Fuller Flavour: Never meet your heroes? What a load of tosh - meeting my Town idols has been great
Karl Fuller shares memories of meeting his Ipswich Town heroes in his latest column on the Blues.
They say that it is best not to meet your heroes. I say what a load of tosh!
Thanks to supporters events, book signings, interviews and numerous other occasions, I have met probably well in excess of 100 Town players, some in more detail than others and I’m over the moon to have met them all – well most of them.
For me, it all started back when I was at Kirby primary school in Kirby Cross. I cannot remember the exact year, but it would have been the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Goalkeeper Paul Cooper visited our school and for me, this was massively exciting.
I knew he was a big name in football and was an early favourite of mine in the Ipswich side. I’ve no idea why he came to our school but luckily for me, my mum was present with her camera and I still have my photo with Coops to this very day. He was ultimately the first Ipswich player that I had been photographed with, long before selfies were even considered a thing.
Growing up near my now hometown of Clacton-on-Sea meant lots of visits to the Pier at the coastal resort as a child. A potentially exciting time was bestowed upon me in 1982 when a new rollercoaster ride was installed named the ‘Whirlwind’. This massive yellow construction could be seen for miles along the Tendring coastline and it was announced that an Ipswich Town team would open the ride one evening.
My dad subsequently took my brother and I along to witness this happening, armed with our autograph books, and I also had with me the programme from Kevin Beattie’s testimonial game against Dynamo Moscow that was played shortly before this particular night in the hope of getting the big man to sign it for me.
When we arrived, it seemed like the whole of Clacton was present to catch sight of so many great Ipswich players of the day. Sir Bobby was also expected to be with the team. I would have been 10 years-old so my excitement levels were sky high. It just seemed an eternity waiting for the players to arrive.
Then there started to be cries of “There’s Mariner!” “I’ve just seen Johnny Wark.” “I’ve spotted Alan Brazil.” I craned my neck as I eagerly tried to look over the shoulders of so many taller people that surrounded me, but as hard as I tried, I just could not spot any of my heroes.
Then out of nowhere, Steve McCall was walking past me with all kinds of books and mementoes being thrusted in his direction for him to sign. In truth, I barely recognised him. I knew he had played a huge part in our great season of 1980/81, but I was still looking for Mariner, Wark, Butcher et al.
Determined not to be left without any autographs at all, when I finally got to McCall I asked him – politely of course – to sign my Beattie programme. He duly obliged and I still have this in my collection to this very day. As it turned out, McCall was the only member of ITFC present on Clacton Pier that night! Incidentally, after the Whirlwind left Clacton Pier in 1986, it was then used in both Finland and Romania.
When I look back at some great names who represented Town that I have met, I feel very privileged. One of the best things about supporting a small club like Ipswich is the potential to meet your heroes. Can you imagine being a fan of one of the big clubs and ever hoping to meet your heroes close-up?
I’ve met greats like Sir Bobby Robson, Ray Crawford, Marcus Stewart, Matt Holland, numerous other players and most of the Boys of ’81.
Without a doubt, the most magical of moments came two years ago when I was a guest at Mariner’s surprise 65th birthday party, when around 16 of us were present for a meal in the company of not only PM but Wark and Butcher too – my three favourite all-time Town players. What an unbelievably great night that was for me.
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