Mark Heath: 'Town are down, but not out. Time to show everyone how much fight they have left'
Sports Editor Mark Heath shares his thoughts on the season ahead for Ipswich Town ahead of their big kick-off at Burton tomorrow.
A Blue dawn.
That's how I started this column in last year's Kick-Off supplement - and so it turned out, though not in quite the way we hoped!
So here we are. Ipswich Town are a League One club, playing the likes of Lincoln, Fleetwood and Wycombe, entering the FA Cup at the First Round stage and competing in the Mickey Mouse Cup and Not For Long Trophy.
It's more than a bit galling, isn't it? Stings quite a lot.
And you know what? It should.
Town have been quietly sliding towards the abyss for some time, the Paul Hurst/mass signing experiment last summer only accelerated the descent - not that we knew it at the time.
It was horrible to watch such a great old club sliding out of the Championship with barely a whimper.
Anger, denial, acceptance
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We've done the anger bit, the denial part was faced on fixtures day, and now we have to accept our place.
But as the likes of Manchester City, Leicester and - gulp - Norwich have proved, there can be no glorious comeback without first an inglorious fall.
In Paul Lambert, Town have a man who knows a bit about both - and one who will cultivate the necessary fury and sense of togetherness that the Blues will need to bounce back.
In Luke Chambers, Town have a skipper who feels personally responsible for taking the team down, and sees bringing them back up as the only way to right that wrong.
And, in James Norwood, Town have a striker who believes he'll be the best player on the pitch at any level he plays at, and expects to lead the league in scoring.
Not all is rosy in the Ipswich Town garden, of course - there are a worrying number of injuries, and, Norwood aside, not much coming in.
Anyone expecting a single-season victory lap of League One grounds culminating in a coronation will, I suspect, be disappointed.
But, as we start this season, we know that - for the first time in years - Ipswich Town can challenge for a title.
They have the players to do damage to every team they'll face and, thanks to Lambert's efforts, they have the full support of a remarkable set of fans.
Town are down, but not out. The bell's ringing for the next round - it's time to show everyone how much fight they have left.