Still in love with Ipswich Town at the age of 96
- Credit: Archant
Phillip ‘George’ Stannard turns 97 later this year. He’s supported Ipswich Town since 1932 and has been a season ticket holder at Portman Road for more than 40 years. STUART WATSON spoke to the lifelong Blues fan.
“LOOK after my team.”
It was a poignant comment made from lifelong fan to first team manager – and one that proved who the real blood of any football club is.
Phillip Stannard – known as George to all that know him – is 96 years old. Born in the middle of World War One, he gave up playing football at the age of 16 to start supporting the Blues. His first game was in 1932 – four years before the club turned professional – and he regularly cycled the 10 miles from his home near Woodbridge to Portman Road.
A season ticket holder for more than 40 years, he has barely missed a home game in that time. He’s witnessed the halcyon days of Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson; seen the likes of Ted Phillips, Ray Crawford, Kevin Beattie and the devastating Dutch duo of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren grace Suffolk soil. He has seen a top-flight title, FA Cup and UEFA Cup celebrated outside the Town Hall.
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You could therefore forgive him for feeling a little disillusioned with more than a decade of mid-table mediocrity in English football. It would have been easy to stay at home in the warm throughout the winter months.
And yet, when current Town boss Mick McCarthy appeared in the club’s reception to surprise him recently, the infectious smile that spread across his face would rival that of any excitable child on Christmas Day.
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“I’ve never met a manager before!” he exclaimed excitedly.
McCarthy was casually dressed in jeans and jumper. It was his day off, but he’d popped in to see the man who – in a lovely gesture – was being given his next year’s season ticket for free and happily taking part in a promotion video for his beloved club.
Prior to Mick’s arrival, I’d had the pleasure of following George and his family around the ground for his own private behind the scenes tour.
He’d explained how he still bounds up three flights of steps to his seat in the Cobbold Stand every match. In the dressing room he moved the pieces around on the tactics board, joking that he’d sort the team out.
Admitting he’d seen some top footballers over the years, he seemed more keen to talk about the current crop. Tommy Smith and Aaron Cresswell are his favourite players at present, while he predicted goals for David McGoldrick and Frank Nouble in that weekend’s up-and-coming match.
Never did that childlike sense of awe leave his face as we twisted through the corridors, past the physio and kit rooms and out down the tunnel onto the hallowed turf.
“I keep my mind active by playing cards,” explained George, who worked as a farmer during WWII and later as a builder. “I’m tough. My son says it’s cold at the football, but I don’t mind!
“I’ve never thought about not going. I’ve seen them through the good times and the bad. You have to stick with them through thick and thin – if you wait long enough then the good times come back around eventually.”
Out on the pitch, Mick stood with George holding up a shirt which had ‘Stannard 96’ printed on the back as a memento of his day.
“Is that how many goals you’ve scored this season?” joked the Blues boss. “You’d better bring your boots on Saturday if so!”
And as the Yorkshireman bid his farewells and headed for the tunnel, George called out one last thing.
“Look after my team – give them a kick up the backside from me!”
Marcus Evans may own the club in name, but in truth it will always belong to the fans.