Super Blue army to storm Southampton

IPSWICH: A 3,000-strong army of loyal Super Blues fans were today preparing to roar Town to victory - and prove the romance of the FA Cup is alive and kicking.

Josh Warwick

IPSWICH: A 3,000-strong army of loyal Super Blues fans were today preparing to roar Town to victory - and prove the romance of the FA Cup is alive and kicking.

Club bosses say the legion of followers heading to the south coast for tomorrow's Fourth Round tie at Southampton is three times the number initially expected.

Today, Ipswich Town chief executive Simon Clegg heaped praise on the supporters making the 340-mile round trip to St Mary's.

“I am delighted so many Town fans are following the team in our quest for FA Cup success against Southampton this weekend,” he said.

“It's another example of the fantastic support this club enjoys and I'm sure the strong following we will have at St Mary's will inspire the team.”

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More than three decades on from Town's 1978 Wembley triumph, fans were today dusting down blue and white scarves, digging out their replica shirts and packing balloons and banners.

And while Ipswich are 125/1 outsiders to lift the cup in May, there is optimism that Roy Keane's men can enjoy an extended run.

Evening Star columnist and Those Were the Days editor Phil Ham said: “Southampton is always one of those grounds where we tend to take a big following for some reason.

“I remember four years ago we took loads when Alan Lee scored twice to win a league game there.

“The FA Cup also adds a bit of additional spice and it's a decent tie. Both clubs are making progress, having been relegated last season in Southampton's case and having started the season poorly in Town's.

“It shows that claims of the cup's demise are a touch premature. People still love an FA Cup tie and are prepared to brave sub-zero January temperatures to see one.”

Tomorrow's travelling contingent is one of the biggest since the Blues took a staggering 6,000 to Chelsea's Stamford Bridge at the same stage in last year's competition.

That was the biggest away support since Town played Inter Milan at the San Siro in 2001.

Keane's team made the fourth round after overcoming Blackpool 2-1 at Bloomfield Road earlier this month, while League One Southampton beat Luton Town 1-0.

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Where to enjoy a pre-match pint:

There are few pubs near St Mary's, limiting the choice for away fans.

However, the Coopers Arms in Belvedere Road - a five to ten minute walk from the stadium - welcomes visiting supporters.

The Waterfront Bar in William Street is also popular while the Admiral Sir Lucas Curtis pub is another away fan-friendly venue.

In the city centre, The Prince of Wales, The Bevois Castle and The Station are all recommended to travelling supporters.

IPSWICH Town and Southampton have proud FA Cup traditions.

The Saints won the famous trophy in 1976 - two years before captain Mick Mills and Ipswich Town would get their hands on the cup.

Like the Blues' Wembley success, Southampton's victory was very much against the odds. As a second division club facing Division One big boys Manchester United, few gave them much chance.

But an 83rd minute winner from Bobby Stokes provided a memorable upset.

Two years later, Roger Osborne's late strike proved decisive - and completed an against-the-odds triumph over Arsenal.