Dave Gooderham: Finally, Ipswich are in a nail-biting title race – so let’s just try to enjoy it!
PUBLISHED: 16:45 22 January 2020 | UPDATED: 16:45 22 January 2020
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There was a time when I could have proudly pinned the League One table up on the fridge for all to see, writes Dave Gooderham.
Unbeaten runs, top of the league (at times), games in hand, weak opposition. It was ours to lose, wasn't it?!
But just a few short weeks ago, it was almost as if we were looking down rather than up as we came perilously close to slipping out of the top six, let alone the top two.
Such are the perverse joys of football fandom. When we are riding high, we can't help ourselves but dream of open-top, trophy-gleaming tours, a return of the Old Farm derby or even brief escapades on the pitch at Tranmere. Something takes over. It's in our blood.
But, equally, when we are down, we are really down. Sack the manager, blame the owner, question every selection and formation. Everything is taken to heart and there appears no way back. Of course, these aren't just the highs and lows of following Ipswich Town. It's pretty much the same for every fan of every football team!
The one man who has to stay level at all times is the football manager. In his relatively short spell in Suffolk, Paul Lambert has kick-started a PR-obsessed campaign to capture the heart of the terraces, been heralded for (almost) starting fights at Carrow Road and hailed (equally almost) as the man to bring the good times back to Portman Road.
But we have also questioned his formation and future, raised eyebrows at the length of a new contract and now, once again, hope that he is the right man for the dugout, even if occasionally his words frustrate.
While he can't get too high or indeed too low, what about us long-suffering football fans? It's been 20 long years since we last won some silverware, even though the play-off triumph was quickly followed by some pretty incredible experiences at home and abroad. But we do need something to get excited about.
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So, let's cheer the fact we are in with a real chance of something at the end of this season. No 16th place, no mid-table mediocrity. Forget the standard of third tier football. We are in with a chance of something rather glorious.
But this is football, which means it will never be easy. While Liverpool are cantering towards their own title triumph, Ipswich look set to be involved in a real ding-dong battle that will probably go to the wire.
You can currently make a case for any one of about a dozen clubs pushing towards the coveted top two spots, with just 10 points separating Rotherham at the top and Lincoln City in 12th. Certainly, just one eye on the teams in sixth, seventh and eighth (Sunderland, Portsmouth and Peterborough respectively) show that nothing can be taken for granted and everything is up for grabs. Ipswich could win the whole lot or finish seventh.
This, of course, does nothing for a football fan's heart. That rollercoaster of emotions, whether to pin the table on the fridge or throw it in the bin - well, you could make a case for either scenario.
Unless we go on an incredible run, it probably won't be possible to enjoy much of the next few weeks. Highs and lows, ups and downs, and all that. But every once in a while, take a look at the table. Yes, it might be League One. Yes, we might be challenging with the likes of Coventry and Wycombe. But we are challenging.
Five-and-a-bit months after our relegation, would I change a thing? Not a bit. My boredom of championship football, and dismal football, has gone. Do I want to stay in League One beyond this season? Of course not. But I am sure going to try and enjoy Ipswich being in a nail-biting title race. I urge you to try and do the same.
I wanted to end this week's column by looking ahead. Not to Lincoln on Saturday and the first of 18 must-win games. But to Sunday and history in the making as Ipswich Town Women travel to Huddersfield Town Women and the John Smith's Stadium for the fourth round of The Women's FA Cup.
I wish the Tractor Girls all the best for what will be an incredible experience - for players, staff and supporters alike.
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