly, will tell you they have not been hard on me, but they're liars. They've given me a hard time and they all take exception to it when I say it to them, which doesn't bother me.' The Guardian

The quote rings true of things he has said about his time at Ipswich, where he has said he doesn't care if people don't like his tactics. To some this comes across as arrogance; to me it is a case of having to rise above the hate and get on with his job.

He has had to deal with far worse than 'criticism' at the hands of our fans:

“I’m a boring c***, somebody called me last week. I wish they would call it to my face on my own because his pint of lager ... he would have been wearing it." Independent

Though I would not condone the use of the 'c' word, unless referring to Grant Holt, I felt the focus on his use of it missed the point entirely. The criticism from a section of our fan base has turned nasty and personal, no person should ever have to deal with that.

In my previous blog, I wrote about the vitriol that has been aimed at McCarthy in recent months, explaining I think it is unhelpful. In fact, it is counter-productive and shows those who resort to it as extremely petty.

Nasty names are never justified and there are, sadly, more examples of fans being offensive directly to the manager and players. A friend of mine retold her experience of waiting to meet the players after an away game this season:

'The way [a group of fans] spoke to Luke was so rude and disrespectful, they pounced on him when he came out of the gates. I tried to defend him but they said we didn't know what we were talking about because we are female. I made a quick exit'

How awful to think that our fan base is resorting to this kind of hate, but it is not the first time a story has come out describing nastiness on the part of our fans. I am reminded of the time that Paul Jewell told a reporter about his experiences on a garage forecourt.

Nor is it the first time we have had to put up with our manager committing a faux pas in the media room. Compared with a sexist comment about a female official or shouting at a journalist for forgetting to put their phone on silent, these errors from McCarthy don't seem as offensive.

If your opinion on the team differs from Mick McCarthy, that is fair enough. But, if your difference of opinion with him is based on, or influenced by your dislike of him personally, I would suggest you are doing him and our club a disservice.