Excitement builds for play-off game
SUPPORT for Ipswich Town will ring around the region today when the Blues launch their bid to make next season's Premiership.High-profile Blues are urging their fellow fans to roar them on – even if some of them will have to follow the game from afar.
By Jonathan Barnes
SUPPORT for Ipswich Town will ring around the region today when the Blues launch their bid to make next season's Premiership.
High-profile Blues are urging their fellow fans to roar them on – even if some of them will have to follow the game from afar.
Darts star Kevin "The Artist" Painter, a North Stand regular, believes Town can hit the bullseye over the two legs and make the play-off final.
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"I'm quite happy we got West Ham – we never do anything up at Sunderland and Palace are the form team," he said.
"It would be great to get back in the Premiership, and it would take the edge off Norwich going up."
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The England international, runner-up in this year's PDC world championships, added: "I'm a bit of a mess before these games. That's why I go in the North Stand and get it all off my chest – I sat in a box for the Cardiff game and it was difficult having to behave myself.
"It's going to be really tense – it was bad enough on Sunday just trying to get into the play-offs. I think we need a two-goal lead to take to West Ham."
Former darts world champion Keith Deller, who lives at Mildenhall, will also be at the big match, with his son Matthew, 11.
He said: "I saw Tony Cottee (former West Ham striker) the other day and told him Ipswich would win – I think it will be 2-0 at home and 1-1 away. Then we'll beat Palace in the final and finish above Norwich next year!"
James King, Radio One's film expert, is hoping for a happy ending to Town's play-off drama – which could rival anything he might watch at the world's most-famous film festival.
"I will be in Cannes for both legs so I'll be relying on the internet or text messages to find out when we score and eventually win," said the former Ipswich School pupil.
"The play-offs are just the worst thing and Ipswich fans know that more than most because we've been there so many times, but the joy of them is that anything can happen."
Former British and Commonwealth boxing champion David Starie is backing the Blues to give Alan Pardew's side a knock-out blow.
"It would be fantastic if we can get back in the Premiership and I hope they can do the job. I think we have got what it takes," said the super-middleweight star.
There are divided loyalties among Essex cricketers, who will have to rely on the radio for news on the match as they are playing against Glamorgan in Wales.
Head coach Graham Gooch is backing his beloved Hammers to beat the Blues, but all-rounder Graham Napier, a former Ipswich YTS player, and fast-bowler Justin Bishop are both keen Town fans.
"I'm hoping to get to the second leg and I think it could go either way," said Gooch, a former England Test captain.
"On form, West Ham are a good side but we have our bad times as well. We're a bit unpredictable but we've got the class to get us through on the day."
Former West Ham hardman-turned-pub landlord Julian Dicks might be disputing that the customer is always right today.
"Quite a lot of my regulars are Ipswich fans and my head chef, Ian, is too," said Mr Dicks, who runs the Shepherd & Dog in Langham, near Colchester.
"We also get a lot of West Ham fans so there's been some friendly banter.
"I can't go to the game because I'm working and we haven't got a TV here so I won't be watching it, but I fancy West Ham to win – I think they will have too much firepower for Ipswich."
Five Live's Town fan – Pages 22& 23
Match previews – Sport on Saturday