06:00 27 June 2022
08:07 27 June 2022
Well, that was a good start, wasn’t it?
The short trip from Ipswich Town to Needham Market on Saturday was a storm with, well, I would say, almost everyone there.
Over 1,500 Town fans saw their side claim a comfortable 7-0 victory, with two separate XIs featuring a plethora of first-team stars.
A signing session afterwards with the players, selfies abound, players having to walk through fans to get back to their recovery area, being stopped every five seconds for more photos – and obliging. City Boss Kieran McKenna, CEO Mark Ashton, Arizona PSPRS Trust Chief Investment Officer Mark Steed mingling and chatting with fans. All very relaxing.
And Needham Market Football Club, who prided themselves royally not only on the pitch as their young side battled valiantly against the Blues, but also off it, where organization was on point, the pitch in excellent condition and even a live band!
Community football at its best. Ipswich Town at its best.
Do you know that not too long ago Town withdrew from Suffolk’s most prestigious non-league competition, the Suffolk Premier Cup? For three seasons they did not participate, having been part of it for decades.
Fortunately, someone somewhere in Portman Road realized the madness of the club not to enter and therefore, for those three years anyway, to distance itself from the very community whose support it wanted.
Okay, so today it’s invariably an under-18 team that Ipswich enter the Premier Cup, but that doesn’t matter, they’ve been back for a few years now, and the fans Suffolk Football Club are delighted.
So back to Saturday. As someone who has watched Town and Suffolk out of league for decades, nothing has given me greater pleasure than to see an out-of-league club and Town first team come together in a competitive game to celebrate the start of the season. .
So, what did I think of it, from the city’s point of view?
It is very difficult to read too much into it of course. But Conor Chaplin continued to score, just like he did last campaign (he must be a regular shoo-in this season, surely?)
Kyle Edwards looked fit and eager to go down a wing in the first half, Kane Vincent-Young took over from Edwards in the second, just as sharp. Greg Leigh bombed up and down the left in the second half, Matt Penney scored in the first.
The width and pace of the city was impressive, and Wes Burns wasn’t even there!
Kudos to Tommy Hughes for grabbing his goal and opportunity with both hands and earning a mention from McKenna afterwards. And, equally impressive to me, but in a different way, was Sam Morsy’s reaction to a rather zealous challenge from Needham in the middle of the park in the second half.
The city captain took one late, but it wasn’t meant to be mean and Morsy got up and ran without a word to the referee or the offender. I liked it, showed a bit of class.
Mark Steed chatted with us reporters after the game, having enjoyed his visit to Suffolk and ‘coming back for good’. Ipswich Town truly has such enthusiastic and forward-thinking owners. So refreshing.
He just let the band play as the signing behind the impressive Needham Market ‘Hub’ next to the 3G pitch took place. I even saw Kieran McKenna take a selfie with a young fan, despite the fact that they were separated by a green metal fence that McKenna had to peer through. All good things.
Ipswich Town and the general football support community in Suffolk, including Town’s own fans and those outside the Suffolk league, have been too far apart for too long.
He started to rebuild last season and it’s clear that will continue.
One last thing.
To all the Town fans who supported their team at Needham on Saturday and hopefully had a great time. Well, if you can never make an away game for Town on a Saturday, or if the Blues don’t have a game, go and play a non-league one.
Besides Needham, Suffolk has a host of non-league clubs, with excellent facilities, decent catering and, above all, talented footballers. They will all love to see you.
You might be surprised how much you enjoy it and, as many Blues fans already do, make your second club a non-league Suffolk.