What happened last season?
What's going to happen next season?
"Top of the league, and you f***ed it up" sang the happy hammers fans as they celebrated a second successive play-off victory over Town back in May. As irritating as it was to be serenaded out of Portman Road to those words ringing around the ground, that just about summed up 2004-05 for Ipswich.
We topped the league for well over three months - at one stage moving five points clear of Sunderland and Wigan - and then came your visit to Suffolk! Yes, it's all your fault. Midweek defeat by the Hornets was followed the next Saturday by a second straight home reverse at the hands of QPR and the downward turn continued as Town dropped out of the top three a week later following a 1-0 loss at Wigan.
There were brief hints that a return to the top two was a possibility but the inevitability of yet another play-off appearance was confirmed on the final day of the season with Town requiring a win to stand any chance of automatic promotion (they drew at Brighton) while hoping that Wigan would drop points at home to Reading (the Latics won comfortably).
The agony was completed just under two weeks later, when West Ham, despite finishing 12 points behind us in the table, outplayed us in the second leg of the play-offs to record a deserved 4-2 aggregate victory.
So, big match nerves failed Town once again. But on the bright side at least we have a couple of local derbies to look forward to. Town's chances? The good news is that Town's multiple-award winning head groundsman Alan Ferguson has turned down a move to the all-new Wembley Stadium but our strike force of Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi and midfielder Tommy Miller, who between them scored 50 plus goals last season have all moved to Premiership sides, while Championship 'keeper of the year Kelvin Davis, who had a superb season between the sticks, has also made the move upstairs.
Joe Royle moved quickly to replace the front two with the signing of Reading's Nicky Forster and persuaded League One's leading marksman Sam Parkin to leave Swindon for East Anglia ahead of competition from a number of other Championships sides, including the forces or darkness and evil from the northern end of the A140.
The division's most generous defence still needs bolstering, with Joe Royle looking to take a Premiership defender on a year's loan. This could see the return to Portman Road of David Unsworth, who enjoyed a relatively successful four months here at the back of the last campaign. Also at the back, it looks as though young Welsh U-21 keeper Lewis Price will get a stab at a prolonged run as first choice number 1, following Davis' departure, while the young Irish glovesman and FA Youth Cup winner Shane Supple will provide back-up.
And on the subject of the FA Youth Cup, while winning it by no means made up for losing out on promotion, the side that lifted the trophy contains a number of really exciting young prospects, two of whom, local lad Liam Trotter, and another Irishman Owen Garvan, are expected to make their debuts in the senior side at some point this coming season. Add to those two the exciting young prospects Dean McDonald (former Arsenal youth midfielder), Jaime Peters (Canadian U-20 midfielder) and Jimmy Juan (another midfielder - on loan for the season from AS Monaco) and the prospects for the next nine months, despite the loss of so many senior players during the close season - don't look quite so bleak.
As far as the coming season is concerned I fully expect the unmentionables to mount a serious challenge for an immediate return to the Premiership while Southampton and Palace, the other two demoted sides, to be there or there abouts come May. Wolves and Leeds, damp squids last season, should also challenge for top six finishes this time around, with Town in amongst them (and then losing in the play-offs obviously).
Soundbites (from assorted Census correspondents)
I like Christmas."
"Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is...smile back."
"I really do know the capital of Ecuador off the top of my head, and some others. Oh, and Ipswich will scrape into the play-offs, give us hope, and then ingloriously fail for the eighth time. Watford 10th."
"I'm really a Liverpool fan, but Ipswich is my second team. And any site that uses a moose in a dunce cap for a logo is clearly a site to be reckoned with."
"You didn't give any rules for the Ecuador question so it was impossible to know whether I cheated or not. I'm assuming using Google was legal therefore.
I'm a painter and you can find some nice paintings here www.6fish.co.uk"
"Team quesion is a bit unfair, we haven't got much of a squad left"