New beginnings, old faces and a return home - what to look for on 'fixtures day'
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town's fixture list for the 2021/22 season is released tomorrow. Andy Warren looks at what to expect as the Blues find out their schedule for the new campaign.
Third time lucky
Here we go, then. The fixtures release officially fires the starting gun on Ipswich Town’s third attempt at getting out of League One.
The first two goes were disasters, with excellent starts making way for freefall down the table which resulted in finishes of 11th and then 9th under Paul Lambert.
Paul Cook’s in charge now, though, and things are going to look very different come the big kick-off as he bids to overhaul his squad.
The new season begins on August 7, with fixtures released at 9am tomorrow morning.
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A new season means new opponents, with three sides coming down from the Championship and four coming up from League Two.
Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham and Wycombe replace Hull, Peterborough and Blackpool, while Swindon, Northampton, Rochdale and Bristol Rovers pass Cheltenham, Cambridge, Bolton and Morecambe on their way through the relegation trap door.
The Blues have recent history with Rotherham and Wycombe, of course, while they will meet both Cheltenham and Morecambe in the league for the first time ever.
With Wednesday suffering with ongoing financial issues this summer and the state of their squad looking a little unclear, facing the Hillsborough side early may be an advantage.
We all want a home start, don’t we? Hopefully in front of an unrestricted Portman Road crowd.
Town have started four of the last five league seasons in Suffolk and are unbeaten on the opening day since 2013, winning five of the seven games in that time. That’s an impressive record.
Local rivals Norwich City already have their Premier League fixtures which see them playing at home to Liverpool on their opening day, the second weekend of the EFL season. That means Ipswich are likely to be on the road that day, due to the long-held pairing between the two, which could point to a potential home start the previous weekend. It’s not an exact science, though.
Seven of the last 10 opening day games have been against teams beginning with the letter ‘B’. Burton or Bolton, anyone?
Playing at home for Christmas?
Town have split their last 10 Boxing Day games evenly between home and away, though last season’s scheduled Portman Road clash with Northampton wasn’t played due to the fact the club were in the grips of a Covid outbreak.
Using Norwich as evidence again, it looks as if Town will be on the road this year, given the Canaries host Arsenal on December 26.
When it comes to the final day of the season, it’s again a five and five split over the last 10 years.
League One is due to finish on April 30 2022. A home game looks on the cards using the Norwich theory.
As well as the League One fixtures, Town will find out their opening opponents in the Carabao Cup later in the day. The draw is live on Sky Sports at 3.40pm.
As has been the case in recent years the draw will be regionalised but not seeded, meaning a host of Championship teams will be potential opponents.
None of those would be more interesting than a potential Portman Road clash with Mick McCarthy’s Cardiff, would it?
The League Cup could also bring a match against Town CEO Mark Ashton’s former club, Bristol City, as well as Andre Dozzell’s QPR, Luke Chambers & Co at Colchester or even a first game against newly-promoted Sutton United.
Town beat Bristol Rovers in the first round of last season’s competition before falling at home to Fulham in round two.
Then there’s the Papa John’s Trophy, with Town again drawn into a group of four teams for their first-round matches.
We know two of the opponents already, with a clash against that army of ex-Ipswich players confirmed along with a game against Gillingham. The Colchester game is likely to be at Portman Road.
Then, one of 16 Under 21 academy teams will be placed in each group. Norwich City have not entered a young side this season.
That could mean a game against a young side from one of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Brighton, Crystal Palace, Chelsea, Tottenham, West Ham or Southampton.