Preston look soft touches

IT WAS very handy for Preston to sell their best player just in time for the trip to Portman Road, it usually works the other way round. Remember that nice Leon McKenzie last season? Whatever happened to him.

IT WAS very handy for Preston to sell their best player just in time for the trip to Portman Road, it usually works the other way round. Remember that nice Leon McKenzie last season? Whatever happened to him.

Like Keanu Reeves or Arnold Schwarzenegger, North End can change all they like, but they always end up playing the same role - which in our back yard is of a rabbit in the headlights.

I don't mean to tempt fate, but they've been seen off very easily the last two seasons, shipping five goals and scoring none. The sight of their white shirts is almost a relief as they come down the tunnel.

Omens aside though, the Ipswich Town that played most of the match at Vicarage Road last week would see off all but the best sides in this division. The question is whether the side that took their places for the 10 mad minutes that Watford scored twice will turn up as well.

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Joe Royle was angry this week with criticisms levelled at the defence, notably in the letters page of this newspaper, but while he may feel the good work being done with the first team does not always get the recognition it deserves, there are two things to remember here.

1) When you are in the public eye, people will try and knock you, it's a sad fact of modern life.

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2) If Town go on to get promotion this season, the manager and the players can thumb their noses at everyone who doubted them.

The crux of the issue - and I am sure both manager and supporters can agree on this - is that we should have come away from Watford last week with all three points. Darren Bent's goal should have been the nail that kept the hosts' coffin lid down for good.

Of course we're hard to beat, nobody disputes this, and it's refreshing to think the last time the team took nothing from a game was at the Britannia Stadium, which seems ages ago.

But the reason supporters get edgy, and rue missed chances, is that they look around the division and realise there are teams out there that can hurt us in the long term, and letting a game like last week's slip away is wasteful. Wigan, for example, seem to have their foot on the gas and show no sign of letting up.

Are some Ipswich fans too picky, too quick to find a negative when the big picture is actually quite rosy? Yes, and this has been the case right back through the club's history. Even Bobby Robson despaired at times, and he managed the best side this club has ever produced.

But those who point out that we'd be in a better position in the table right now if we cut out the silly goals and mistakes are not one-eyed village idiots frothing at the mouth, they have a firm grasp of reality.

I agree though that currently we have a good thing going, and some fans could get behind the side a bit more.

I don't know what the club have planned today, if anything, to mark the passing of John Peel, but I hope something is on the schedule, because he was a man who had more than a soft spot for Ipswich Town FC.

Perhaps they'll play “You'll Never Walk Alone” over the tannoy, or even “Teenage Kicks”, his favourite song. Either way, it's a sad moment, and the club has lost a dear friend.

Not the sort to court publicity, most fans won't have noticed him slipping in and out of the stadium, but I do recall once standing within a few feet of the great man, just after Bolton had taken advantage of the away goals rule to knock Ipswich out of the play-offs in 1999.

Standing with his arm around his wife, he leaned closer and, as row upon row of distraught home fans walked past, and murmured “It'll be alright, they'll be back next year” and I remember thinking 'if you say so John, then it probably will be'.

It seems that several times a season we have silences to pay respect to people who had absolutely nothing to do with our team, well today we should remember a true legend, who liked this little club of ours.

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