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Any Ipswich Way You Can

Submitted by on September 22, 2015 – 5:58 pmNo Comment

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The big U-Team take on the Traction boys this week, so why not look back on a preev encounter between the two ancient rivals?

This was from issue three of AFL and will be particularly welcomed by those FC United fans who have an obsession with Ipswich (joke alert – please write in with complaints, we need a laugh)…

Oh how we bounced around the living room of our council maisonette and slid on the slippy shiny black vinyl tiles that concealed the failed underfloor heating when Sammy Mc fired United into the F.A. Cup semi-final. We didn’t care that what we were watching had already happened at least an hour earlier, we celebrated like we were there, there and then, Dad and lad celebrating the legendary 2-nil down 3-2 up at Molineux in glorious BBC black & white highlights.

It was a good night. My Mam and Dad had split up about 12 months earlier. My younger sister and brother had moved out with my Mam, my older 5 siblings were old enough to, and already had, left our domestic battlefield to make their own domestic battlefields while I stubbornly took the Dad option. We stayed in our Openshaw slum, which the council had compulsory purchased, until re-housed to our Abbey Hey “pad” but because Pa Not-Ingles liked to drink booze in the boozer with other boozers it was often a lonely place at night. This night was different though because my Dad had got a couple of bottles of Olde English and a couple a packs of Bennys for a rare night in. His plan was for us to watch the FA Cup Quarter final replay, after the event, on Sportsnight.

It meant avoiding the score, which simply meant avoiding the wireless (not broadband you daft get it wasn’t invented then), which I didn’t like doing because I wanted to suffer and/or enjoy with the Reds that were there, but a night in with my rum fooker of a Dad was worth it. He was a flawed genius who was more comfortable in the pub than in the home – brilliant company but was never going to win any parentcraft awards. Anyway it turned out to be a great idea. Amidst the euphoria that followed the end of extra-time, he promised that if we couldn’t get to the semi we’d do an away game and we’d get there in the Ford Anglia that he recently bought at auction for £40, hoping that it would help him get work.

March 29th 1976 and I’m sat on the 53 bus on the way back from the United ticket office. The most exciting season, match for match, of all my Manchester United watching years was about to enter its last full month. Most exciting? Maybe because I was just 13 and a half but when I hear the term “playing the United way” I think of those Tommy Docherty days. The Doc’s compelling, relentlessly attacking side we’re sitting 2nd in the league, one point behind the entertaining QPR and one above the methodical, efficient Liverpool and days away from that semi at Hillsborough against Derby. Inside my maths exercise book are two tickets for Ipswich Town v Manchester United at Portman rd.

There were no juniors – the robbing bastards – so I had to buy two adults at 65p each. Tickets for our first choice of Burnley away on the Easter Monday had gone on sale the same day but as I had to go for them after school they had sold out. I’d already suspected this would happen so covered it by getting my not-really-paying-attention Pater to permit plans for Ipswich as a back-up. I was well looking forward to it and Ipswich seemed a more adventurous choice and were better opposition. Like one or two lads at school I’d been to all the home games that season. I’d also done both derbies at Maine Rd. which no Reds in my year had done and Ipswich? surely nobody in the whole school was going apart from me.

The look on my Dad’s face said it all. Well not all, it said “fookin bastard, no way did I envisage driving four hundred and thirty miles in the Anglia, what I actually had in mind was the seventy mile round trip deal I thought I was entering into.” He’d not listened. I knew it at the time. He made a few excuses but he knew backing out of the ‘deal’ would have left me gutted like a bird on its back.

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The evening before the match I stayed in excited for the match. My Dad on the other hand had not had a night in since our Cup do. He was on the dole but was getting a bit of work off his mate Bob doing steel erecting. This meant a few more quid in his pocket which meant a few more quid behind the bar in either the Bowling Green or The Prince. He told me he’d be back early that night with his “supplementary benefit” so we could get an early start in the morn. He staggered in at half two absolutely bladdered. It turned out that Bob-a-job hadn’t turned up with the bob which meant me Dad spent the little he had whilst waiting for him. It also meant that if his giro didn’t arrive first thing we were off to Suffolk with nuffink.

After dragging a still pissed Papa out of his pit with about three or four quid in his pockets and practically putting him in the driving seat we set off south in the Anglia for East Anglia. Drink driving wasn’t such a big deal then and driving in the morning a few hours after a session wasn’t even against the law – probably.

After a drive of less than two hours we’d passed through Chesterfield and just past a junction of the M1 we pulled into a lay-by as my Dad decided he needed more kip. He got his head down while I looked at a large bush out of the window. The Anglia had a red and white two fingered “Up United” sticker in the back window and I wished it hadn’t when a coachload of Leeds pulled up in front of us. They were heading to Tottenham, it was a piss-stop and they piled off wearing the standard ox-blood docs and their white, yellow and blue scarves tied round their wrists (just the scarves were around the wrists not the docs you thick twat). As they emptied their bladders and generally ballooned about all over the lay-by I sat there shitting it waiting for them to turn on us.

Fortunately a bloke further up in a Transit van had complained about his back doors getting a golden shower thus volunteering himself for some further attention culminating in one of them trying to piss on his shoes. They fooked off but within minutes another coachload of sheep took their place. A kid was giving me the vs out of the back window. This is it I thought. This trip was doomed from the start. I woke my Dad up and he had that startled what are you doing and where am I look on his face. I told him I thought these Leeds were going to start but he wasn’t arsed. He said they were just kids messing and usual he was right and they were gone.

Back on route about three quidsworth was added to what little was already in the tank leaving us a few pence for a pie at the match. Eventually we were tootling down a more decent road – the A1, then through Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds and into Ipswich. We parked about five minutes walk away from the ground and as we made down a street leading to Portman Road we could see it kicking off ahead. Further along the street we passed a woman who was crying outside her house. A couple of her windows had been put in and I don’t want to appear judgemental but I reckon it was United fans what done it. On Portman Rd. itself United fans scuffled with dibble at one end of the ground while at the other a larger group were trying to leather a few police dogs. My Dad said that he hoped the dogs weren’t the pre-match entertainment and although he had time for a joke it was clear that he never expected mither like this. He’d been a decent boxer in his schooldays and in the army and was a decent fighter so he wasn’t scared of violence. His concern was more that a friendly club like Ipswich was the victim of bullying by the huge travelling Red Army but for whatever reason I buzzed off it at the time.

We went and stood at the front of the small terrace in the recently built Portman stand which resembled the United Rd. cantilever stand. United also took up one stand behind the goal at the north stand but as the song goes we were here, there and everyfookinwhere. Two of what your Mam would describe as dolly birds made their way around the perimeter of the pitch with a bloke that must have been Ipswich’s oldest fan or something, selling raffle tickets. The girls were wearing tight t-shirts, hot-pants and knee-length boots and the old fella had a blue hand-knitted tank top that had a perfect Ipswich crest on the front. The pure knitting skillage that must have gone into this garment had me fixated. No wonder he hadn’t washed it – it might have shrunk and he’d have had to hand it down to one of the dollies. I’ve always regretted not asking him for the pattern. Meanwhile United fans subjected the girls to a predecessor of the “tits out” song – the more respectable “gerrem off” to the tune of Mungo Jerry’s ‘Long Legged Woman Dressed in Black’ a tune that would be later used with the threatening lyrics ‘can you run?’.

United, a week after reaching Wembley, were at full strength apart from the No.10 shirt which was given to McCreery while Macari was rested. He was sorely missed in a game that needed his menace and an Ipswich side tough in midfield and defence and two decent strikers in Whymark and Johnson slapped the Reds 3-0. Disgruntled fans existed then too and one ran on the pitch to sort things out before being nicked.

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At the end of the match Ipswich fans were asked via the tannoy to remain in the ground until further instruction. Outside there was a problem in that there didn’t seem to be enough coppers to deal with the amount of Reds that wanted to hang around and slap a few farmers. We left the ground and headed to the car to the sound of “come on Ipswich” from the awaiting Reds. Several police reinforcements passed us on our way back and the next day we would learn there had been a respectable (for those days) 58 arrests, which for romantics was the same number as our house.

As we headed back home through Newmarket it appeared there was a hurdle which could end up being a major handicap – a severe lack of fuel and the akkas to buy it. We made our way through Cambridge towards the A1 and although he didn’t have a degree, my Dad had calculated that we would probably run out of Jusoda in the middle of the Peak Forest but hey no point in moaning. For the next 60 or 70 miles I continued to worry as apparently there was no plan for the inevitable and Dad was looking at the petrol gauge more than the road. Going to a police station for help was not going to happen for reasons we won’t go into here – so what we gonna do then Daddy?

The Anglia left the A1 at Newark and my Dad announced that he was going to test the charity of the Catholic church and ask for some divine intervention as it was a miracle that we’d got this far.
We pulled up at the first church we saw and a man in black (no, not another hoolie) was making his way down the stone steps. My Dad spoke to him then came back with a pound note. He wasn’t Cat he was Prod and the quid was all he could spare but he gave my Dad directions to the only Cat church in the area. My not-so-holy father reckoned he could give a Catholic priest a better line of spiel and answer questions on the catechism if required. I was left in the car while Dad made his way to the presbytery.

I sat there for twenty minutes then began to panic when I heard reels, jigs and hornpipes coming from the catholic club next door to the church. The bastard will be in there I thought. He’s gone and borrowed money and now he’s gonna piss it up the wall. Oh me of little faith. I knocked on the presbytery door and the archetypal small old-lady-priest servant answered the door. She took me to my father who was seated on the right hand side of the Father. The holy one was speaking on an old red phone that sat on a table next to him.

After being grilled, my Dad had given him our deets and he was checking that we were on record as parishioners with our local priest. We passed our Catholic credit check and before handing my Dad a bluey the Ian Paisley lookalike gave me a brief church attendance quiz. They exchanged addresses then my Dad took off his Seiko – some day all watches will be made this way – timepiece and gave it our holy benefactor as insurance asking him to send it back once we’d returned the fiver.

With money in his pocket and tiger in the tank my Dad was king of the road again. We stopped in nearby Mansfield to get some chippy and a bottle of dandelion and burdoch and after wolfing it down the rest was plain sailing. My Dad never got his watch back even though he’d swore on the bible that he’d sent the fiver. This meant either he was a liar or the Newark priest a thief – so we must come to a safe conclusion and blame either the Abbey Hey postie or his Nottinghamshire counterpart. A couple more sins occurred here though. United won fuckall that season and Ipswich away was the only match my Dad ever took me to.

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