Friday, 10 March 2017

Barnsley v Ipswich Town: a match preview through the eyes of a Tyke

In Issue 2 of Kings of Anglia I had the chance to talk about my favourite topic: Ipswich Town away days.

I picked out my favourite grounds to travel to and among them was Barnsley.

This fixture is something of a 'home' game for me as when I first moved to Yorkshire I lived there for some years. I have written about my experiences living there, here.

As a result, I have many dear friends who are season tickets holders at Oakwell and the Reds have become rather dear to me.

I was so pleased for them as their journey to promotion picked up pace last season and was over the moon when they were promoted through the play offs.

Of course, that soft spot I have for them will be completely ignored on Saturday, as I head out for what is only my fourth game of this season, but one I've been looking forward to since the fixtures were announced.

As part of the build up to the game, I spoke to my friend Tom who once took me to a local 'home fans' pub before a game against Town, where a change in the toilets to hide the colours of my shirt sadly did not stop my southern accent standing out like a sore thumb!

"I've been going to Oakwell since the glory years of 1997/98, our only ever season in the top flight.

A season ticket holder for fifteen of the last twenty years, I sit in the East Stand Upper and get to about ten or twelve away games every year.

Strangely, I prefer the away games (I don't think that's strange at all Tom, I'm exactly the same!).

You can't beat five and a half hours on a coach to Yeovil, supping warm lager, seeing your side get three points, then knowing you've got to do it all over again on the way home.

I have a lad who I've taken to just one game (it didn't end well!).

He'd just turned four last season and we had Fleetwood in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy semi-final at home.

He wanted to go, so I took him.

All day he were excited, sat with hat and scarf on at 10 in the morning all ready - we weren't setting off until 2pm!

Anyway, we got in our seats and those words that I were dreading came out of his mouth.

It were 3:05 and he said, "can we go home yet? This is rubbish."

I weren't impressed, we ended up leaving at half time.

I were devastated!"

Asking Tom about last season, it's clear that he, like all other Barnsley fans at the moment, is still so proud of what they achieved.

"Last season's success was really strange, after Christmas it was when we really got things together.

I started enjoying going to the games again, we outplayed a very good Walsall side twice to get to the final.

Before the final we were stood on Wembley way about an hour before kick off and I could see worry on a few of my mates' faces.

I reassured them that we'd win that final, I'd never been as confident that we'd win a game in twenty years of being a fan.

I were proved right, we scored after about 80 seconds of the game, and that's when the lads started to relax and enjoy the occasion."

So, after such a good season last season, what were Tom's hopes for their first year back in the Championship?

"To be honest, I'd have been happy with fourth bottom come May, but it's not been that way.

We hit the fifty point mark in February, but success comes at a cost.

The big money boys have decided they want all our best players.

Hourihane, Mawson, Bree and Winnall have all gone to new clubs and that's left a big gap in the side. We never had a big squad to start with.

But we're coping; it's strange because our away form is a lot better than our home."

The last time Barnsley faced Town, the Blues appeared to be by far the better side, with a thrilling game at Portman Road that ended 4:2 to the home side.

Sadly, Town haven't lived up to the hype of that match back in August, so what does Tom expect to see from them this weekend?

"I don't know what to expect really.

 I think Ipswich are a lot like us, not a bad side exactly but can't put a run together for a chance at the play offs.

There could be a lot of goals, after the opening game of the season which was a goal fest. (Sorry Tom, I don't think we are going to see that given our current phobia of the back of the net!)

I'm a big fan of McCarthy.

In the last twenty years we've had about twelve or thirteen managers and I always thought that when one of them got the sack he'd be given the job. But it's never happened.

Maybe he's never wanted it? Who knows. Either way, if he'd been appointed it wouldn't have been a bad thing.

Back to Barnsley and they've certainly made their mark on the league this year. Which players should I be watching out for?

"A player to look out for is Marley Watkins who, rumour has it, Ipswich made a million pound bid for in the August transfer window.

To me, he's been our best player of the season followed closely by goalkeeper Adam Davies.

Marley's fast and strong, can play up front, or out wide on the wing.

He's decent on the wing because he's got bags of energy and doesn't stop running.

I've always liked Ipswich as a club (apart from the sunny May bank holiday afternoon in North London in 2000, but the little said about that the better!).

I'd like to say I wish you all the best for the rest of the season, after Saturday of course!

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to talk to us Tom, we loved having you on!

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