Roy of the Rovers stuff for Ipswich Town fan Chris Dale
SUPERFAN, to fourth official, to Blues goalscorer – it was all in a week’s work for Chris Dale.
The 55-year-old retired civil servant – a Level 4 qualified FA referee – was the man plucked from the stands to fufil emergency officiating duties after the linesman tore a calf muscle in Ipswich’s recent 3-0 home win over Cardiff City.
Three days later he was taking part in a promotional videoshoot for the club in which he takes to the Portman Road pitch alongside Town stars Lee Martin, Michael Chopra, Aaron Cresswell and Luke Hyam.
The clip – which is available to view at www.itfcbepartoftheteam.co.uk – sees Dale score in front of the North Stand before being congratulated by his jubilant ‘team mates’ in a Roy of the Rovers moment. The message is that Blues fans should renew their season tickets and become the team’s ‘12th man’ for what is set to be an 11th consecutive campaign in the Championship.
“It was certainly a surreal few days,” laughed Dale.
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“At the Cardiff game, being of a certain age, I headed off for the loo at half-time. When I got back to my seat a steward who knew I refereed came and tapped me on the shoulder and told me about they’d made a tannoy announcement. I said if they were desperate I would do it and within six minutes I was suddenly being given a crash course in the electronic board!
“I’d been fourth official at reserve team games at Portman Road, but it’s a little bit different doing it in front of 17,500 people. At that moment the blue-tinted glasses had to come off!”
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Ipswich Town certainly runs in the blood of the Dale family. Chris was taken to his first game at the age of five by his late father Jack, bought his first season ticket 18 years ago and continues to sit in the Britannia Upper with sons Alan, 23, and James, 27.
“AJ (Alan) is actually a better qualified referee than me now so it would have been him who was the fourth official had he been at the game,” explained Dale. “He was refereeing that day though and it was my uncle Ray who came with us instead.
“Then on the Monday I got a call from AJ – who works for the club’s Community Trust – saying they were shooting a promotional video for season tickets. He’d heard they were looking for an ‘older’ season ticket holder and thought I fitted the bill. I agreed to it, but it was only later that evening that he decided to tell me that I needed to bring my boots.”
Ipswich Town supporters can begin purchasing season tickets – prices frozen for 2012/13 – online as of tomorrow, with information packs, including a letter written by owner Marcus Evans, expected to hit doormats by the weekend.
“I’ll be renewing,” says Dale. “Every year us fans always say next season is going to be the one, but I am genuinely optimistic after recent results.”