Swapping the press box for Portman Road pitch - How our reporters got on in special Ipswich Town kit launch match
PUBLISHED: 06:00 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 11:02 24 May 2019
Our Ipswich Town reporters, Stuart Watson and Andy Warren, swapped the press box for the Portman Road pitch today to take part in a special match to launch the club's new kit. STUART talks you through his experience.
'Ambled back', 'sloppy in possession', 'didn't stop the cross', 'two goals came down his side'...
All those throw away phrases I've written in player ratings columns over the last decade were swirling around my mind as I sat, gasping for breath, come the half-time whistle. I'd ticked all those boxes.
It's all so easy sitting and observing from the lofty perch of the press box. Down there on the Portman Road pitch it's a different story.
Colleague Andy Warren smiled as he saw me coming off at the break looking the same colour red as the new away shirt. It was a smile of sympathy. And I could see a little fear in the eyes too. He was about to replace me...
When we agreed to take part in this end-of-season match a few weeks back the assumption was it was going to be a casual affair between a hotchpotch of journalists, groundsmen, ticket office staff and the like.
Then, last week, e-mails went out asking for preferred squad number, footballing CVs, when the last time we'd played 90 minutes, which players we compared ourselves too etc.
Oh, this is a bit serious.
Age: 34. Football CV: Braintree & Bocking Reserves in the Mid-Essex League (a full decade ago) and, more latterly, Sunday League football for a pub team called Frontline (named, I kid you not, after the flea and tick treatment you get for pets). Last 90 minutes? 2015.
Since then I've become a sedentary, sleep-deprived dad that makes poor food choices at service stations.
Then came another e-mail. This official kit launch match would see us, a team of media men, play 'The F2' - a team led by freestylers (I believe the kids say #ballers) who have millions of fans on YouTube and are professionally contracted by adidas.
I made the mistake of doing some internet research on Billy Wingrove, Jeremy Lynch and co and then quickly slammed the laptop lid shut. Uh oh, we're in trouble.
The next step was to locate the battered old adidas World Cup boots which, after years of neglect, now had splits down the sides.
Now, if you think this lengthy build-up is because I'm going to hit you with 'and, do you know, we actually did alright!', you'll be sadly disappointed.
We lost 7-1. They hit the woodwork twice. In truth it would have been doubled figures had we not had former Town keeper turned kitman James Pullen in goal. He pulled off a number of top drawer saves.
James got increasingly angry as the game wore on, shouting things like 'oh, we're just stopping now are we?' Yes, James, it's a blazing hot day and we're ever so tired now.
Blues legend Simon Milton, our manager for the day, keep barking at me to get wide and want the ball from goal kicks. Frustrated cries of 'keep it simple' underestimated my ability to play a five-yard pass.
The F2 boys started to pull out a few flicks and tricks. They started trying to walk the ball in. Simon told us, at the drinks break, that he'd be trying to 'kick a few'. I obliged with one meaty slide tackle that drew a hearty cheer from the home dug-out and a mention in the dressing room at the end. There was one decent towering header home too.
On the ball was a different story. I'd hate to see the 'unforced errors' against my name.
Highlights of the day?
Seeing Andy, the better half of our roving reporter duo, man mark a guy I'm reliably told is from The Only Way Is Essex. Look up Dan Osborne. He's an absolute unit. Andy came up to his shoulders. Still nicked it off him a few times though, to be fair.
Also the sight of Dan Palfrey, the club's public relations manager, scrambling us a consolation goal towards the end.
More than anything though, walking into the dressing room for the first time and seeing our printed shirts hanging up and all our kit laid out. That was magic.
Another observation: The tunnel is tight. Really tight. Shoulder-to-shoulder, I can imagine that's a tense place in the moments before serious battle.
Everything seems so quick out there. Watching back the footage it looked so pedestrian.
Former Blues favourite Titus Bramble came for a watch. He joked that he'd have a field day rating our performances. It did make me think that, however much the professionals earn, it must be hard when everyone's a critic.
But, following this surreal experience, back to the day job it is.
Stuart Watson - Unfit, reckless and lacked quality. Out of his depth. 3