The Ipswich Town Scapegoat Rota: Scowcroft, Chambers and Douglas have all had their turn... but it’s very rarely just one player’s fault
- Credit: Archant
STEVE MELLEN takes a look at some of the Ipswich Town players singled out for criticism over the years and why sometimes fans simply get it wrong.
I wonder where the scapegoat rota hangs on the wall of the Portman Road dressing room?
Every weekend the ITFC social media folk tweet out a picture of the shirts on their pegs, names and numbers displayed so people can describe the line-up as “awful” or “baffling”.
(By the way, no line-up is “baffling” or “awful” or anything else an hour before kick-off, when nobody has even laced up their boots for the warm-up).
But although I try every week when that line-up picture gets tweeted out, I can never see the piece of paper which tells the assembled players whose turn it is to take the blame for everything.
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Some get more than their fair share of time on the rota.
Luke Chambers, for example, has spent a lot of time on there. Jonathan Douglas was the first name on it every week. Once people got bored of the fact that Luke Hyam was “one of our own” he also took a few turns.
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Cole Skuse had to spend a bit of time on the scapegoat rota, before people realised he’s actually a very important player and integral to our play. People liked to pick on Jay Tabb, single out Tommy Smith and heap insults on Lee Martin.
Actually scrap that last one, Lee Martin deserved everything he got!
Scapegoating is nothing new of course. There are probably cave paintings somewhere which show that the woolly mammoth was at fault when the sabre-toothed tiger strolled through the middle and buried a header past the caveman.
Fast forward a few thousand years and plenty of fans decided Mauricio Taricco was garbage before he went on to become one of the best attacking full-backs in the club’s history.
And who can forget people falling out over whether James Scowcroft was any good (he was, by the way). Even Sir Bobby had to endure people jeering him early in his tenure as Ipswich boss.
So it’s not a new problem, but the Internet has allowed us to spread our scapegoating far and wide. We can even track the player in question down on Insta and harass them until they make their account private.
Here’s the thing.
It’s very rarely just one person’s fault when Ipswich lose, or throw away a winning position. It’s long been a bugbear of mine that everyone remembers the defender who was closest to the ball when it went into the net, but forgets the striker who gave it away needlessly ten seconds earlier.
Are there are occasions when it’s easy to point the finger? Yes. Those of us who were at Upton Park for the first-leg of the play-off semi-final in 2005 had a hard time forgetting the sight of Matthew Etherington breezing past Drissa Diallo like the latter was running in treacle.
It was like watching the same bit of footage over and over again.
Diallo got hooked at half-time and replaced with Darren Currie. Imagine that; probably the slowest winger in Town’s history being brought on because you couldn’t run fast enough!
But nowadays, rather than justifiable criticism it feels more like people need a scapegoat. Who will I tag on Twitter if I can’t single out an individual?, says the modern football fan.
I come from the fanzine era, a time when supporters had to buy stapled-together bits of paper with articles in terrible fonts to feel like someone spoke for them as they were herded onto unsafe terraces and easy to ignore. Now things have swung to the other extreme, any village idiot can call a phone-in or comment on a message board.
We, the supporters, even get presented with the chance to contribute to online surveys on matchdays asking who we think should play. Us! Have you heard us? We talk utter nonsense sometimes.
All this online unpleasantness would be fine if fans admitted, just now and then, that we get it wrong sometimes.
I’m still waiting for someone to call up 606 and say that they now regret branding Kieffer Moore “a Sunday League clogger” seeing as he’s now earned in excess of £4m in two transfer moves since leaving Portman Road.
I’m still waiting for the person who went on a forum to brand Jon Walters “a fat waste of space” when we signed him from Chester for £150,000 to write a contrite post admitting that they might have spoken too soon.
And maybe one day the people who expressed alarm at Town looking at non-league players when we were linked with Jamie Vardy might, now they’ve had time to reflect, come forward and say he would have been a half-decent purchase.
But I doubt any of these things will happen.
After all, it was probably someone else’s fault.