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Club is the beating heart of our town

PUBLISHED: 10:53 16 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:33 03 March 2010

IPSWICH is a community whose heart is easy to find – it beats in Portman Road.

When the football club is doing well the whole town seems to thrive. Even those who would never dream of setting foot inside the ground seem to have an extra spring in their step.

IPSWICH is a community whose heart is easy to find – it beats in Portman Road.

When the football club is doing well the whole town seems to thrive. Even those who would never dream of setting foot inside the ground seem to have an extra spring in their step.

When the club is faltering, everyone suffers with it.

When it is standing on the edge of the precipice the whole community wants to pull it back from the abyss.

Ipswich is a town – a city in all but name – that has no great cathedral to put it on the map. It has no grand castle. No great university.

But it does have a football club that has carried its name across Europe from Madrid to Moscow and Milan, from Rome and Cologne to Barcelona.

Now it has a Premier League stadium, a Premier League training centre, and players of proven Premier League quality.

What is now needed is for the Premier League fans to show their worth and back the team in the last vital matches.

The team proved they could turn things around earlier this season with a superb run of results that saw the club, written off just before Christmas, rise to the middle of the table.

Now bad results against Liverpool and Southampton, and losses against Leeds and Blackburn, have plunged the Blues back into trouble.

But club chairman David Sheepshanks believes the fans can play their part in giving the team a boost. They can help lift the morale of a team that has taken a battering in recent weeks.

The players live in the same community as the fans. They and their families use the same shops, the same cinemas, the same restaurants as everyone else.

More than anyone else, they need to approach matches with a positive attitude.

They need to believe they can beat Aston Villa, Middlesbrough, Bolton, Chelsea and West Ham.

Many Town fans had already written off the team's chances in today's match at Newcastle. And they are convinced that if the team isn't safe before the last three matches of the season – against Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool – then the club is doomed.

That makes any points gained against these clubs a real bonus – one which could be vital for the team.

Ipswich were written off before they arrived at White Hart Lane for the match against Tottenham just before Christmas, but the surprise win there was the launchpad for the winter success.

The fans have the job now of lifting the players on and off the pitch. They have to make the players believe they can get the three wins needed for safety.

Ironically, if the team had been in this position 12 months ago few people would have been surprised and many fans would have been happy. As a team newly promoted through the play-offs, many people expected them to go straight down again.

The success of last year was a double-edged sword.

It showed the players, many of whom had never played at the top level, that they were good enough for the Premiership.

But it also raised expectations among fans that the Premiership was sorted – no problem, especially with extra European cash bringing in big names from abroad like Matteo Sereni and Finidi George.

This season has been a wake-up call.

The Premiership is one of the toughest leagues in the world, and there are no easy matches.

The club's management showed faith in the future by going ahead with building a new North Stand even before the Greene King Stand was finished.

And the board even managed to finance this with a 25-year bond, so the ground redevelopment would not be financed at the expense of selling the club's best players.

But relegation now would have a devastating effect on the club.

The amount of money brought in by the Sky television deal and other spin-offs means that the budget of a Premiership club is much greater than that of a Nationwide League club.

On promotion, the club's turnover leapt from £10million to £22m overnight. This season's European campaign has pushed this figure close to £30m.

Relegation would slash the amount of money coming in from television. "Parachute" cash is available – but with players on Premiership salaries, this would soon be eaten away.

Television money for Nationwide League clubs is much less – and very uncertain.

They have a deal with ITV Digital for live matches, but that company is in serious financial difficulties and is threatening to walk away from the contract.

Ipswich do not want to find themselves drawn into all those uncertainties. They do not want to be part of the scramble to pick over the bones of a dead deal.

The club can save themselves – they have a team that can win three more matches this season.

All they need is for the fans to give the players the support they need.


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