Ipswich, Saturday 2nd December 2017

Ipswich away is always one of those games I look forward to. When it lands on a Saturday at 3pm it’s genuinely one of my favourite trips of the season. Honest! There are far too few football grounds where you can step off a train and find yourself a matter of minutes from the ground and the town centre. The added bonus is that there are also some very good pubs. The downside is it’s a long way and not easily reached however you travel.

In the days of retail park football grounds miles out of town it’s refreshing to visit Portman Road; a proper ground with some character. Four individual stands including a two tiered Cobbold Road Stand where away fans are housed. With just over 1,000 tickets sold we’ll probably all be together in the upper tier.

Thankfully Ipswich have decided to reduce their ridiculous ticket prices to a more reasonable £25 this season. It’s often unreserved seating but, if it’s not, those wishing to stand at the back can usually find the back few rows aren’t sold. Usually.

For those seeking a pre-match drink, directly opposite Ipswich Station is the appropriately named Station Hotel. It’s the designated away pub and is usually where the travelling fans congregate together. Because of the close proximity to the ground it’s ideally reached by those on coaches and in cars aswell as those who have arrived via rail. It’s okay but there are better options if you can be bothered and have time to explore. Also keep in mind it’s often shut after the game. For those like us on a later train (17:56) then I’d recommending heading elsewhere because by the time you have walked there you’re already running short on time to get to somewhere else.

The Swan is a small but decent establishment where we spent much of our time before last season’s game. Just down the road is the Black Horse. There is a ‘Home Fans Only’ sign on the door but we’ve never had any issues. The landlady, so they say, is a Forest fan which probably helps. It’s more of a place for when the weather is better as it’s a bit pokey inside and extremely busy. But if you are about early then give it a try. Possibly the best pub in Ipswich and very close to Portman Road. The town centre is a five minute walk from the ground and has various other places to try. I couldn’t possibly begin to remember the names of them unfortunately but there’s a few to choose from.

We’ll be arriving into Ipswich on the 10:34 which doesn’t arrive until 13:28 so there won’t be much chance for us to sample the aforementioned pubs but we’ll get chance for a couple no doubt to supplement the cans we make our way through on the train.

Another group of us are making their way down in the car. We’ve only ever parked in the car park right next to the stadium and found it a pain to get out again. Something we have done a couple of times now is to park up at Stowmarket which is just up the line and catch a train the rest of the way. We found this better than navigating in and then out of Ipswich.

Our results on the pitch at Portman Road really has been a mixed bag in my time. It’s a relatively successful ground to visit with my dozen or so games since 2002 bringing 5, maybe 6 wins Thinking about it have we won anywhere as much as Portman Road since we left the Premier League? There have been a fair few less fondly remembered games there though. The 6-0 under Megson and a couple of long Tuesday night voyages where we returned empty handed spring to mind.

My favourite ever visit was actually my first. Spring 2002 as we battled Ipswich for a place in the play-offs. 2-0 down in a very short space of time soon became 2-3 and then 3-3 before we edged it 3-4. A tremendous game, very possibly one of the best games of football I’ve witnessed. I remember charging down the aisle when the equaliser came and nearly cartwheeling straight into the lower tier. If you were there for that one there is a strong possibility I hugged you that day.

This time out who on earth knows? We’re more than capable of winning convincingly and more than capable of losing in the crushing manner only we can. But, you know, I’m enjoying it. It feels like we are all stumbling forward together. We stagger from side to side every now again and take the odd step back but forward it most certainly is. I believe a day will come before too long when we’ll break into a stride. And when we do make sure you can say you were backing this team when they really needed it.

See you in Ipswich. And Come On You Reds.