Mike Bacon: Lambert is correct – the ‘new normal’ isn’t normal at all!

Loving the fans: Emyr Huws shows the delight of scoring in front of thousands. Hopefully the fans wi

Loving the fans: Emyr Huws shows the delight of scoring in front of thousands. Hopefully the fans will be back soon. Photo: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

In his weekly column, MIKE BACON, takes a look at the happenings at Portman Road

All together now! Kayden Jackson celebrates a goal with the fans. Picture: STEVE WALLER

All together now! Kayden Jackson celebrates a goal with the fans. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

For professional footballers, it must be eerie right now playing in empty stadiums.

In saying that, I do actually know what it feels like.

Way, way, back in the day, I played at Portman Road for an EADT XI against a Fisons XI (they were the club’s main sponsors then). The stadium was empty apart from the few from each side in the dug-outs. It was the end of the season and the club kindly let the local media have a game with the sponsors on the main pitch.

I’ll be honest, to play on the Portman Road pitch was quite a thrill for an excitable young whippersnapper like myself. Indeed, I ran about like a mad man the first 20 minutes, so excited was I to be let loose on the ‘hallowed turf’.

Oliver Hawkins congratulates Gwion Edwards after he had scored Town's second goal in the 2-0 victory

Oliver Hawkins congratulates Gwion Edwards after he had scored Town's second goal in the 2-0 victory over Rochdale in front of a mass of empty seats! Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller


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It caught up with me of course and I was substituted after 50 minutes, only to come back on 20 minutes later as older players than me began to flake out!

I set up our winning goal in the 90th minute - scored by none other than former sports writer Robert Hadgraft - oh what days.

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For me and the EADT and Fisons boys, it was of course a bit of fun. At the time, I never really wondered what it would be like with 25,000 people in the ground screaming and shouting. A hell of an experience, I would imagine.

So, I find it odd that it is even being mentioned in some quarters that some pro players could actually be ‘benefitting’ from having no fans in the ground.

Freddie Sears wheels away after scoring his first in the 3-0 victory over Bristol Rovers.
Not quite

Freddie Sears wheels away after scoring his first in the 3-0 victory over Bristol Rovers. Not quite the same with no fans cheering though. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Not just Town players, I hasten to add but pro players throughout the footballing world.

Why on earth would that be?

It’s one hell of an achievement to become a professional footballer. There are literally hundreds of thousands of youngsters all over the planet who would loved to have been, or be, a professional footballer.

For a player to have ‘made it’ is quite something. It’s a tough and uncompromising road to the top.

Behind the lense with Mike as he captures Town fans home and away Picture: MIKE TURBERT

Behind the lense with Mike as he captures Town fans home and away Picture: MIKE TURBERT - Credit: Archant

But there are rewards - and in many cases big rewards.

And yes, with those rewards does come pressure.

A pressure to perform in front of baying, screaming fans. It can be tough for a player, but that’s the gig.

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Just recently, Paul Lambert has come out with a few telling and - I think - interesting comments.

I found myself agreeing with him last week about loan moves for players.

Paul Lambert celebrates scoring for Celtic. He thinks there is nothing normal about having no fans i

Paul Lambert celebrates scoring for Celtic. He thinks there is nothing normal about having no fans in the stadium and he wants his players to look forward to playing in front of big crowds again. Photo; PA - Credit: PA

This week he said he didn’t want his players becoming ‘comfortable’ playing in empty stadiums. I totally agree.

“I want my players to want to play in front of 50,000, 60,000, or 20,000 at Portman Road.

“That’s the game, the game is not playing in front of nobody, that’s not normal. To be a footballer and have that mind-set of wanting to have that pressure of playing in front of people, of wanting the pressure where if you make a mistake people criticise, wanting the pressure of doing something great and people saying ‘well done’. That’s football.”

He’s right.

What’s the fun of scoring in front of no-one - that deathly silence?

Nothing beats the feeling of scoring a goal - take it from someone who was prolific in the Sunday Leagues back in the day! I wish I’d had a crowd to celebrate alongside that day we beat Fisons on the Portman Road pitch!

Football these days is played as much in the head as it is in the feet. Strong mentally, strong physically.

Pressure is the way of the world for many people in all types of professions, including footballers.

The quicker the fans are back in the stadiums, the better.

I like to think 99.9% of players would be happier too.

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If we beat MK Dons this weekend, we’re going up.

That’s all I’m going to say!

And you can remind me of this fly-away, outrageous, over optimistic, comment in May!

UP THE BLUES!

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