Support your local team or follow one of the 'big six' Premier League clubs? While our Northstander columnist Terry Hunt has followed Ipswich for 55 seasons, his sons Tom and Ben have been lured away by the glamour of Man Utd. Today, Terry and Ben offer their views on this often prickly subject.

East Anglian Daily Times: Long-term Ipswich Town supporter and 'Northstander' columnist, Terry Hunt, pictured outside Portman Road.Long-term Ipswich Town supporter and 'Northstander' columnist, Terry Hunt, pictured outside Portman Road. (Image: Contributed)


I was lucky. Through my teenage years and into my 20s, Ipswich were one of the best teams in England. Among the European elite, in fact.

I saw them win the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, miss out agonisingly on the league title, and compete across Europe for the best part of a decade. Real Madrid, Barcelona, St. Etienne, Feyenoord and other top teams came to Portman Road, and all left with their tails between their legs.

We had a team of great players. Famously, at our peak, only goalkeeper Paul Cooper had no international caps. Mick Mills skippered England at the 1982 World Cup. It was an absolutely brilliant decade under the inspired leadership of Bobby Robson.

In my youthful naivety, I took it all a bit for granted, and foolishly believed it would continue forever. So, back then, supporting “the Town” was a no-brainer, as they say.

There was something else. In the days before wall-to-wall TV coverage of the glamour clubs, the only real opportunity to enjoy live football was to watch your local team.

East Anglian Daily Times: Mick Mills and Frans Thijssen celebrate winning the UEFA Cup with Ipswich Town in 1981.Mick Mills and Frans Thijssen celebrate winning the UEFA Cup with Ipswich Town in 1981. (Image: Archant)

There were very few live games on TV. It was limited to the FA Cup Final - an annual all-day TV extravaganza on both channels - the Home Internationals, and very little else.

We were restricted to the recorded highlights on Match of the Day on Saturday nights, and then Match of the Week with Gerry Harrison on Anglia TV on Sunday afternoons.

Mind you, Anglia really did stretch a point when trying to convince us they were covering “local” teams. They included Hull City, a good 200-mile journey from Suffolk!

So, people supported their local team. If you were lucky - as I was - you grew up close to a successful club. I know many, many people were less fortunate. I won’t name and shame, but you know the kind of clubs I’m talking about...

There was another factor. Back then, before money came to dominate everything in football, the so-called “big clubs” were not really that much bigger than the likes of Ipswich.

A brilliant manager like Bobby Robson or Brian Clough could see “little Town” or “little Forest” go head-to-head with Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool. By the way, I still enjoy teasing Spurs fans that Ipswich have won the league more recently than them.

I recall Man Utd wanted to poach Mick Mills from us, but our skipper wasn’t tempted. Why uproot his young family to move to a club living on past glories? Our 6-0 victory over them in 1980 proved him right.

So, all in all, the thought of supporting a team other than Ipswich never, ever occurred to me.

That’s not to say it’s all been a bed of roses. Since the Robson era, we’ve had more downs than ups, let’s be honest. A few fleeting seasons in the Premier League, some play-off fun, but most of the last 40 years have seen tough times. The Marcus Evans era was a real low point.

But, glory be, in the last few years under our new owners, and with our brilliant young manager Kieran McKenna, the sun has been shining again for Town supporters. Exhilarating, exciting, winning football, and a whole new ethos for the whole club has renewed optimism and fans’ love for Ipswich Town Football Club. We are building towards the Premier League. It feels good to be an Ipswich supporter again.

But, having explained why I’ve remained an Ipswich loyalist, I do understand why younger fans have been lured away. They have been bombarded with non-stop live action from the Premier League.

Big, glamorous clubs, playing thrilling football, and winning trophies both domestically and in Europe. Iconic figures like David Beckham, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs, to name just a few.

Compared to the lacklustre offerings of Ipswich for most of the last two decades, I can see the appeal. That’s not to say it wasn’t irritating when my Ipswich-born sons, Tom and Ben, started referring to Man Utd as “we” and asking for Red Devils replica kit for Christmas as opposed to Ipswich shirts.

There’s a serious side to this. If younger fans abandon their local teams for the glamour clubs, where does the future lie for football’s also rans? It’s a massive problem and could lead to the ultimate “us and them” polarisation.

Fortunately, with Ipswich on the crest of a wave, the club is now attracting a new generation of fans. But, sadly, it’s too late to rescue the two United supporters in our family!

East Anglian Daily Times: Ben Hunt, Terry's son, opted to support the more glamorous Manchester United growing up.Ben Hunt, Terry's son, opted to support the more glamorous Manchester United growing up. (Image: Contributed)


Growing up, I always felt a tinge of shame when asked which football team I supported. Red-faced from embarrassment, I’d apprehensively respond “Man United.” The reaction would nearly always be the same, utter disgust, coupled with “Why do you support them? You’re from Suffolk!”

And I agree. I’m not proud of the fact I’ve abandoned my local team for glory. But it wasn’t easy for me growing up. Unlike my dad, I didn’t have the luxury of watching Kevin Beattie, John Wark and Arnold Muhren lift the UEFA Cup and I don’t remember Town’s road to Europe in 2001. Instead, I had to suffer through the likes of Colin Healy, Adam Proudlock and Sam Parkin finishing midtable in the Championship…

Up until recently, all I’d ever known as a follower of Ipswich Town was disappointment. Having just about gained enough consciousness, aged seven, to remember Town’s relegation from the Premier League in 2002, life as a Tractor Boy hadn’t exactly got off to the best start.

And then, within two years, I was suffering again, watching Town lose to West Ham in the play-off semi-final in 2004, only for history to repeat itself the following year.

Looking back now, it’s obvious I wasn’t a great omen for the club, but witnessing a relegation and two failed promotion charges in the space of three years is quite traumatic for a child!

What followed was Ipswich’s so-called ‘Banter Era’, 17 years of utter mediocrity and monotony. No child grows up saying “Mum, Dad, I want to support the longest-serving club in the Championship!”

And so, as it became easier and easier to watch top-level football on TV, it became less and less appealing to head down to Portman Road. Why have Adam Proudlock when you can have Wayne Rooney instead?

I’m not entirely sure when my allegiances started to switch, I wish I had the excuse of a long lineage of Mancs, but the truth is, I don’t.

East Anglian Daily Times: The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney lured Ben Hunt into becoming a Manchester United fan.The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney lured Ben Hunt into becoming a Manchester United fan. (Image: PA)

Instead, I choose to blame my older brother, Tom. He had already jumped ship long before me, lining up for free-kicks in the garden like Cristiano Ronaldo, while I was still there whipping in set-pieces like Darren Currie, both with limited success and countless broken windows.

Before long I had given up on my Currie impersonation, and instead, had begun puffing out my chest and perfecting my knuckleball strike in homage to my new hero, Ronaldo.

Although I’d flirted with the idea of becoming a full-time United fan for some time, I think the final nail in the coffin arrived in 2007, FA Cup Final day.

Dad had somehow got his hands on two tickets for the game between Chelsea and United at Wembley and as Tom was the older sibling and a “true” United fan, he took priority.

Dad, compelled by guilt (and probably an earful from Mum) felt the need to level the scores. So, what unforgettable treat did I get in return I hear you ask?

A seven-hour round trip to Wolverhampton to watch Wolves vs. Ipswich and a night in a budget hotel. Yes, it was a lot of fun and I had an unbelievable curry, but it’s not quite the glitz and glamour of Wembley, is it?

Over the years I’ve been called a glory-hunter by every man and his dog, and it’s hard to disagree. But as a kid, you don’t exactly consider the long-term effects your lack of support could have on that club, or even becoming a disappointment to your father. You just gravitate towards what you like.

Ronaldo, Rooney, Scholes and co were in their prime, winning trophy after trophy. How could Ipswich ever compete with that?

I should say, I do have some incredible memories of watching Town at Portman Road. Priskin’s unforgettable winner against Arsenal in 2011, Counago’s last-ditch goal in a 3-2 classic against Coventry in 2010, and the 8-1 decimation of FC Avenir Beggen in the UEFA Cup in 2002, which, at the age of seven, I was convinced was some kind of charity match.

I’m sure my brother’s and my disloyalty to our boyhood team must come as a disappointment to my dad. But despite having both moved away from our hometown we have continued to follow Town from afar and when we’re home we try to head down to Portman Road whenever possible. That’s why Town’s current success is such a pleasure to witness (and not just because we’re glory hunters).

Here’s hoping for an Ipswich Town - Manchester United family grudge match in the Premier League next season.