North Stander: 'Top of the league at Portman Road' - I believe automatic promotion is possible!
© Copyright Stephen Waller
After years of boredom, frustration and alienation, life is finally fun again for the fantastic supporters of Ipswich Town, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.
Yes, I know it took relegation to the third tier but, at long, long last, it really does feel as though our club is heading in the right direction again.
The team is winning games, scoring goals, playing entertaining football - and giving us the opportunity to sing "Top of the league at Portman Road."
You know something? I think we might be singing that song quite a lot this season. I know it's very early days, but I'm convinced that our squad is the best in this division.
Obviously we'll come across better sides than Shrewsbury, but we'll also play many very average teams. I started this season saying top six would be good. The way I feel now, I do believe automatic promotion is achievable.
Am I getting carried away? Quite possibly. But isn't it such a welcome relief after all those awful McCarthy seasons, and last year's desperate plummet to relegation?
I'm certainly not saying relegation was a good thing, but I know this season is a whole lot more enjoyable than yet another campaign of turgid football guaranteeing yet another mid-table finish in the Championship.
Fans enjoy nothing more than winning football, no matter what the division. Look at the crowds we're getting - averaging over 20,000. Absolutely amazing, especially in League One.
It's not just the numbers - the atmosphere in the ground is astonishing. Paul Lambert deserves a huge amount of credit for that. In less than a year, he has brought about a miraculous transformation.
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This time 12 months ago, Blues fans felt alienated and downbeat after the toxic final McCarthy season, the dreadful, short-lived Paul Hurst era, and the breakdown of the relationship between club and supporters. There seemed to be no hope.
Now, we fans feel valued. The supporters, the team, and the club hierarchy are all pulling together. It is a very special feeling, which brings back memories of that wonderful George Burley era when we built year after year, culminating in unforgettable promotion to the Premier League.
Being unbeaten after the first six games is just the start we so badly needed. You can see the confidence among the players. Look at Kayden Jackson's first-time finish against Shrewsbury. That wouldn't have happened last season. He would have tried to make sure, and the chance would almost certainly have been wasted.
His partnership with James Norwood is really exciting. Nine goals already. Norwood has obviously been great for Jackson, who looked rather lost last season.
But do you know what the most exciting development has been for me? Firstly, I have to admit to being a fully paid-up member of the Right Backs Club. You've guessed it - I'm thrilled by the arrival of a proper right-back.
Nearly ten years since David Wright's last Town game, take a bow Kane Vincent-Young. At last, a genuine right-back after a succession of converted centre-halves and midfield players.
What a home debut from the young man. Solid in defence, tricky and exciting going forward. He won the penalty, and played a major part in Flynn Downes' thrilling goal. Right-back isn't the most glamorous position, but it's massively important. You can't "make do," which is what we've tried to do. I think Vincent-Young will be our best in that position since Fabian Wilnis. Some praise!
The club is also making some good decisions off the pitch. The PR is so much better. It was great to see strikers Norwood and Jackson teaming up for a signing session with young fans last week. It's simple to do - but in recent years hasn't happened nearly often enough.
The Show Your Colours campaign, asking businesses in Ipswich to display their support, is another good idea which will demonstrate the connection between club and town.
So everything in the garden is rosy...at the moment. I know there will be bumps in the road this season, but I'm determined to enjoy it while I can. As I mentioned earlier, it's such a relief after those dark, dismal seasons.
I tell you one thing - I cannot recall the last time I sipped my half-time pint at Portman Road safe in the knowledge that we would definitely win the game. Oh, the luxury!