Football League Division Two, 17/04/06, 3.00pm
By Mike Peter
MSN Messenger is an excellent invention. Especially in the wake of cheap broadband, it means I can talk to my friends pretty much twenty four hours a day, whenever I please. As I write I am sitting in my chair, supping on some pineapple juice, chomping on my chocolate biscuits, writing this and all the while conducting multiple conversations with my numerous acquaintances around the world.
There are, however, drawbacks. Firstly, as with any real life interaction, one must give an MSN conversation a fair deal of attention. If I were talking to you in person, I think you would rightly get annoyed if, whilst you were rambling on about work or whatever you do, I picked up the paper and read a couple of articles. Similarly, leave a MSN window for too long and the conversation will pass you by, or stop, or even worse the person will start pleading for you to come back, which is simultaneously an ego-boost and hugely depressing. Secondly, it's hard to turn off. When all your friends are at your beck and call, how could you possibly turn it off and focus on work? And thirdly, you have to talk to your best friends pretty much all the time. As with real best friends, if they're in your presence you will talk to them. All my best friends are in my presence all the time.
One case is Tom. Tom and I share similar depressingly long times online, and thus spend about four to five hours a day talking to one another, in what is probably the longest non-erotic Internet conversation of all time. Naturally, as we spend so much time talking to one another we cover a fair amount of subjects. Which is why, a month or so ago, we spent two hours or the early morning discussing the concept of giant wasps.
Now, I don't want to descend into sub-Mighty Boosh animal whimsy (a depressing prospect in itself), but it was an excellent chat, this one. It started when Tom, who does a degree in scriptwriting, mentioned that a friend of his wanted to make a film called "High Rise Wasp Crisis." Now, as I'm sure you agree, this possibly beats the forthcoming Snakes on a Plane for sheer brilliance. We then went on to decide that if one inserted giant wasps into pretty much anything they would be better for it. Films - there's little doubt in my mind that a giant wasp would have secured Brokeback Mountain an Oscar win. Music - if a giant wasp attacked and killed the Pussycat Dolls, the world would be a better place. A friend's lovelife - a giant wasp would provide a companion, which is better than what he's got now.
Personally, I think Ipswich's fans are dying for a giant wasp, albeit they probably don't know it. Their current standing of thirteenth is hardly a tragedy of a season, but it's certainly a step down from the heights of last season, where they were a mere two points away from taking Wigan's second place. Fan relations with chairman David Sheepshanks, which were never particularly friendly, went downhill when a spate of players were sold to pay the bills, leaving boss Joe Royle with only half a side. Members of Ipswich's 2005 FA Youth Cup winning team have been fast-tracked into the side, but whilst almost all have impressed the club's fortunes took an inevitable down-turn. A 4-1 loss to Stoke at the weekend perhaps marked the nadir of Royle's reign, and he has urged his players to react to the onslaught of criticism that came after the match.
In goal for the Tractor Boys will be eighteen year old Shane Supple, who has impressed since coming into the side in December. That said, as is to be expected of a keeper of his age, he is prone to occasional mistakes. His deputy is Lewis Price, only three years Supple's senior. Price made his debut for Wales against Cyprus in November, and Ipswich fans believe he may seek first-team football elsewhere in order to consolidate a place in the national side.
At right-back Fabian Wilnis is still plugging away, although at thirty five his attacking potency has long since lost its edge. At Stoke, Wilnis switched to the left, with eighteen year old Chris Casement coming in on the right. However, Casement's half-time substitution suggests that regular left-back, fiery Spaniard Luis Sito, should return to the side, with Wilnis returning to his preferred right. Youngster Scott Barron is another possible option on the left, whilst another left-back, Matt Richards, has been playing in midfield. Royle still says he wants to bring in another full-back, although it won't be James McEveley - the Blackburn loanee is apparently out of Town's price range, and has been left out of the squad for the weekend's games. In the centre, the uncompromising pair of Jason De Vos and Richard Naylor have little to no competition, although in an error-prone Ipswich side, they are relatively reliable.
In midfield, starlet Owen Garvan and Spanish sounding Frenchman Jimmy Juan form a creative, if somewhat lightweight, central partnership. The general consensus on the messageboards is that neither are likely to be at Portman Road next season - Juan is on loan from Monaco and a permanent move is probably out of Town's price range, whilst Garvan is apparently going to be flogged to the Premiership to write off some of the debt. Not exactly a brilliant prospect for Town fans, and not made easier by Jim Magilton's likely departure. Now thirty seven, Magilton has been looking increasingly slow of late, and with his contract up in the summer he is almost certain to depart. Norwegian Vermund Brekke-Skand will probably cameo from the bench, but both Ian Westlake and January signing Gavin Williams are out injured. Kevin Horlock is on loan at Doncaster. On the right, Darren Currie is playing on his wrong foot, whilst left-back Richards takes the other wide berth.
Up front, January purchase Alan Lee has been struggling along without any recognisable striking partner. Royle has resorted to throwing both Currie and Naylor up in recent games. Dean Bowditch returned at Stoke but to no great acclaim, he's been accused of laziness and many fans feel he should move on. With Lee doubtful with a groin injury, Bowditch is likely to start regardless of form. However, should Lee be fit Bowditch may make way for Nicky Forster. Out since December with a knee injury, Forster made an appearance in the reserves during the week, and looks set to play some part in the weekend's activities. Royle has complained about Forster's injuries problems, but, considering his record at Reading, as one messageboard correspondent puts it, "it's like buying a car without an MOT then complaining when it doesn't work." Youngster Danny Haynes is also likely to feature, he scored lots of goals at youth level, and netted his third goal of the season against Stoke. Former Watford target Sam Parkin has been out injured since November.
With automatic promotion out of the question and a play-off place secured, it'd be no great tragedy if we didn't win this. Nonetheless, some semblance of form must be achieved before we hit the play-offs, even if the teams that are likely to join us are stuttering as well. Futhermore, with Palace and Preston just four points behind at the time of writing, a last trickle of points would be handy in securing a favourable draw, and the third place that is rightfully ours.
Bring it on.