Ipswich Town 1-5 Norwich City (21:04:11)
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Chris Mills reports on the Ipswich v Norwich abomination before stabbing a fork into his thigh...
THERE are some things that cannot be unseen. There are some things all records of which must be shredded, ground into dust and buried 60 metres down in a lead-lined, concrete sarcophagus. Then dug up and fired into the centre of the sun.
No, what I saw was not Hans Bressinck dad-dancing with Danny Last to Céline Dion at 3am in the back room of a dodgy Antwerp boozer. No, what I saw was more horrific even than that.
What I saw was an internet page displaying the inexplicable scoreline: Ipswich Town 1 Norwich City 5. I attended the match in my role of video monkey (saving clips for the half- and full-time highlights reels) but I wasn’t really watching.
I did look up at one point, however, to see Ipswich Town player James “Jimmy” Bullard smack in a 40-metre screamer past a motionless keeper. Someone told me that apparently whoever we were playing also scored a few times but it was agreed across the global football community that Bully’s goal was by far the best of the night.
And it had all started so well.
I had arranged what is referred to in the groundhopper community as the “Triple Crown” – drinking with three different nationalities before a game; in this case three Dutchmen, a Swede and a Belgian, namely the up-and-coming EFW youngster and probationary Bronze Member “Super” Hans Bressinck.
Glass-hoppers: From left, Dutchman Hugo and (obscured), Joost, a Swede and new convert to Suffolk’s Adnams Best bitter, Hans
After a visit to the club shop – the violent-sounding World of Punch – Ipswich Town is now Hans’s 27th favourite team
Crowd-favourite Hansy, a product of the much-respected EFW Academy, has been careering recklessly between Euro stadions since his he came on as a sub to complete a remarkable debut three years ago, aged only 18.
“I have many old friends,” the cheeky youngster explained at over a pint of Adnams bitter, stating that by this he means friends who are old, not friends he has known for a long time. “This is how I can fit in with the EFW demographic.”
Not realising the Dutchmen and the Swede were so well organised they had scheduled a Pizza Express run, I kept the boy Bressinck waiting almost one hour past our 16:00 meeting time, thinking he’d be surrounded by Euro-pals as he languished pre-match. As it goes, the Phlegmish enfant terrible eventually confessed he’d been 20 minutes late himself and then quite happily wiled away the time by trying beer for the first time and listening to the charming chants of the Town fans present at Mannings bar in the Buttermarket, the Grande Place of Ipswich.
The world-weary manageress of the joint told me she’d moved on the braying drunkards about half an hour earlier when they began to scare the horses and disconcert elderly patrons trying to enjoy their tripe and onion paninis and halves of Mild.
And, indeed, on my way into the town centre, I had been delighted to hear the charming melodies of a hundred or so Tractor boys, now herded into The County pub as a good proportion of the 300 or so Suffolk, Norfolk and British Transport police on duty kept watch. There was also a helicopter buzzing the centrum to make sure no football supporter hurt somebody’s feelings.
There were 300 coppers and horses wearing skate board gear on duty for the Town v Canaries derby (and 19 arrests)
There was a “carnival” atmosphere on the training pitch behind the Britannia Stand. Right, the training pitch is also used to graze huge horses
Turns out this probably wasn’t overkill. There were 19 arrests (despite what you may have heard, NOT Hans) and 13 people were ejected from the stadion. Most fans were fine and dandy but cops said “a significant minority” were throwing bottles, glasses, coins, batteries and fireworks at police and away supporters. What a waste of useful stuff.
Segregation rules meant the stade’s 30,000 capacity could not be breached so there were officially 29,258 there that night, of whom more than 2,100 were in Canary yellow. Predictably, they were loud and abusive.
Top cop Supt John Everett told tired and emotional journalists later: “At times, certainly immediately prior to kick-off and outside the visitors’, and on the way back to the railway station after the match, it was very challenging for police officers… we were very stretched…”
But back in the convivial atmosphere of Mannings, things were very different. I soon realised my fellow drinkers were righteous G-hoppers. Although at first I thought they were simply clearing their throats, I gradually became aware they were discussing football in Dutch. It went something along the lines of: “*Unintelligible* *unintelligible* Wesht Brom *unintelligible* *unintelligible* *unintelligible* Foresht Green Roversh *unintelligible* *unintelligible* *unintelligible* ”… and so on.
It turns out Dutchman Hugo hooked up with Super-Hans in the Phoenix footy chatroom – a Dutch groundhopping message board – and every year he, Joost and Yves (for it was they) act as sponsor to what they call “the Phoenix match” – teams so far have included Yeading FC, Wokingham and Marlow (Bucks). I love the image of local PA men struggling with the Dutch names over 1930s Tannoy systems. You can read about these hijinksh on Hugo’s excellent webshite (the Dutch word for “website”). This site has links with EFW’s adopted German team 1.FC Union Berlin.
The late, great Sir Robert “Bobby” Robson emblazoned across the corner of the North and Cobbold stands at Portman Road
My uncle Mick with a young Ian Rush circa 1982, as seen on the stairway to the media centre and VIP areas at Portman Road
And so it came to pass that part-time undertaker Hans – already legendary thanks to his stories of defrosting corpses with a hair-dryer and being named as a necrophile in an Israeli newspaper – was impelled to chug his final two-thirds of Adnams bitter when the Swede announced we should head for Portman Road with an hour to spare “to take pictures”.
And what shots they were, depicting glories past in the form of statues of former Ipswich and England managers Sir Robert “Bobby” Robson and Sir Ernest Alfred “Alf” Ramsey and the Sir Bobby Robson stand (formerly “North Stand” with its giant Sir Bob mural over the club shop), illuminated by the soft sunlight of a late-spring evening.
Then out came the stars, shining and twinkling against a glorious night sky. A stunning backdrop; so black… black… BLAAACK… so dark! So endless! So empty! So much despair… so much sadness… My eyes are pies! My eyes are pies! What shall we do with the football, mother? Pop it like a broken heart and post it to horrid Nanny Farquar with a luncheon voucher. Yes! Post it to Nanny! She waits for me in the nursery; pointing and laughing! Laughing and pointing! No! Not the green shorts again, Nanny! Don’t make me put them on! I’ll be a good boy! I’ll be a…
(*An hour passes. A clock chimes softly in the drawing room. Dust motes dance above a mahogany sideboard. The muffled sound of voices and the doors of a white Morris Oxford van being slammed. An engine starts...*)
Now, I know there are probably some Norwich fans who might read this. Maybe even some among the EFW membership. But you ain’t getting zip out of me here. If you want a match report, Google it.
My view of the match – mostly the cameras of Anglia TV, beaming the game back to a giant screen at Carrow Road, Norwich. Turned out to be the best view
Diary of the broken-hearted: My notes for the highlights reels. At one particularly horrific moment I slammed down my half-time coffee, resulting a distinctly strange stain
Fading to black: The lights of Portman Road as fans stream home – at this stage the ecstatic and tedious Norwich contingent were still being held captive inside the stadium by the Filth
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