I thought I’d regale you with the tale of my day trip to Ipswich Town for Sunday’s first East Anglian Derby of the season, as a change to the normal stuff you might get from Vital Norwich.
When my mate Lee (LeeBoz) told me he could get us tickets for the away match at Ipswich and did I want tickets? I jumped at the chance. Why wouldn’t I?
I don’t tend to be able to get to many away games in a season due to being a shift worker and very often having to work weekends. I’m sure I’ve bored you with this before but I quite often have to use my annual leave to watch home games and Mrs T would go nuts if I used it all for football and left nothing for a family holiday etc.
This though, was a game worth taking a day’s leave for.
I left the house just before 8am, intending to pick Lee up on the way through in Trowse. On the way, he rang me to ask whether I was wearing colours. I told him that I had a Norwich T-shirt on and was bringing my scarf. He was unsure whether to wear a City shirt but decided to go for it. Just after the call ended I saw a lone Magpie. Gulp.
As I’ve got older, I don’t tend to get nervous or worried about big events or important matters until they are literally about to happen and this game was the same.
I felt confident that Norwich could be the technically better team, it was just the physical stuff and atmosphere that could prove a stumbling block, we’d have to wait on that one.
We parked and walked into Norwich station at 8.30am, intending to catch the 9am train to Ipswich. The concourse was already full of City fans, many of whom were clutching bags or tins of lager.
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Now, at my time of (mid)life, I can’t say I fancy a beer at 8.30am but clearly plenty do (mostly young ‘uns). The train was on the platform a short time later and we decided to get on to ensure we got a seat.
As we walked alongside the train I noticed a big fat fella who was tucking a half bottle of Remy Martin into the inside pocket of his jacket – blimey.
We got on and it quickly became apparent that the majority of City fans were drinking. The father and son on the table opposite us were necking cans of Stella like it was going out of fashion. The son was about 18, I should add and the father was about 45.
The train pulled out and the carriage erupted into an impromptu ‘Ipswich Town, we’re coming for you.’
The singing carried on as we travelled and it was all good natured with a couple of British Transport Police bobbies walking through the carriages. I bet they must’ve loved this duty on a Sunday morning.
We got to Stowmarket and we got our first sighting of the enemy as the train came into the station. There were loads of them on the platform.
‘Scum, Scum, Scum’ and banging on the windows came from the father and son opposite. Father is probably a respectable business man on a week day.
The Ipswich fans got on and many came into our carriage to stand as there was nowhere else to go. One City fan stood up and spread his arms wide, singing in the faces of the enemy newcomers ‘Whose the pride of Anglia…’ etc, etc. The carriage backed him until he got bored. The Ipswich fans ignored him and stared down into their mobile phones – probably for the best.
On arrival at Ipswich we left the train and walked slowly along the platform. Slowly, due to the mass of people. A loud chant of ‘Blue Army’ brought me to the realisation that there were loads of Ipswich fans around me. I had my fleece done up and scarf tucked inside.
I could suddenly hear a loud alarm and see yellow smoke ahead of me. As we got closer, the alarm became painful as we walked slowly past it, trying to get into the station. Inside the smoke was thick and the fumes were acrid in my throat.
Starbucks had already closed and the staff were helping the lady at WH Smith get her shutter door down. What tool let off a smoke grenade inside the station?!
We burst out into sunlight and clear air and loads of Police officers. There were Ipswich fans waiting there too, staring menacingly at the yellow and green army as they spilled out of the station. They seemed to have no purpose other than to come and stare at us.
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The Station Hotel was opposite and most made their way there but Lee and I had already decided we would find a café and get a breakfast. After all, you should always start the day with a good breakfast, or even a bad one for that matter.
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We crossed over the road and headed straight, towards the stadium with Google Maps as our guide, heading for a Costa Coffee. As we walked through the streets and got past the ground, the fans seemed to thin out a bit and it got a lot quieter.
There were lots of Police around and lots of empty shops and buildings too. One street had ‘To Let’ signs up above every other doorway.
I’ve been to Portman Road before to watch football and I’ve also been to Ipswich to the Regent Theatre as recently as May to watch a gig or two. Other than that, I tend to stay clear of the place.
It’s a poor deprived area and that is the truth. It’s why the Town is being targeted by County Lines drug gangs from London and Liverpool. I imagine the streets aren’t nice to walk along at night. A sense of what’s going on around you would be crucial – just like today.
We managed to find a café, just a few yards from that Costa Coffee and settled down for a full English and a pot of tea.
Part Two will be coming up shortly…