Number 8 – Ipswich Town
Ipswich Town – The second (or third if you’re being pedantic) post in The Unessential Guide to the 92 League Clubs and more!
So Fulham were my team, ‘given’ to me unchallenged, rather like your surname. However, it didn’t stop me having a fondness for other clubs (hence this blog).
I was given the 1978 FA Cup Final programme by my dad’s Arsenal supporting colleague. The fact that two years later he also gave me a pennant of the 1980 European Cup Winners’ Cup, meant that he was probably not one for being magnanimous (or nostalgic) in defeat. No doubt I would have studied that FA Cup programme despite not recalling the game. The simplistic but classic adidas kit worn by Ipswich Town – much like my beloved Fulham – would’ve added to my interest. My grandad had also given me some heat press badges, Fulham, Ipswich Town and Wrexham (see below).
I acknowledge that the 1979-80 season, which coincided with my first Panini album, Football 80, marks the start of my real interest in football. A baptism of fire considering Fulham were relegated to the third. Shoot! Match and The Topical Times understandably concentrated on the First Division teams whose paths we rarely if ever crossed (WBA being the exception, beating us in the league cup). Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest (top 40) were the nemesis of Liverpool, who some of my friends sheepishly followed. (They both played in adidas) as well as having an abundance of England players. Often people question why fans of less fashionable, less successful clubs follow England. It may be to do with the fact that supporting the national side gives a bit of relief to the frustration of club football. (Though 56 years of hurt may blow my theory out of the water!).
The two Pauls, Cooper and one of my footballing heroes, Mariner. Terry Butcher, Russell Osman and Mick Mills. Then there were the two Dutch players with their interesting names, Mühren and Thijssen. I mean even the name Ipswich sounds unique and somewhat foreign. Our local newsagents and friends of the family moved there and I was interested in visiting them. It never happened.
I clearly recall watching England games from the European Championship in 1980 and being gutted by Manchester City losing the FA Cup in 1981, but have no recollection of Town winning the UEFA Cup that year over two legs. Perhaps I had been banished to bed.
For the next decade Ipswich wooed me with their fine kits. The first Pioneer one is up there with the best, and then there was the bold red band introduced in 1984-85 – the Radio Orwell one the year later was a bit of a come down – but Fisons saw to that soon after.
Our holidays were spent either on the south coast or visiting my nan in Shropshire. It wasn’t until 1989, when milking my home town team, Sutton United’s phenomenal FA Cup run, that I made it to East Anglia, namely Carrow Road. As a testosterone-filled 15 year old, the talk on the train was that Ipswich fans would be in the away end with us ‘giving it’ to the Norwich City fans. As sad as that seems now, it was more kudos to Town. They were our allies!
The 1996-97 season had started well for Fulham. We’d won six of our first seven games and had knocked out second tier Southend United in the League Cup. The prize for doing so was a two-legged tie against Ipswich Town. This was the first time we had met since 1973, again in the League Cup, when I was a matter of weeks old. Previous to that, our paths had crossed in the league some ten years earlier. We had beaten Town 10-1 (yes, ten) on Boxing Day 1963. Gary Bailey’s dad was in the visitors’ goal. My mum had accompanied my dad that day, but the scoreline was wasted on her. Two days later we lost 4-2 at Portman Road. How Fulhamish.
Back to '96, the first leg, an exciting 1-1 draw, saw Fulham fan, Simon Milton (Steve’s cousin), score for Town. For me it was all about going to Portman Road, Ipswich, yes Ipswich, the unusually named town I had only managed to stop in for a matter of minutes en route to Norwich. The ground didn’t disappoint despite a crowd of just over 6000. We lost 4-2, but for once we did have the excuse of concentrating on the league for promotion reasons rather than staving off relegation.
The next eight occasions we played saw us draw twice and lose six. The last five games we’ve played have all resulted in Fulham wins. As the results chart below shows, there are long runs of victories or defeats. (I also saw a pre-season victory for Royale Union Saint-Gilloise, when I was involved with the merchandise at the Belgian club).
Image taken from the excellent 11v11.com
The day Paul Mariner died I visited Portman Road and left a shirt at the Bobby Robson statue. Unashamedly, I cried like a baby down the phone when my Ipswich friend called me minutes after, having sent him a photo of the artefacts left there in his memory.
As a footnote and previous to my move to Colchester, I had become friends with Ipswich Town fans through Cult Zeros. As a result, I was introduced to a Borussia Mönchengladbach fan club called Us d’r Lammeng, whose majority of members are Town fans too. Without sounding like Michael Winner, I can count on these as good friends and we have shared good times in both England and Germany. (Two went to my wedding!)
Without any stats to back it up, I would say that Ipswich Town shirts are the most widely spotted football shirts in Colchester – adding to Col Us’ dislike for them. I'm also happy to help out the Kevin Beattie Foundation with their programme despite it having no official link to the club.
I will place Ipswich Town as 8th in my list, but this may move.
Ground 9/10. Overall kits 8/10. Badge 7/10. Away trip 10/10 (near train station, great pubs in the town, The Greyhound a favourite).