The Championship. It’s official – it’s a division that is not good for the health and wellbeing of football supporters.
It’s the final week of January, there are still nineteen league games left in the season, yet as a supporter of a side currently in the promotion shake-up, I find myself now unavoidably consumed in its every twist, turn and permutation between now and the 2nd of May (or possibly beyond).
To be honest, I’m dreading it already. If this was a ride at a theme park, I’d already be screaming like a cocksure and over-adventurous child to get off. I know this reluctant association is going to lead to significant variations in mood, outlook and demeanour between now and the final kick of a marathon season.
I’m starting to take far too much interest in the respective fixture lists of our fellow challengers. I really don’t want to know when Bournemouth have to face Watford next, when Derby travel to Wolves or how many days it is until we have to face our friends from Norfolk and their new fresh-faced manager from north of the border.
Worse still, I’ve now pencilled in the diary the dates of the play-offs and the possible final and sadly realised I don’t have any other social engagements in the way. Is it too much to ask friends to rearrange their wedding for that weekend so at least I have a viable excuse to avoid the dreaded date at Wembley?
My wife is going to have days where she is going to hate being around me. She knows what’s coming as well as I do. We’ve been together more than a decade, so despite my club’s recent stagnation in to mid-table obscurity, she has lived through failed promotion campaigns and knows what unbearable company I am likely to be on the back of a bad result.
Last night, following a 3-2 defeat against Brighton, which saw Ipswich spurn a chance to take a two-point lead at the top of the table, I lay pondering almost each and every one of our remaining fixtures, while she dozed off relatively untroubled. How I envied her. How I wished I could let the frustration and disappointment of the result dissipate. Sadly, I know they’ll be more nights like that one to come.
Rewind the clock three weeks though and it was a dramatically different outlook. It’s ridiculous how quickly a couple of bad results can change your feelings. Before a home defeat against Derby, we had just held one of the top four teams in the country to a draw at home in the FA Cup and were on a run that never seemed set to end. All of a sudden, two defeats (plus another in an FA Cup replay) and we look very vulnerable and the prospect of away days to new far flung grounds on your days off seem less appealing.
But, should I be so pessimistic and downtrodden?
Short answer is no. The last two weeks alone have seen some surprising results for those in the top three alone. Bournemouth have lost twice in three games, while Derby were well and truly shocked at home against their fiercest rivals Forest. This division can do that to teams seemingly on top and sitting pretty. Added to that, we’ve recently experienced some injuries to key players and those absences have been noticeable in some key areas. But, those injuries have also presented opportunities to others to come in and show what they can do, notably Noel Hunt.
While, to finish this passage of positivity off, we’ve also brought in a new face. The arrival of striker Freddie Sears from nearby Colchester United is a shrewd move by Mick McCarthy. Already in two substitute appearances he has demonstrated he can give us an added dimension in attack with an assist and a goal. This should hopefully take some of the pressure off Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick.
So, despite my fear of just under four months of discontent ahead, there should at least be some entertainment.
I just hope it means I can get as good a night’s sleep as the wife.
Written by Adam Williams, We Are Going Up’s Ipswich Town blogger
Adam tweets at @adam_j_williams