Fuller Flavour: Revealing my four favourite Town players of all time, plus quizzing with Matt Holland
In this break in football action, there has been an interesting topic doing the rounds on Twitter where someone names their four favourite-ever players and then tags in four people to name theirs.
Ipswich fans have joined in with lots of the usual great names, whilst others had some less obvious choices. Thanks to Town fan Steve Lewis who tagged me into the conversation, I offered up my all-time favourite John Wark, followed by Paul Mariner, Terry Butcher and Marcus Stewart.
Steve by the way, announced Terry Butcher as his all-time hero, followed by Mariner, Mark Brennan and Jason Dozzell.
I must admit that it’s very difficult to think of favourites when you’ve been a fan for over 40 years. Different teams from different eras offer different moments to remember and with that, players that become more memorable than others.
When I think about three of my choices, they come from the greatest era of my time supporting Town and would be obvious choices. Wark is my ultimate hero as he served us on three separate occasions in my first 20 years as a fan.
I could quite easily have added at least another three players to my list which would include Kevin Beattie, Kevin Wilson and Matt Holland. It’s probably a sad reflection of our time that I have had no favourites since the Stewart and Holland days.
Matt recently appeared on BBC’s A Question of Sport and it took me back to a similar event that was organised by the supporters club that was held at Witham Town Football Club back in the late 1990’s. I was part of a supporters team that took on a team of ITFC Journalists and a team of players where Mark Venus and Adam Tanner joined Matt.
Among our carload of fans was a friend’s daughter who I will not name in case of causing her embarrassment and it’s fair to say that her affection towards Matt was as close to Beatle-Mania that I’ll ever see. She was simply besotted with him.
I found myself sitting next to Matt who was very funny , quite often trying to distract me with wrong answers to the questions that I had to face. During the interval, my friend’s daughter asked me what it was like sitting next to Matt and she was literally shaking.
She wanted me to ask Matt to sign her photo of him in her purse which was all well and good until she got it out and it was in about three bits. I introduced her to Matt who kindly had a photo with her, and I think even today that must remain the highlight of her life.
At that time, I was also conducting player interviews for the fanzine ‘Those Were the Days’ and had the pleasure of interviewing Matt in December 1999. I dug the fanzine out recently and read that interview with great interest given that we ended that season in style with the play-off final win at Wembley.
I asked Matt what it would take to prise him away from the club at the time given that he had just earned his first international cap (given to him by Mick McCarthy). He responded with: “I’d like to play in the Premier League, and I think that I can realise that ambition with Ipswich.”
I asked Matt how he thought the rest of the season ago, and he responded: “I think it will be good. We got a good basis with a reasonable start, we’re in a decent position and we’ve got a good squad of players. The manager still has money to go into the transfer market (and then went on to buy Marcus Stewart) and I don’t see any reason why we won’t be up there at the end of the season.“
Five months later, he was lifting that trophy at Wembley and his ambition was to become emphatically realised.
Another question surrounded his famous post-match lap of applause, and he told me how it came about. “I did it at Bournemouth and carried it on at Ipswich. I appreciate fans spend a lot of money and travel a long distance. It’s something I’ve always done to say thank you.”