International Town fans still love their club – and are backing a fast promotion
- Credit: SIMONE LONGo
Despite relegation to League One, Ipswich fans keep smiling – but as OLIVER SULLIVAN finds, Town fans across the globe remain the most optimistic of all.
International Ipswich Town fans have shown that the league you play in and international borders have no effect on loving your club.
With some keeping their childhood love from the Sir Bobby Robson era and others finding a new-found admiration in recent years, being hundreds or thousands of miles away doesn't stop them being dedicated fans.
Gunnar Sigurðason from Iceland has been following the Blues since the 1970s and has watched Town in their heyday from FA Cup glory to the UEFA Cup win, but according to him, being in a different league doesn't make any difference to his first love.
He said: "I cant stop loving this club and I never will, through thick and thin - especially when something so deep in your heart is in a down period, the love will be even stronger.
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"I´ve been to Ipswich, in my opinion the most beautiful place in England.
"I´ve brought up the question about the family moving there several of times with my wife, but we still live here in Iceland... But I´m working on it!"
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Simone Longo, chairman of the 50-man strong Italian supporters' club, said: "For me this is a style of life, a way to be linked with ITFC every day and my mission is to make our fantastic club known everywhere.
"Being in League One won't change anything because it doesn't matter in which league we play, our club is better than others because our players, staff, legends and fans all over the world are always together as a family.
"We are special and we will always be special, up or down!"
Finnish fan Jaani Pietikäinen, a supporter since 1980, now visits Portman Road several times a year with his 17-year-old son Pyry.
He said: "Despite the results, the atmosphere in the Sir Bobby Robson lower stand has been great this season - we will be coming back next season.
"It doesn't matter at what level the Tractor Boys play - the love will last. And we will be going up!"
José López Lerena from Spain and Bluey's number one fan, said: "Loyalty is forever - so no matter the league or result, either at Portman Road or here in Spain, I'll be giving my 110% to cheer the Tractor Boys. Actually I see light in the darkness, I feel very positive ahead our new challenges and I really cannot wait to the new season to start!
"To be honest it has been easy to fall in love with Ipswich Town as I have made very good friends and I have felt like a Tractor Boy since the first day - it's definitely a family club or it makes you feel like that, as a huge family."
Fortuna Düsseldorf and Ipswich Town fan Martin Teigeler, who saw his first Ipswich game in March, said: "The connection between Fortuna and Ipswich remains no matter what league either of us are playing in. We Fortuna fans know how hard it is to be down in the third tier, but it can build a very special bond when you fall on hard times and all fight for a comeback. A new league can mean a new love."
Norwegian fan Christoffer Vårhus said: "Every single time I go to Playford Road or Portman Road, the club welcomes me and makes me feel at home. The community around the club and the town is just wonderful. We go to the stadium for the same reason, the same love - to support our beloved town. And that connection is what creates the special atmosphere.
"Because of all of this, the love wont change when we're in League One. We will still follow town up or down."
Fellow Norwegian Sindre Eliassen added: "I've been a fan ever since I was born, manipulated by my dad as he bought me kits and made sure I never had a choice - but I haven't looked back. Ever since I was old enough to remember football we have been outside the Premier League.
"Being in League One won't change a thing for me. I believe in what the club is doing although vivid improvements are needed, but Lambert has reconnected the fans and the club - which for me at the end of the day is the most important thing."
With more than 11,000 season tickets sold during the early bird window, it is not only the international fans who can't wait for the chance to start anew.
Recently formed supporters' group Blue Action played an instrumental role in keeping a positive atmosphere in the stands, helping Blues fans keep the faith despite relegation while displaying The Smith's-inspired banner: "There is a light that never goes out."
The one thing all the fans share - as their chant heard across Portman Road says - "We support the Ipswich, if we're down or if we're up."