Things have to change at Ipswich Town following a season of embarrassment
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
After nearly 50 years as a diehard Town supporter Terry Hunt thought he’d experienced every possible emotion. But on Tuesday evening at Portman Road, he endured a new one – toe-curling embarrassment.
In my 48 years following Town, I’ve seen a lot. Along with thousands of others, I’ve enjoyed the thrill of winning trophies, and the gut-wrenching misery of relegation, play-off defeats, and losing semi-finals.
I was there when Ray Crawford and John O’Rourke’s goals fired the team back to the top-flight in 1968. I was there for the Robson glory years, including the FA Cup final in 1978 and the UEFA Cup triumph three years later.
I was there at Wembley in 2000 for the thrilling play-off final victory. Fantastic days.
Sadly, I’ve also been there for relegations, far too many play-off heartbreaks, and awful defeats in semi-finals.
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But it’s all part of being a football fan, isn’t it? Rollercoaster ride, as they say.
Yet on Tuesday evening, as I sat glumly in my seat in the Sir Bobby Robson Stand, I experienced something new.
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Sheer embarrassment. No, not especially because of what was happening – or rather, not happening – on the pitch, although that was truly atrocious.
It was what my fellow North Stand season ticket-holders were singing that was causing my toes to curl. As the game wore on, the ironic chants began. “Up the Football League we go,’’ “They’re the finest football team the world has ever seen’’ and when, in the 71st minute, Town finally managed a shot at goal, “We’ve had a shot’’ was sung over and over, followed by “We want two.’’
Now, I know it was a pretty meaningless end-of-season game, and I guess you would call it gallows humour, and perhaps I’m being an overly-sensitive soul, but I don’t want to hear loyal fans taking the Mickey (polite version) out of their own football team. My football team.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame the fans at all. They pay good money to watch Ipswich Town, and they have every right to think, say or chant whatever they want. Personally, I don’t make much noise. I’m the silent type.
I just sit there and brood. I couldn’t even be bothered to stand up and cheer our equaliser on Tuesday. By that late stage, all the life had been sucked out of me.
No, why the ironic chanting bothered me is this. It just summed up what is an increasingly fractured relationship between the club and many of its supporters.
We’re fed up. I’m not saying we’re going to walk away in our droves. The vast majority of us will remain loyal however bad things get. I have dutifully paid my £556 for next year’s season ticket, just like thousands of others.
But, and apologies for repeating myself, we’re thoroughly fed up. Are you getting that message, Mr Evans, Mr McCarthy, and Mr Milne? In the last few months, the football has been utterly awful.
The worst I’ve had to suffer since I first went through the turnstiles at Portman Road exactly 48 years ago, in April 1968.
That’s why the fans were taking the Michael out of the team. Yes, it was irony. Yes, it was end-of-season stuff.
But, for me, there was a distinct undercurrent. And I didn’t enjoy that one little bit. Hence my embarrassment.
Ten days ago, this newspaper asked some questions of the club. We challenged the owner’s spending policy, the club’s ambition, and Mick McCarthy’s style of play. So far, we’ve had no answers. We’ve been told these will be forthcoming at the end of the season.
I’m sure all Town supporters will look forward to that. The Blue and White Army will also be interested to see where Mr Evans figures in the Sunday Times Rich List, which is published this weekend.
I do know one thing. We cannot go on like this – something significant has to change.
This season has been soul-destroying and, ultimately, downright embarrassing.