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North Stander: ‘Why shouldn’t I walk away?’ – Town fans set for annual season ticket poser

PUBLISHED: 12:00 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 10:18 22 March 2020

Town fans will soon be asked to renew their season tickets - but have Paul Lambert's side done enough to convince those who are wavering? Picture: STEVE WALLER

Town fans will soon be asked to renew their season tickets - but have Paul Lambert's side done enough to convince those who are wavering? Picture: STEVE WALLER

Stephen Waller

Firstly, a rare word of praise for our footballing authorities. They’re not exactly renowned for their top-quality decision making, but they’ve got this one absolutely spot-on, writes North Stander Terry Hunt.

Instead of dithering and delaying, our football bosses acted quickly and decisively. We will all miss watching games, of course, but some things are much, much more important than football.

So, this unprecedented break gives all of us long-suffering Ipswich Town fans a bit of thinking time and, as usual at this time of year, we face the ultimate test of our loyalty: To renew or not renew, that is the question (with apologies to the Bard).

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For the umpteenth time in recent years, the powers-that-be at Portman Road must be facing the annual season ticket marketing campaign with a certain amount of trepidation.

Last year, Paul Lambert performed absolute miracles by reconnecting with the fans, and creating a wave of enthusiasm despite relegation to the third tier for the first time in more than 60 years. The result has been home crowds of around 20,000, which is remarkable in League One.

Sadly, all of that feelgood factor has disappeared during this desperately disappointing season. However this campaign ends – null and void, or played to a finish – it looks pretty certain we’ll be playing in this low-quality division again in 2020-21.

The hierarchy at the club have a massive challenge ahead of them. I’ll be honest – there have been times in recent weeks and months when I’ve thought: “That’s it – I’m not spending another penny with that football club while Marcus Evans is the owner.”

The hard-nosed logic is, I think, understandable. Year after year, I hand over more than £500 and, in return, I expect to see entertaining football. Goals and wins would be good, too.

After nearly 20 years of post-Burley underachievement, including McCarthy’s stupefying pragmatism, I really thought this season would be different, especially after the flying start we made.

But, sadly, it’s all gone horribly wrong again, and once more I am not getting anything like value for money.

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So, why shouldn’t I walk away? I know I could find other ways to entertain myself on Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings. Financially, it certainly makes sense. How many other sub-standard, unsatisfactory products would I continue to pay for after nearly two decades of disappointment?

And, of course, I could always sneak back to Portman Road if things start improving...

I suspect I’m not the only Town fan having such thoughts. These must be worrying times in the corridors of power at Portman Road. Gate receipts are now a very big part of the club’s revenue - unlike clubs in the Land of Milk and Honey, otherwise known as the Premier League.

But, of course, supporting your football club is not a humdrum, normal commercial relationship. It’s all tied up with emotion, with family, with community.

I started going to Portman Road when I was 11-years-old, more than half a century ago. It is at games that I feel closest to my late father – a dyed-in-the-wool Ipswich supporter if ever there was one.

My dad and I travelled the length and breadth of the country with Town in the 1970s. Unforgettable highs, like the extraordinary four FA quarter-final games against mighty Leeds in 1975. We drove to Leicester twice in three days!

There was the crushing sense of injustice at the semi-final that year, beaten controversially by West Ham. The incredible joy at Highbury three years later, when we reached the cup final for the first time. And, of course, that magical, unforgettable afternoon at Wembley. “Osborne, 1-0.”

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More than 20 years later, I shed a tear for dad at the play-off final. How much would he have enjoyed that? Sadly, he had died four years earlier.

Ipswich Town will not be in action until at least April 4 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: PAIpswich Town will not be in action until at least April 4 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: PA

So, for me – and, I suspect, many others – it’s not simply a question of saving my money and staying away, however much part of me would like to show Marcus Evans precisely how I feel about the state of our club at the moment.

It’s a decision which is inexorably tied up with emotion. Ipswich Town has been a big part of my life since childhood. I cannot abandon the club. So, I will be in my usual seat next season, hoping for better things.

How many other fans feel the same way remains to be seen. I suspect three or four thousand season ticket holders will save their money. I understand their decision – and part of me wishes I could do the same. But my dad would never forgive me.

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