‘Let’s have a special award for the supporters’ - North Stander praises ‘shining star’ Town fans

Town fans with their inflatables before kick-off at Bolton Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Town fans with their inflatables before kick-off at Bolton Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

Take a bow, the shining stars of Ipswich Town’s season. I’m talking about our remarkable, passionate and incredibly loyal fans.

A Town fan soaking up the atmosphere at Bolton. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

A Town fan soaking up the atmosphere at Bolton. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

More than 1,300 of them made the 500-mile round trip to Bolton on Saturday, to cheer on their team, even though the Blues have been relegation certainties for weeks.

It really is a heartwarming story – and an object lesson for any manager, or club owner, about the importance of valuing your supporters.

Yes, these are the same fans who were treated so disrespectfully and dismissively towards the end of Mick McCarthy’s tenure at Portman Road. It takes a lot to alienate Town fans – but McCarthy managed it, big time.

Paul Lambert, on the other hand, has shown how relatively simple it is to get the supporters on board. In truth, his results have been pretty awful, but he has shown that he values the fans with his words and his actions.

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The outcome has been that crowds have been bigger, and the atmosphere has been incredible for a team which has only won four games all season. As Lambert says almost every week, It’s not a normal situation.

For more than 1,300 Blues supporters to make the long trip to Bolton for what was effectively the battle to avoid bottom place was incredible. For the travelling army to then generate a party atmosphere in such circumstances was even more remarkable.

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I was so pleased they had something to celebrate at long, long last. It must have made the long journey home easier to tolerate.

If there has been a shining light in this otherwise very gloomy season, it’s the unquenchable, never-say-die spirit of the fans. It’s a precious thing, and it really can help the players on the pitch.

More than 1,300 Town fans made the trip to Bolton. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

More than 1,300 Town fans made the trip to Bolton. Picture: PAGEPIX LTD

When I think about some of the travelling support we’ve seen at Portman Road this season - from clubs high in the table - the contrast is immense. “Shall we sing a song for you?” springs to mind when it comes to some of the almost silent visiting fans this campaign.

So, here’s an idea for the powers that be at the club. How about recognising the fans’ contribution at the end of the season? At the club’s annual dinner, when all the gongs are handed out, let’s have a special award for the supporters. Paul Lambert can present it to representatives of the fans – maybe some of those ultra-loyal supporters who travel to every away match. It would be a great way to reward them.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good few days for Blues supporters. On Friday, we had the brilliant news that Alan Judge has signed a new two-year contract. What a player he will be in League One. I’m sure he was on the radar of several Championship clubs, so for us to secure his services is simply phenomenal.

It also speaks volumes about Alan Judge the man. I’m sure he could have secured a bigger wage packet at a Championship club, but he realises life isn’t all about money. An excellent influence to have around the club, as well as a really top performer.

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Then there was the result at Bolton. Yes, I realise Wanderers are in turmoil, and will almost certainly go down with us, but you still have to beat such teams, something we’ve not been able to do throughout the season. Maybe we can even overtake them and avoid the ignominy of finishing rock bottom.

It won’t be long now before our fate is finally confirmed mathematically. Maybe as early as during the next week. Then everyone can fully focus on the task ahead – making sure we spend only a single season down in League One.

For one campaign, there will be a certain novelty value, visiting new grounds, playing different teams, but getting stuck down there would certainly not be a whole lot of fun.

After his cryptic comments last weekend, Paul Lambert has confirmed he will be staying, and thank goodness for that. With him at the helm, and with the undying loyalty of our wonderful supporters, I really do believe the future can look bright, despite our miserable season.

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