Date: 29th August 2008 at 4:44pm
Written by:

Ipswich Retrospect: Vital`s Verdict

“An all-blue sea of replica shirts on both sides of the ground collided like waves. Cue the barbaric barbs in an emotional barbecue of reason; to the many thousands packed inside Portman Road, this derby was not just any old thing – it was the thing.”

Tuesday night was League Cup night, Ipswich hosting the U`s; the night scores of fans forgot the gap in league standings and skill that separates two premier sides in East Anglia. It was man on man, if not quite skin on skin. XI Vs XI.

Well, nearly: what actually happened as Colchester United crashed from the competition, despite a late comeback through striker Steve Gillespie`s sublime lob, amounts to self-combustion. The visitors lacked the cutting edge; hence, clinical goals from Town stole the tie.

Two to one against says that United gave a good account of themselves as an all-blue sea of replica shirts on both sides of the ground collided like waves. Cue the barbaric barbs in an emotional barbecue of reason; to the many thousands packed inside Portman Road, this derby was not just any old thing – it was the thing.

There were points when the football became a secondary issue. Ipswich against Colchester could be dressed up as a scene from the school playground. Two little boys dragged ear-first toward the headmaster`s office, each calling the other responsible for the first push. Nobody can quite remember what the argument is about exactly, but never mind.

Plenty of eye-balling then, yes, but the clash was not without a dash of comic relief; seagulls, not the celery spotted last season at Chelsea`s Stamford Bridge, flew in and threatened to stop play. The low-flying birds reminded fixated hoards inside the stadium`s bouncing bubble that life went on outside one football obsessed arena.

The reception afforded to returning striker Kevin Lisbie, facing former employers Colchester for the first time since his controversial summertime A12 switch, tested the outer-limits of acceptability, but that was always inevitable once fate had paired the sides together.

Morals move and shake during this type of face-off – the world moved upside-down for Lisbie Luck, at any rate, whose own dollop of fortune as administered by the Colchester faithful months ago had wound down; worn thin; run dry.

If the nervousness he had admitted pre-match betrayed itself, Lisbie`s second-half goal which put Town two clear showed that he at least has irrepressible talent: you can`t keep a good man down. Just ask bright-green Dean Gerken, whose sublime left-palm save had already denied the striker glory via his glancing first half header.

You could have forgiven Lisbie, on-record as anything but emotionally dispassionate ahead of the game, had he scored an own goal before he exited proceedings prematurely as an early substitute on the hour mark.

The man now sporting Town`s number 11 jersey exited either from stage left, if you were a U`s fan, or right, for Ipswich supporters. The hero or villain label was a matter of personal choice, to a point, typically defined by the position of your seat; Super Kev`s halo came and went, rose and fell, amid the nauseatingly absorbing cacophony of cheers and boos.

Reminding the United contingent that cavorted from afar through the Ipswich turnstiles as visitors in midweek that this was a one-off local one-night jamboree of ability was not an option.

Admitting as much is tantamount to blasphemy, despite Colchester`s fleeting festival in the 2008 League Cup attracting a knock-out brand of Anglian optimism. Town flushed it down the plughole of washed-up dreams.

Expect the words ‘Mickey Mouse Trophy`, to stick where recollecting this tie is concerned, because football`s most fickle phrase is a bullet-poof vest from the sharp knife offered by defeat, particularly in the context of Cup football.

How much did the loss actually hurt is the wrong question, maybe. Rather, we should ask how much it really mattered at all.

“Expect the words ‘Mickey Mouse Trophy`, to stick where this tie is concerned how much Colchester`s loss actually hurt is the wrong question. Rather, we should ask how much it really mattered.”

Cooking Our Moral Rule Book

A few people understandably lost their voices during Tuesday night`s away game in the Cup against Ipswich, but some inexplicably lost all sense. This column is not about to become an alternative health and safety seminar, before groans surface.

One drunken man dressed as a Colchester fan took leave of all reality in the John Cobbold Stand, fancying himself as enough of a pugilist to aim a machine-gun round of punches at one female police officer.

Idiocy does not describe the action accurately enough, of course. The passing of this unprovoked violence, promptly extinguished by an entire group of people working for the emergency services, dissipated to mock-cheers of ‘What A Waste Of Money.`

The chant, usually reserved for opposing star players who kick air instead of ball was applied in jest but only half correctly. Small events similar to these give ambivalent tax-paying members of the public ammunition enough to argue that all sport is pointless, self-destructive, a leech on time and, indeed, a total waste.

Even isolated occurrences evoke mistrust in everything life-enhancing about sport, in the same way that watching potentially doped-up athletes compete in track and field contests at the recent Olympics felt almost self-deceptive.

Behind the boyish vocals from scores of on-looking U`s fans lay the reason we now have stringent no-smoking and anti-drinking policies inside the nation`s football stadiums.

And no, it isn`t because the state is chief-meddler turned killjoy, even if that kind of behaviour is what could be classed as sickly entertaining: the rules are for your protection, and mine. For us, then, to protect some people in a hedonistically centred society from the worst versions of themselves.

It`s a good thing, anyway, that Portman Road is by local repute a quiet library-like stadium.

Had thousands of home supporters reciprocated at large the behaviour from a knot of away fans, who this week acted as badly as we always knew they would, then the whole place might have gone up in flames.

Cooking the library`s books, anyone?

U`s Pays Yer Money?.

You pays yer money, and you lose your voice. Choice didn`t seem to enter the equation when a vast number of Colchester`s travelling support spent Tuesday`s hour-and-a half booing forward Kevin Lisbie for becoming Ipswich Town`s property. Searing shouts rang out all night.

The former Colchester man guaranteed a ripple of respect for vowing not to celebrate should he grab a goal against the team that housed him last season. He duly did score – it eventually proved the winner.

His evening`s reception was mixed, verging on awful; not fitting for a man who did his 17-goal best to prevent what was the U`s first relegation in 20 years last season.

Was there any other way to reward him for crossing the Essex to Suffolk quagmire with an only ever-professional intent? Apparently yes, because this column was there, clapping from the United vantage point.

Celebration only, even as Lisbie was cutting through United`s fantasy birthday cake of Cup progress at the expense of their bitter rivals, seemed justified.

As Lisbie danced, wove his way past the back-four and hit the sting, this space whooped at his name, clasped hands and saluted the great qualify of his finish with an ovation.

It hurt, but I`m no masochist. The fact is that acknowledgement of talent should not be restricted by the shirt colour on one man`s back. Not even when it comes to Kevin Lisbie. Perhaps especially not, in his case.