Liz Nice - The day my beloved ITFC finally broke my heart

Ipswich Town v Preston North End - Coca Cola Championship - Portman Road, Ipswich - 09/08/2008.

Ipswich Town v Preston North End - Coca Cola Championship - Portman Road, Ipswich - 09/08/2008. General view of Portman Road football stadium Picture Ashley Pickering - Credit: Ashley Pickering

We’ve all had relationships that don’t do us any good, writes life-long Ipswich Town fan Liz Nice.

People who abuse our good nature. Take us for granted. Allow us no slack when we make a mistake.

These people think we will always be there; think they can treat us however they please, however damaging that may be to our happiness. The truth is that they don’t actually care if we are happy. They care only for their own ends; for what they can get out of us.

Of course we know in our hearts that, if we stop giving them what they want, they will walk away and never give us another thought.

But still, we keep going back; because we have an idea in our minds of what we think our relationship ought to be; what we secretly hope that it is.

We are like dogs, forever looking up with hopeful eyes at the master who kicks. Maybe some day, he will turn around and love us.

Maybe some day, he will see how great things could be…

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I have had relationships like this so I know what I am talking about.

I also know that, in the end, even the most dogged, loyal companion has to reach a point of enough is enough.

It happened to me on Saturday at Portman Road.

I turned up with my partner and son and tried to get us all into the game, only to find that it was ‘ticket only’.

Despite working for this newspaper, attending the previous home match and following the club on social media, I, along with many others, had somehow failed to miss this fact.

I was cross with myself - normally I get tickets online in good time - but I assumed it would not be a problem. When this happened once before, I simply showed my season ticket and bought extra tickets for my family as required.

Clearly, I was not a Villa fan trying to get into the home end and cause trouble. I have a season ticket, buy tickets online regularly and had a nine-year-old with me. I have supported Town all my life.

But this counted for nothing.

After a lot of confusion, we were sent to queue outside the ticket office on Portman Road. When I finally got to the front of the line, I showed my season ticket, asked for two more tickets and was told I couldn’t have them. I would have to buy them online.

“You mean you can’t just print me out a couple now?”

“No. Sorry.”

A man with glasses approached.

“You’ll have to go outside and queue again,” he said. “You’re blocking the entrance.”

I wasn’t anywhere near the entrance. Even at the bank, they don’t make you queue again.

I protested. Something about having followed Town for 40 years. Being a season ticket holder – a shareholder even, who paid out hard-earned cash to help the club when they were about to go bust. Don’t treat me like this! I only want to watch my team.

He walked away.

After 20 minutes and several false starts, we finally managed to buy some tickets on our phone. We also bought some for a man who had come from Braintree with his boy because, not being a season ticket holder, he wasn’t allowed to buy a ticket at all.

It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love, Sir Bobby once said. Or, as it turned out on Saturday, it’s a small boy turning up to watch his team and being told to get lost.

Finally, we got back to the ticket window again and the same man who had said he couldn’t print us out some tickets, printed out some tickets. “Why couldn’t you have done this before?” I said, “We’ve missed most of the first half.”

He shrugged. “It’s the rules.”

As I came out of the ticket office, a steward approached: “You should write to the paper,” he said.

“I have a column in the paper,” I replied.

He nodded firmly. “Good.”

The stewards seemed embarrassed. These are people who care about our club and the supporters who have stood loyally by it through thick and thin.

But clearly there are people at the club now who don’t care about us. People who abuse our good nature. Take us for granted. Allow us no slack when we make a mistake.

I finally took my seat feeling shell-shocked. “Mum,” my son said after a bit, “Can we go home?”

What lesson did he learn about Ipswich Town that day? What will he learn about his mother if she weakly goes back next week and waits to be kicked again?

I thought back over 40 years of joy and pain, of laughter and love.

Of Sir Bobby, and Warky, and, Terry Butcher and George Burley.

Of Kieron Dyer with his broken leg and majestic Jim Magilton in the play-off semis. Of Veno and Mogga and Martijn Reuser, Johnno and Mathie, 5-0, oh yes! Of Stocky Mickwell and Matty Holland and for a long time not much fun at all, but at least we had Chambo’s air punch.

I looked up at the North Stand and saw that quote of Sir Bobby’s.

What is a club? It’s the noise, the passion, the sense of belonging.

How much I believed that once.

I can only hope that one day I will again.