North Stander: My lowest point in 52 years as a Blues fan...Let’s hope this is as bad as it’s going to get
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Terry Hunt admits in his 52 years as an Ipswich Town fan, this is the lowest point. But now it’s time to rebuild
Even though we’ve been pretty much doomed for ages now, I was still absolutely gutted when the final nail in our relegation coffin was hammered home on Saturday.
After the referee’s whistle confirmed yet another shambolic defeat, I stared blankly down at the pitch, my thoughts inevitably turning to happier times and the great players from our illustrious past.
How can our club, which once was such a footballing power, winning major trophies and boasting the likes of Beattie, Mills, Wark, Muhren and Thijssen, have come to this?
I realise no football club has a divine right to success, but I can’t help thinking that our sad decline has come about because of a whole series of poor decisions by the hierarchy at Portman Road.
It’s been coming, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear.
I really hope Marcus Evans and his colleagues fully appreciate just how much this hurts the many thousands of loyal Ipswich Town supporters.
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This is my 52nd season as a Blues fan, and it is the lowest point I have ever known.
Yes, there have been plenty of tough times, but nothing as bad as having to play our football in the third tier.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am able to put football into context. In the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty trivial. But it does matter.
Footballing success helps to galvanise a community, it brings a sense of togetherness, and pride.
People who see the name Ipswich in the lower reaches of the Football League will form an opinion about the town.
It reduces its status. I’m sure we’ve all been on holiday to far-flung corners of Europe and met local people who still recognise the name Ipswich because of the exploits of Bobby Robson and his team.
I don’t suppose a third division team has much resonance among the football supporters of Spain, or Italy, or Greece.
Football certainly isn’t a matter of life or death, but it does matter.
How have we reached this point?
The arguments are well rehearsed – poor managerial appointments in Roy Keane and Paul Jewell, a lack of investment, and – until the last few months – a growing sense of alienation among long-suffering fans.
But, in a sense, it’s pointless analysing how it’s all gone so horribly wrong.
It’s much more important to look forward and focus on how to start putting things right.
I’ve said this is my lowest point as an Ipswich supporter.
Let’s hope this really is as bad as it’s going to get, and we can rebuild from now.
There are already some promising signs – at least off the pitch.
Paul Lambert has worked wonders in mending the relationship between fans and the club, so badly damaged during Mick McCarthy’s last couple of seasons.
Despite a frankly awful record – just two wins – Lambert is incredibly popular with supporters.
So there’s something to build on. Number one priority for the reconstruction process must be to keep Lambert as manager.
Number two priority is to continue to nurture the new-found positive relationship between club and fans.
Getting the season ticket pricing right will be key.
As Lambert has said, the atmosphere at Portman Road is extraordinary, bearing in mind such a disastrous season.
Attracting large, passionate crowds next season will be so important as we begin the task of trying to get back to the Championship at the first attempt. So the price will have to be right.
The third key priority is for Evans to back Lambert in the huge task of sorting out the squad during the summer.
There’s so much work to be done, and a lot of it will cost money.
We all know revenues will be drastically reduced next season, but it’s so important that Evans provides Lambert with the financial backing he will need to sow the seeds of recovery for our club.
Planning for League One can start now.
Yes, I know the club will have to trot out the mantra about “fighting while survival is mathematically possible,” but everyone knows the game is up.
It’s very sad to see our club in this state.
It’s infuriating knowing that this could have been avoided.
But it’s so important that we now start the rebuilding process from this dreadful low.
Yes - the only way is up.