Dave Gooderham: Promotion push, cup runs, Wembley looming – what a time to be a Town fan!
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‘And Barry Cotter is the cup hero for Ipswich Town’. Ten words I probably didn’t expect to ever write – but this is no normal season!
For years, I used to watch Ipswich hoping for just something to happen.
I know that's a touch unfair. We had a play-off semi-final, some impressive performers (often loanees) and Jimmy Bullard to lighten things up. But still, too often it was tiresome. When my boys said they didn't want to go to Portman Road, I had little to answer in defence.
But now we have a promotion race, a chance at Wembley, a place in the FA Cup Third Round draw, penalty shoot-outs and Adam Przybek! What a time to be an Ipswich Town fan.
All you really want as a football fan is to be excited and to long for the next game. Not everything's perfect for Ipswich Town and it is third tier football, but I am really enjoying this season. And, one play-off campaign aside, I'm not sure if I have really been able to say that since Marcus Stewart made ITFC gloves famous.
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Where do you start about events in the last week? Yet more cup football. Yet more matches that Luke Chambers misses - something the skipper doesn't seem to overly welcome. I'm sure he's not alone. And yet more 'interesting' team selections, new (young) names and higher and higher shirt numbers.
Forcing a replay from the hands of victory in the FA Cup at Coventry was a little disappointing, but we were still in the hat and there was something exciting about being a potential minnow against the Premier League big fish in the Third Round draw.
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Ok, we still have to progress past the Sky Blues but then who might we get in January? A packed Portman Road welcoming Pep or maybe getting the chance to touch the Anfield sign as Lambo locks horns with Klopp.
For a moment, Bristol Rovers away was met with a sigh. But then overcome Coventry, beat Bristol… we would be in the fourth round! Not quite dreaming of Wembley, but still a bit of excitement away from the promotion race.
And if it was excitement we were looking for, then London Road or the iPad was the place to be on Wednesday night when the EFL Trophy journey took us to Peterborough for the round of 64.
Manager Paul Lambert promised a strong squad, which, on the face of it, was a little white lie from the man in the dugout.
I can't deny that the sigh grew louder when I took one look at the team. James Norwood was a sensible inclusion, Cole Skuse a risky one, but there were some very notable absentees from the usual selection of cup recruits.
Of course, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. Has Alan Judge got a niggle, was two games too much for Will Keane? But even having a few bigger names on the bench would have been something.
Oh well, the EFL Trophy was fun, ish, while it lasted. What am I talking about?! We had Town's young guns taking the lead, defending as if their lives depended on it, riding their luck and then almost snatching a late winner.
And who doesn't love a penalty shoot-out when you come through triumphant? Especially after missing the first kick. The crazy nature of this season had Lambert mentioning John Travolta and Farley's Rusks (other rusks manufacturers are available) during his post-match summary.
This is why this bemoaned trophy has been such a positive for Ipswich this season. Youngsters, who I am still learning about, have been given some much-needed competitive action with the likes of Brett McGavin using it to force himself into the manager's thoughts. Would that have happened in an Under-23 match at Playford Road? Eventually yes, but I would argue not quite so quickly.
Of course, I would say that after the plan worked at Peterborough and Ipswich found themselves just three wins from Wembley. But even losing a penalty shoot-out would have been a huge learning curve for our emerging young guns. The future is bright.
The future is also local. Not only is it great to see the likes of Alex Henderson and another Tommy Smith make an impact. But I love the fact that they are Suffolk boys. Even if they were not raised as Ipswich Town fans, they will know what the club means in the community.
For now, I understand, the duo will return to Bury Town where they made their bow against Coggeshall Town on Saturday. Three days before their Ipswich debut saw a penalty shoot-out win. What a time to be an Ipswich Town fan!