Ipswich Town suffer cruel end to season but we can be proud of club which has regained its soul
- Credit: Ashley Pickering
Ipswich Town supporters can be very proud of their club today. Yes, of course Saturday was heartbreaking, and a terribly cruel way for our season to end.
But the overwhelming feeling among Blues fans should be one of immense pride. We can be extremely proud of our team who, against the odds, came so close to the Premier League.
They are not Barcelona. Not surprising, really, considering the whole squad cost only £110,000, which is the footballing equivalent of the coins you find down the back of the sofa. The football they play isn’t always the prettiest. But, I tell you what, you would struggle to find a group of players who work as hard for each other, for the manager, and for the fans.
That’s what we, the supporters, love to see. We all pay good money, and we want the players to care as much as we do. Sadly, that hasn’t always been the case, but Mick McCarthy has put together a tight-knit group of decent young men who work their socks off. And, when we see that, we’ll pretty much forgive any technical shortcomings.
Mick won’t tolerate “Big-time Charlies.” They might have all the talent in the world, but if they’re going to upset the team spirit, then he won’t have them in his changing room. I went to the club’s end of season dinner a couple of weeks ago. One of the traditions is that the players “rotate” between tables during the meal. This year, the players who sat at our table were, without exception, polite, engaging, humble, and interested in our lives. We might just have been fortunate – but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. No monosyllabic, boorish footballers at Portman Road.
Ipswich Town has had a reputation as a community-based club, with a close relationship between players and fans. Unfortunately, in more recent years, some of that special bond was lost. Happily, it is now feeling like “our” club again.
The moment when Tommy Smith sprinted nearly 100 yards to the fans after he scored was something we will all remember forever. It also exemplified what I’m talking about. After he equalised, the first, instinctive thought of our longest-serving player was to go and celebrate with the fans. The fact that they were at the other end of the ground didn’t matter. Yes, we lost in the end, but we will always treasure that very special moment.
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There are other examples. Tyrone Mings has enthusiastically and consistently engaged with fans, and it was a nice touch when Paul Anderson offered to pay for the damage after a supporter punched a hole in his ceiling celebrating the winger’s goal against Norwich at Portman Road. Then, on Saturday, a crestfallen Christophe Berra used social media to apologise for getting sent off. Hundreds of fans replied, telling him he had nothing to be sorry for. There is a closeness between players and fans which hasn’t existed for years,
Of course, there’s still a lot of work to do on the pitch. The squad has some quite obvious limitations, and McCarthy and club owner Marcus Evans will need to have some serious discussions about spending money in the close season. Expectations levels have been heightened, and anything other than the play-offs next season will be seen as failure. Mick cannot realistically be expected to continue performing miracles with a team which cost virtually nothing.
But, for now, as we all take a break from football, we can be very proud to be Ipswich Town supporters. Our fantastic club has regained its soul.