Warning – this article contains respectful references to Ipswich Town players and officials of the not-too-distant past
Around 1988, one of my first jobs for a multinational, German-based company, which was mad enough to employ me, was in Hadleigh, Suffolk. It was the epicentre of their agricultural supplies empire and an apparent news hub for their new corporate publications manager (me).
Having parked the brand new F-Reg Orion Ghia near a skip (which was which?) and met the exotic Ms Ling, I was directed to the post room to register my presence on site. I opened the door with great confidence and saw photos of Eric Gates, John Wark, Terry Butcher and the Dutch duo I cannot accurately spell the names of to this day. Arnold and his mate will have to do for now.
A massive ITFC beach towel hid behind the mail baskets. As did Colin.
“Hello boss“, he said. “Wasn’t expecting you. What can I do for you?”
Confidence drained, I just said: “They said I have to sign in.”
He saw my tie (the dark green one with the fine gold stripes and the small canary on the bottom) and laughed like the devil himself.
Two hours later, my work done, we were in some pub in the High Street playing pool. He had to go back; I just had to get home.
This liaison continued for around three years. But at that time, Town were in the ascendency and I suffered. When I came down, we always played pool apart from the occasional trip to the White Horse in Kersey, where they made the sausages. Col always said if he didn’t take some home for his mum, he would be in trouble. Half the site used to go out there at that time, and there was no pool table.
The occasional lack of Kersey sausages was nothing to worry about in comparison with other stuff.
One night I got home to Blofield and had my primitive fax machine billowing all over the floor with crude Suffolk Punches strangling Canaries and words I cannot repeat.
I knew the EADT would be doing the “Well Done Bryan Gunn” badge long before they published it themselves. Colin very kindly posted me two to my home address “in case you know anyone else who supports Norwich”.
And then the tide turned.
My company did what they were best at – selling off expensive sites whilst retaining product rights.
The Hadleigh site shut. I’m sure Ms Ling found gainful employment somewhere; Colin definitely did. In that big, black glass building, aka Willis Faber in Ipswich.
On a day off, I went to see him for a lunchtime pint in that town we all know but should not name. Near the Buttermarket. It was a stonkingly hot day and I had a T-shirt on, revealing a large and pretty recent NCFC tattoo on my right forearm.
“Hello mate where are we going?” I asked Colin (who was responsible for sorting out darts and pool fixtures for the ITFC supporters’ club).
“Oh just somewhere I need to go to sort out some darts stuff“.
He took me to the Blackadder.
We got a pint. And then it was: “Hi Col, who’s that?”
“That’s Martin, he’s a Norwich supporter.”
Bloody wars, it was Alan Brazil. Then in came John Wark with a bag of golf clubs – they’d just played nine holes locally, apparently.
I have to say they were both fantastic company and took the juice very gently. Colin thought he’d done me, and he had. But those guys were both really pleasant and I had a good laugh. I gave as good as I got, bearing in mind it was Brazil’s pub at the time.
The only direct hit I remember registering was when I said I thought Brazil was better for Spurs than he ever was for Ipswich. Warky and Colin agreed.
The tribalism will always remain, but chance encounters like that make you realise the game can be more important than the club you support.
But I still want what’s left of us to murder them on Sunday.
I largely agree with those who say our season has gone – in February. Colin’s never really started.
As he would always say before a derby: I wish you what you would wish me.
And never a truer word spoken.
*If by a miracle anybody knows where Colin Haddock, last heard of by me living in Suffolk Square IP1 in around 2003, is now and could ask or persuade him to get in touch with me via MFW I would be very grateful. Cheers, Martin.