North Stander: Confusion lies ahead once Town are put out of their misery
PUBLISHED: 12:00 10 May 2020 | UPDATED: 13:52 10 May 2020
With Ipswich Town’s League One season set to be ended, North Stander Terry Hunt looks back at a disappointing season and ahead to a confusing one.
It looks increasingly likely that Ipswich Town’s season is now over - and I honestly can’t see too many fans being unhappy with that.
The word is that the football authorities are about to put Leagues One and Two out of their misery, with points per game being used as a device to finalise placings.
The situation is less clear-cut in the Championship and, of course, in the Land of Milk and Honey which is the Premier League, where mega-money is at stake. There, I can see the uncertainty and confusion dragging on for absolutely ages.
For Town, I think calling a halt to it makes sense. Of course, it’s easy for Blues fans like me to say that. The team is in the middle of the table, and who really cares whether we finish tenth or 11th?
If I supported a team just outside the top two, or with a realistic chance of making the top six, I’m sure I would feel rather differently!
So, for Town at least, the ultimately deeply disappointing 2019/20 season looks like coming to a very strange end. After a thrilling start, the campaign deteriorated badly, and no-one associated with the club can feel satisfied with that performance.
We can now focus on looking forward to next season - except, of course, we can’t. There is just as much confusion about that as there has been about how and when this current campaign will come to an end.
The one certainty is that a significant number of Ipswich supporters have committed to renewing their season tickets. But when will football return? And how will supporters be watching it?
In truth, there are no answers right now. In common with every other club, the hierarchy at Portman Road are waiting for clarity. But I fear they might have to keep waiting for some time before the picture becomes clearer.
Firstly, can football be played while keeping the players safe? It’s a contact sport, and inevitably involves getting close to each other. A rigorous - and expensive - testing regime will be needed. Even then, will players feel safe?
Then, what about the fans? Will supporters be allowed to watch their teams live? Will it be deemed safe for thousands of people to gather in a stadium? Or will games have to be played behind closed doors?
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If that’s the case, there’s talk of offering either live streaming, or drive-ins with giant screens. I quite like the sound of that - even if, for older fans, it does bring back memories of the opening credits of The Flintstones!
There are also suggestions that, if supporters aren’t allowed into grounds, then the start of next season will have to wait, maybe into next year.
The overwhelming concern here, of course, is not football, but how to keep everyone - players, staff, officials, fans - safe and well. However much we love our football, our health is so much more important.
On that subject, there will be a significant number of supporters who will worry about attending games even if they are allowed. They are those who are currently deemed as “vulnerable” to the awful virus.
Generalising, they are aged over 70, or have “underlying health conditions.” If they catch the virus, they are more likely to be seriously ill.
I fall into that category with not one but two underlying health issues. Speaking for myself, I will not feel safe and comfortable going to games until I have been vaccinated.
So, very sadly, for the first time since the new North Stand was opened in 2002, I will not be taking my seat in the front row of the top tier. Hopefully, I will be back for the 2021/22 season.
There will be lots of Town fans in a similar situation. People who are older, or have diabetes, or a heart problem, for example. What will they do?
So many questions, and so few answers. Unprecedented is an over-used word at the moment, but it certainly sums up the situation in so many ways, including for football, and all other sport.
Of course, when you consider the terrible events in the UK and indeed much of the world, this is of little consequence. But football is more important than being just a pleasant distraction for fans.
It is also an important business, contributing to local economies, and giving thousands of people their livelihoods - the vast majority of whom are backroom staff earning “normal”” salaries. So it does matter.
But what is far, far more important is that we do everything we can to beat this dreadful virus. Stay safe, stay well.
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