Mike Bacon: A perfect start to hopefully a perfect season

Mark Steed with Kieran McKenna before the game at Needham Market

Mark Steed with Kieran McKenna before the game at Needham Market - Credit: Page pix

Well, that was a nice start, wasn't it?

Ipswich Town's short trip to Needham Market on Saturday went down a storm with, well I would suggest, almost everybody who was there.

More than 1,500 Town fans saw their team romp to a comfortable 7-0 win, with two separate XIs made up of a plethora of first-team stars.

A signing session afterwards with the players, selfies abound, players having to walk through the fans to get back to their cool-down area, being stopped every five seconds for more photos - and obliging. Town boss Kieran McKenna, CEO Mark Ashton, Chief Investment Officer for the Arizona PSPRS Trust, Mark Steed mingling and chatting to fans. All very relaxing.

And Needham Market Football Club, doing themselves royally proud not just on the pitch as their young team battled manfully against the Blues, but off it, where the organisation was spot on, the pitch in excellent condition, and even a live band! 

Community football at its very best. Ipswich Town at their very best.

Are you aware, it wasn't that long ago Town pulled themselves out of Suffolk non-league's most prestigious competition, the Suffolk Premier Cup? For three seasons they didn't participate, having been part of it for decades.

Fortunately, someone, somewhere at Portman Road, realised the folly of the club not entering and therefore, for those three years anyhow, taking themselves further away from the very community they wanted support from.

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Okay, so today it's invariably an Under-18 team that Ipswich enter into the Premier Cup, but that doesn't matter, they have been back a few years now, and Suffolk football fans are glad they are.

Kyle Edwards takes on a defender and sets up the first goal during the first half at Needham Market

Kyle Edwards takes on a defender and sets up the first goal during the first half at Needham Market - Credit: Pagepix

So, going back to Saturday. As someone who has watched Town and Suffolk non-league for decades, nothing gave me more pleasure than seeing a non-league club and a Town first-team squad come together in a competitive fixture to celebrate the start of the season.

So, what did I make of it, from a Town perspective?

It's very difficult to read too much into it of course. But Conor Chaplin continued to score goals, just as he did last campaign (he must be a 'shoo-in' regular this season, surely?)

Kyle Edwards looked fit and raring to go down one wing in the first half, Kane Vincent-Young took over Edwards' mantle in the second, looking just as sharp. Greg Leigh bombed up and down the left in the second half, Matt Penney scored in the first.

Town's width and pace was impressive, and Wes Burns wasn't even there!

Well done to Tommy Hughes for grabbing his goal and his opportunity with two hands and getting a mention from McKenna afterwards t'boot. And, just as impressive for me, but in a different way, was Sam Morsy's reaction to a rather over-zealous Needham challenge in the middle of the park in the second period.

Sam Morsy rides a challenge during second half action at Needham Market

Sam Morsy rides a challenge during second half action at Needham Market - Credit: Pagepix

The Town skipper took a late one, but it wasn't intended to be nasty and Morsy got up and jogged off without a word to either referee or offender. I liked that, showed a bit of class.

Mark Steed chatted away to us press boys after the game, having enjoyed his visit to Suffolk and 'definitely coming back'. Ipswich Town really do have such enthusiastic and front foot owners. So refreshing.

It just left the band to play on as the signing session behind Needham Market's impressive 'Hub' next to the 3G pitch took place. I even spotted Kieran McKenna having a selfie taken with one young fan, despite the fact they were separated by a green metal fence that McKenna had to peer through. All good stuff.

Ipswich Town and the general football-supporting community in Suffolk, including Town's own fans and Suffolk non-league ones, have been too far apart for too long.

Dominic Ball at a first half corner at Needham Market

Dominic Ball is currently sidelined with a minor ankle injury. - Credit: Pagepix

It started to rebuild last season and clearly it's going to continue this.

One last thing.

To all those Town fans who supported their team at Needham on Saturday and hopefully had a good time. Well, if you can't ever make a Town away game one Saturday, or the Blues don't have a game, go take in a non-league one.

Aside from Needham, Suffolk has a host of top non-league clubs, with excellent facilities, decent catering and most importantly, some talented footballers. They'll all love to see you.

You might be surprised how much you enjoy it and, like many Blues fans already do, make your second club a Suffolk non-league one.

Town fans at Needham Market

Town fans at Needham Market - Credit: Pagepix