Right, you can put me down for an official DVD of Thursday night’s game.
Not because I want to sit down and watch the thrashing again and again and again. (Although I do.)
But because I’d rather like to see what happened in the first 18 minutes.
I was one of the 300 or so City fans (my estimate – it certainly wasn’t the 100 reported) who didn’t get inside the ground until well after the first goal because we’d been held outside by the police for over half an hour.
Clearly, the greater share of the blame falls on the threatening mob of Town fans which had congregated around the away turnstiles. (You’ve heard the expression ‘The crowd turned ugly…’; it didn’t take long in this case.)
But the police, having allowed this situation to develop in the first place, appeared to have no idea at all how to defuse it.
We were wedged between a row of horses at the front and vans at the back and couldn’t move. In effect, we were being ‘kettled’ – something I never expected to experience.
Of course, the thing about kettles is that steam and pressure builds up and they can eventually boil over. The police should be grateful that the City fans being held were relatively restrained and patient, even after we realised that the game had kicked off without us.
Looking around me, it was clear that our group was made up of ordinary, decent folk. Oh, and Gary Holt. (Hmm, that makes it sound as though I’m suggesting he isn’t a decent chap, which I’m certainly not.)
Since we weren’t causing the police any trouble, you’d have hoped that they would turn their full attention to pushing the Town fans back – but they didn’t move. The looks on the faces of the officers suggested that they didn’t have a clue how to resolve the stand-off.
It’s hard to understand police tactics and methods sometimes. Newspaper seller trying to find his way home – whack him with a big stick. Allegedly. Aggressive louts throwing fireworks and looking for a fight – stand and watch.
The mob only dispersed when their dull brains belatedly registered that they were missing the game – but even as we finally filed through the turnstiles (frustratingly slowly), there were still home fans gathered at the fence on the opposite side of the road.
Once inside the ground, it took a while to concentrate properly on the game as I was so angry at how poorly the whole incident had been handled. And while I’m a veteran of derby encounters, the atmosphere outside had been as evil as I can remember.
Of course, the official view from the police was rather different. A spokesman told the Evening Star that: “There were no major flash points… no major disruption…”
Inspector Matthew Rose stated that: “We have had no serious disorder and… the policing of the game has been a complete success.”
Leaving the ground at the end of the game was no fun either.
It’s long been a joke that we’re always kept inside Portman Road to allow the Ipswich fans to go and set up their ambushes outside. But now it’s getting beyond a joke.
When we finally emerged onto the street, we were again held for ages before moving forwards in fits and starts because the area hadn’t been cleared.
Then, on reaching the car park just before the bridge on the way to the rail station, I was one of several City fans who headed towards our cars, only to face a sizeable opposing group coming towards us – an eventuality that the police hadn’t previously anticipated.
The local constabulary has had enough practice over the years to have worked out how to handle this fixture. But it doesn’t get any better. And with the mood becoming increasingly threatening every time we visit Ipswich, plus the prospect of financial cuts affecting the police’s level of resources, it’s likely to get worse.
So I think that’s probably my last trip to Portman Road. It’s reached the point where I can’t put up with all the unpleasantness any more, even to witness such a brilliant performance and result.
Some might take the view that a threatening atmosphere and hostile confrontations with opposing supporters are what make fixtures like this. To which I’d reply: ‘You carry on without me then…’
A stronger argument would be that if the decent supporters give up going, the idiots have won. That’s what I’ve always maintained over the years, from the hairy days of the 70s and 80s onwards.
But I think I’ve served my time with Ipswich (a) now – and it’s not as though there’s going to be a shortage of takers for my ticket.
Still, perhaps my decision is academic anyway. Hopefully, as the song on the night put it, we will never play them again.
The police weren’t the only ones guilty of poor judgement at Portman Road on Thursday evening. Here are a few extracts from the match report in The Guardian:
“…it will not rank among their [City’s] finest performances this season…”
“…the visitors did not have to be at their best…”
“…the Canaries even looked a touch weary at times…”
“The lack of quality on the ball was marked…”
I’m going to stop moaning about how little coverage we get in the paper if that’s what it’s going to be like.
And finally… BBC presenter Jake Humphrey was just a few rows in front of me at Portman Road. He wrote the introduction to the book City ‘Til I Die, the collection of fans’ stories published last year, and his opening words now seem remarkably prescient:
“I sometimes think I may need professional help. You see, I just can’t get enough of Norwich City…”
All together now – do do, do-do-do do-do, do do, do-do-do do-do…