For all my sins, I’m an Ipswich Town season ticket holder. I have been for four years now, and I love the club. But I’m finding my love fading. Mick McCarthy and Marcus Evans sit at the helm of the club, and with big Mick recently telling his own fans to f*** off, there’s a definite rift between the team and the fans opening up. With attendances their lowest for 20 years, what’s going on at Portman Road and why are the fans turning away?
It’s a cold Tuesday night and Ipswich are hosting Cardiff City. Wins at Portman Road are a rarity these days, with just 2 in the last 8, and it’s not hard to see why. A recent game against Burton saw the blues have just one shot on target. Sheffield United before that they had 0. They’re hardly an attacking club and there’s nothing for the neutral here. The quality is telling when the biggest round of applause of the night comes from a throw in.
Portman Road itself sits 30,000, but attendances are in danger of dipping below 13,000. It’s not hard to see why – against my better judgement I decided to take my girlfriend, and was horrified at the £25 ticket price. That’s the minimum as well. A night at Portman Road can easily set you back £40-£50. With one of the highest ticket prices in the league, neutrals and casuals are put off. There’s no atmosphere inside the ground. A sea of miserable faces occasionally applauds, but mostly moan and boo. You’d be forgiven for thinking the club were going down, but they’re safe in mid-table.
They’re not a team without talent though. The keeper, Bialkowski, has attracted interest from Crystal Palace among other recently, but big mistakes against Norwich, and a dreadful spill and some…interesting distribution here have me asking why. He’s a good shot stopper, but I think that mostly comes from him being so busy. Joe Garner and Martin Waghorn lead the attack, they certainly work hard but don’t get the service. The long ball game is king at Ipswich. It’s what one might call ‘turgid’.
But there is hope. Some great youngsters are coming through. Flynn Downes is bossing things for Luton Town, and Andre Dozzell, before his horrific injury in the first game of the season, was showing real promise. There’s a tradition of letting talented youngsters go though, Connor Wickham, Tyronne Mings and Aaron Cresswell have all left on big money moves recently, but the money hasn’t been re-invested. McCarthy is often praised in the media for a squad on a budget, but if you go to the game and see them perform, you’d wonder why.
The final whistle blows and Ipswich lose 1-0. The boos ring out, but there’s a level of acceptance to them which is crushingly sad. Suffolk people are too polite to protest, but if this was a club anywhere else there’d be mock funerals, complete with faux-undertakers. It’s hardly Blackpool or Coventry, but an absent owner (no-one has ever publicly seen his face) gives omens that it could go that way. The rants of Radio Suffolk post-game all call for the same thing – McCarthy to go. You sense its only a matter of time.
As a place to start the journey through the 92 league clubs, Ipswich isn’t the best start. There’s an argument to say they play the worst football in the whole of the Football League, and whilst against Cardiff they were alright, recent performances against Burton and Sheffield United cement the argument. I love the club, I always will, but it pains me to say it, if you’re a neutral looking for a good game to try out on a Saturday, Norwich or Colchester are better bets. Save yourself £25.