Fixture release could be the moment reality bites for Ipswich Town... but the League One schedule is packed with intrigue
PUBLISHED: 19:38 19 June 2019
Ipswich Town's fixtures for the 2019/20 season are released tomorrow at 9am. ANDY WARREN looks at the major talking points ahead of the schedule unveiling.
Tomorrow morning at 9am may be the moment reality really sets in for Ipswich Town.
Relegation to League One was confirmed in April, four games before the end of a dismal season, but the release of the third-tier fixtures will highlight the Blues' new position in the football world.
Visits to grand old stadiums such as Villa Park and Hillsborough are a thing of the past, as is instantly looking for the derby clashes with Norwich City.
Instead the fixture list will be packed with games against teams who have historically operated well below Ipswich Town's level, but this is the Suffolk club's new reality.
How Paul Lambert's men react, as well as how quickly they come out of the blocks, will go a long way to deciding whether this really is a 'League One tour' or in fact the first year of a long-term stay.
Another sad reality is the fact Norwich will be playing Premier League football next season.
The top flight fixtures, released last week, provide a real clue to the Blues' schedule, given the two East Anglian clubs don't play home games on the same day due to police and logistical reasons.
The League One season begins a week prior to the Premier League kick-off, with Norwich beginning their season at European champions Liverpool on Friday, August 9.
That means the Blues are likely to be at home the following day and, as a result, are set to begin the campaign away from home the previous weekend.
With no derby clash with Norwich to look for, the eye will then move on to Town's Boxing Day opponents.
It looks like the Blues will spend Christmas at home this year, due to the fact the Canaries are on the road, with an away game likely to follow on New Year's Day.
Once again the Blues will have one of the longest road schedules in their division, with more than 8,000 miles to travel over the course of the league campaign.
The longest trip is the visit to Fleetwood (566 miles) with Blackpool (558) and Sunderland (533) not too far behind.
Games at Bury, Rochdale, Accrington, Bolton and Tranmere complete the Northern Tour while Ipswich's most westerly game will be the visit to Bristol Rovers.
Keeping it local
It's not all bad news, though.
There's no visit to Carrow Road but there are a handful of relatively local games to come next season.
The shortest trip is the 114-mile round-trip to Southend, while Gillingham (182), Peterborough (184) and MK Dons (200) are relatively short journeys.
Cup football has not been Ipswich Town's friends in recent seasons.
Over the last five years alone the Blues have been dumped out of cup competitions by lower-league teams on six occasions - this year they will face three of those sides as equals.
Portsmouth's FA Cup win in 2016 came at a time when the Fratton Park club were in League Two, while Lincoln City were in non-league when they humiliated Mick McCarthy's side a year later.
The most recent embarrassment came at Accrington in January, with rematches against all three to come in the next few months.
The Blues have never played competitive games against AFC Wimbledon, Fleetwood, Rochdale or Wycombe Wanderers.
That's about to change.
There's also the prospect of a first visit to Oxford's Kassam Stadium, with Town's last game against the U's coming at their old Manor Ground home in 1998.
Don't forget the cup
It's not all about the League One fixtures on Thursday.
The League Cup draw will be made at 7pm, brought to you live from a Morrison's supermarket in Colindale, North London.
John Barnes and Ray Parlour will be drawing the balls, with round one once again unseeded. That means Ipswich can face any of the teams in the southern section of the draw.
More to come
This isn't it for the fixtures fun.
Ipswich will be competing in the Checkatrade Trophy for the first time next season, with that competition's group stage kicking off in September.
The draw is usually made in the middle of July, with Ipswich set to take on two local sides from either League One or League Two as well as one of 16 invited academy sides.
Then there's the prospect of the FA Cup first round in October.