Fans told to show they have bottle

SHOW your bottle – and show the fans you haven't just bottled out!That is The Evening Star's message today to each and every Ipswich Town player, as the team faces up to a desperate fight for Premiership survival.

SHOW your bottle – and show the fans you haven't just bottled out!

That is The Evening Star's message today to each and every Ipswich Town player, as the team faces up to a desperate fight for Premiership survival.

This is definitely no time for giving up – the picture many got from watching Town's performance at Bolton on Saturday.

While things look gloomy, it is not all over yet, and we still want to Keep the Dream Alive.

But, if Ipswich do go down, for goodness sake, let's at least go down fighting.

Everybody has been behind George Burley's men through thick and thin, giving the team the best support in the land.

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We all know that form can desert you, and all supporters must realise that (as fans in Leicester have seen) when a bad patch hits you can end up at the bottom of the table.

What they won't tolerate is players giving up and throwing in the towel.

After all, these are highly-paid professionals, earning more in a week – £15,000 for some of the players – than some of us do in a year.

When we see them playing with no fire and no passion, that is when fury erupts – as it has done for Town supremo David Sheepshanks.

He is rightly outraged, and has gone on the record, as few chairmen have done before, saying exactly what he thinks of the team's performance.

Sheepshanks knows exactly what is at stake. Relegation would mean an immediate loss of £12 million in revenue – but the true cost would be far heavier.

The very shape and future of our beloved club is hanging in the balance.

The Evening Star supports Ipswich Town all the way, as no other newspaper in the land supports its club.

But true support means facing the full facts rather than just trying to put a good spin on things. And at the moment those facts look bleak.

Already, there must be those at Portman Road who are fearing for their jobs.

Looking back at Town's start in the Premiership, the foundations could hardly have been laid better.

More than 40,000 Town fans who were there on the day savour the glorious memory of Wembley 2000, in the last competitive match under the old Twin Towers.

Town had reached Sheepshanks's Promised Land, and after that things just went on getting better, with the 4-2 victory over Barnsley heralding more triumphs on the pitch.

As the Tractor Boys ploughed their way up the table and made it into Europe, dreamland became reality.

But, in retrospect, was Europe a poisoned chalice?

Looking at the present, you have to wonder whether this Euroadventure proved to be one step too many.

It was great to see photos of Sheepshanks in Red Square, and the victory in Moscow was one of the proudest moments in club history.

But it was a different story on the home front, as the losses stacked up – and Europe could not distract from the bread-and-butter matches forever.

After Christmas it seemed as if everything was starting to come right at last, but then the club sank into the mire again.

We have the best little club in Britain here in Ipswich, with a fabulous infrastructure, and the Academy for youngsters. Everything is geared to make Ipswich the Pride of East Anglia.

But it all adds up to nothing if the players don't deliver, and supporters will desert if they don't give their best.

Sadly, the 4-1 defeat by Bolton was not just a one-off. We have seen other capitulations, with the 4-1 defeat by Manchester United and the 6-0 loss to Liverpool, before this latest misery.

Many fans will today be wondering what on earth is the point of all the team talks, motivation tapes and psychologists.

Where has it left us? And what do David Sheepshanks and George Burley feel about it all?

Burley was a fighter on the pitch and he has proved himself a fighter as a manager, getting us through the play-offs and Wembley and all the way to Europe. But where has the fight gone right now?

Has too much been expected of him? Has he been distracted by becoming part of the business managerial set-up as well as running the team?

Right now, before the post-season inquest starts, we must Keep the Dream Alive and look forward!

We'll support Ipswich to the end, whatever it is.

Right now the fans expect, and right now the players must deliver.

We can't roll over. We still believe Ipswich Town can do it, against all the odds.

But, whatever the outcome, we must be able to say we did our best.

It's far better than to say we did… nothing.

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