This is not a Football Match.
By Matt Rowson
Let's make one thing clear. There is not a game of football taking place at Portman Road next weekend. And if there were, we certainly wouldn't be able to tell you about it. It's top secret, see. Would be top secret.
You need to bear in mind that we at BSaD are not contributing to anyone's enjoyment of football, not supporting the "industry" at all. We're just parasites, us. Cynically exploiting the benevolent Football Authorities' generosity by dressing up our match previews in a load of old bollocks like this to attempt to conceal the fact that we're actually talking about football. Would be talking about football. If this were a match preview. Which it isn't.
The events of the last week or so have left us enlightened and educated. We recognise, now, that football clubs' incomes and therefore the hard-earned, fully-merited, not-at-all-questionable-on-a-grander-scale-when-compared-to-incomes-of-people-that-do-anything-useful salaries of professional footballers cannot be jeopardised by something as vindictive and exploitative as the listing of the club's fixture list on our website. Rio Ferdinand (I know, but he's such an easy target) can now sleep at night, safe in the knowledge that next week's hundred grand (or whatever) is being so assiduously defended by individuals with nothing but the good of the game at heart.
We fully appreciate, too, that there's nothing remotely questionable about the Football Authorities' broader practice of bleeding money from the newspapers and other media by attempting to copyright fixture lists or anything else. "Symbiotic relationship"? We don't even know how to spell "symbiotic"!
If such an entity as Ipswich Town even existed, their supporters would find themselves a very different beast to that which didn't exist over the past couple of years. Since they weren't relegated (whatever that is (or isn't (blow this, it's getting silly))) the Blues have been there or thereabouts, to a gradually receding degree amongst the pre-season favourites for promotion.
However, since the cessation of parachute payments the summer before last, Ipswich have pared down their squad. Last season's third place was no mean feat given the economising that had preceded it; this summer Darren Bent, Shefki Kuqi, Tommy Miller and Kelvin Davis left for Premiership clubs and such replacements as have been brought in have, for different reasons, failed to convince as yet. Ipswich's squad is now dominated by players at either end of their careers - always the most concerning aspect of the squad that three summers of similar economising had left Ray Lewington with. Six of the eleven that started at Reading on Sunday, as flimsy and inept a performance as I remember seeing an Ipswich side put in for some time, were over thirty and in several cases tellingly so. Ipswich's production line has been prolific, but they've never needed to rely on it quite as much as they will do this season. With only one "senior player" (at twenty-two, Ian Westlake) injured, the squad already looks thin. It's no surprise that at this early stage the Blues are in mid-table rather than pushing the Blades and Reading at the top.
In any fallow period, as we've demonstrated only too frequently down the years, the big striker struggling for goals is a particularly easy target. As such it's hardly surprising that the locals haven't exactly warmed to Sam Parkin yet... his overall contribution not justifying the banner headlines that the scramble for his signature in the summer (in which we were early casualties) had provoked. Parkin has four goals to date, but critically perhaps none at Portman Road, and his lack of aggression seems to be rankling.
Alongside him, the experienced Nicky Forster's involvement has been limited by cartilage surgery; his start at old club Reading was his first for two months. Other options are the chunky Adam Proudlock, sacked by Sheffield Wednesday for a breach of discipline before being "loaned" to Ipswich to circumnavigate transfer-window rules, and Dean Bowditch. Scorer of a hat-trick in this fixture two seasons ago, Bowditch's career has wandered a little since; he was lucky to escape with a yellow card for a malicious tackle on Boris Gunnarsson on Sunday.
Joe Royle fielded an experimental 3-5-2 at Reading which only lasted until half-time, presumably in an attempt to flood the midfield. It seems likely that he'll return to the more conventional 4-4-2 at the weekend. This should see Irish teenager Owen Garvan reintroduced to a midfield that looked neat but, well, a little short on legs in his absence... Jim Magilton, Kevin Horlock and Darren Currie have a combined age of ninety-eight. In the absence of ankle ligament victim Westlake, the alternatives are youngsters... Jimmy Juan, on loan from Monaco since January, Canadian Jaime Peters and ex-Arsenal winger Dean McDonald.
At the back, Canadian Jason de Vos is not the cult figure at Portman Road that he was at Wigan, and must have wondered more than once whether he made the right decision in pursuing this Bosman move a year ago. Richard Naylor is more popular - unflinchingly committed, despite certain technical limitations. Spaniard Luis Sito has generally won favour since his summer arrival from Racing Ferrol, despite two red cards, and should play right back whilst James McEveley, on loan from Blackburn, has been playing left back ("playing" in the loosest sense at Reading, where he looked particularly watery). Fabian Wilnis, now thirty-five, has played across the back line at different stages, whilst left-back Matt Richards is also likely to make the squad despite poor form.
In goal, Welsh international call-up Lewis Price, twenty-one, has looked good in stepping in since Davis' departure; his cover comes from Irish teenager Shane Supple, who made his debut earlier in the season.
An away game against a side low in confidence who will nonetheless expect to come at us but who might not be terribly quick all over the pitch sounds like a reasonable bet for a turnaround in our own fortunes, writing before Tuesday's trip to Sheffield. However, before last season this hadn't been a particularly fruitful hunting ground.
In any event, and before I forget, I ought to mention something else that BSaD has learned this week. Copyright law, it appears, allows you to claim the right to charge for anything you like, as far as I understand it. There's something to do with proving creative effort in court in there as well, but that hasn't seemed to deter NetResult or DataCo in their dealings with us or any number of other websites. Of course, court is a bit academic if the people you're trying to extract money out of don't have the resources to call your bluff. Kinda convenient, seeing as the whole charade has about as much chance of standing up in court as I have of swimming to the moon.
On which basis, albeit we should have perhaps mentioned this at the off, we'd like to experiment with this rather anarchic sounding system ("Wild West Capitalism" if ever I heard it) by charging you each £5 for reading this non-preview. £5 might seem a bit steep, but I've got all sorts of stuff to do to the house and Christmas is coming on, you know how it is. Special rates for employees of NetResult and DataCo, obviously - £500 to you guys. Pay us when you see us, eh?
Alternatively, we'll see you in court.