In 2017, I went to a music festival in Spain. I was waiting by the toilets one evening – because my friend was in one of the cubicles, I wasn’t just lurking – and after a while, a drunken, middle aged Spanish man approached me. Because if you lurk for long enough, they will come.
He asked me where I was from and I said England. He asked me whereabouts in England and, not giving the guy nearly enough credit for his UK geography I vaguely replied ‘the south.’
“You mean like Bournemouth?” He asked.
“No, the south east – Ipswich,” I said.
“Ipswich? Ipswich?” He pondered for a few seconds before a switch suddenly flicked in his head. “Ah, Ipswich Town? You’re s***!”
Ipswich Town have produced two of the England national team’s most successful managers in Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson. We’ve won the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup (back when it was better than the Champions League, so I’m told. Repeatedly. By my dad. Every Christmas.) No newly promoted team has finished higher in the Premier League since we came fifth back in 2000/01. How has it gone from that to being informed by a drunk guy that your team is worthy of the adjacent toilets?
It’s one thing being abused by Norwich fans at Portman Road, but now men are coming from across the continent, seeking us out and telling us just how bad we are.
But you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way. You can’t get bored of success if you’ve never experienced any in the first place.
In May 2012, Roberto Di Matteo guided Chelsea to a famous Champions League triumph, the Blues finally getting their hands on the one trophy that had eluded them under Roman Abramovich. Six months later, Di Matteo was sacked. The very same month that Chelsea won the Champions League, Roberto Mancini guided Manchester City to their maiden Premier League title, the Cityzens crowned champions of England for the first time in 44 years. By May the following year, Mancini had been dismissed.
In 2015, Ipswich finished sixth in the Championship, lost in the playoff semi finals and brought out a DVD in celebration.
Yes, I was given it for Christmas and yes, I do watch it whenever I’m feeling sad, happy, anxious or completely fine. Cole Skuse’s screamer against Cardiff is a goal for all moods.
Supporting a slightly rubbish team teaches you to cherish the small things in life. There are so many lows that you cling onto the highs, savour them and milk them for all that they are worth.
Beating Arsenal 1-0 in the 2011 League Cup semi final first leg and watching Cesc Fabregas get marked out of the game by Colin Healy (whose contract was terminated by mutual consent 10 months later). Losing your voice when Pablo Counago netted in the 97th minute against Coventry. Hugging a random pensioner in the away end when Richard Chaplow scored a last gasp winner against Watford.
You live vicariously through Aaron Cresswell and Tyrone Mings doing well in the Premier League. You got strangely attached to New Zealand at the 2010 World Cup because Ipswich defender Tommy Smith was playing for them. You’re still incredulous that Connor Wickham isn’t captaining England.
And most importantly, you stay humble.
Because whenever you’re getting a bit above your station, there’ll always be a drunken Spanish man outside some toilets to remind you of your place.