Portman Road - Ipswich Town
Portman Road - Ipswich Town
Two long treks to the opposite end of the country in just 4 days. Saturday sees us heading to deepest Suffolk to the home of Ipswich Town.
I`m convinced the fixture computer doesn't like us with this game. For the last 2 seasons it's been Valentines weekend, this year it's footballs traditional lowest gates of the season Xmas fixture. But for those who've never been there Portman Road is a ground worth visiting, and after the performance in midweek, confidence should be high.
How to get there
M55, M6 South, all the way to the end past J1 but before you join the M1 South hanger left on to the A14. Keep on the A14 until J53 & at the roundabout join the A1156. At the next roundabout take the 2nd left signposted A1156. At mini-roundabouts turn right onto the A1214 Signposted Colchester A12. At the traffic lights continue forward onto the A1214. At the traffic lights continue forward onto the A137, turn left onto Portman's Walk, continue forward onto Sir Alf Ramsey Way, turn right onto Constantine Road and you've arrived.
Sat navvers - IP12DA.
For the Virgin lovers amongst us
The ground is only a quarter of a mile away from Ipswich train station and is visible as you leave the station.
Between 1878 and 1884, Ipswich played at two grounds in the town, Broom Hill and Brook's Hall, but in 1884, the club moved to Portman Road and have played there ever since.
The ground was also used as a cricket pitch during the summer by the East Suffolk Cricket Club who had played there since 1855. The cricket club had erected a pavilion, the first fixed building at the ground. More substantial elements of ground development did not begin for a further 11 years, though Ipswich became one of the first clubs to implement the use of goal nets in 1890.
In 1901, a tobacco processing plant was built along the south edge of the ground by the Churchman brothers, a name which would later become synonymous with the stand which would be located there until the early 21st century.
The first permanent stand, a wooden structure known affectionately as the 'Chicken Run', was built on the Portman Road side of the ground in 1906. This structure was sold in 1971 to the local speedway team, the Ipswich Witches, who installed it at their Foxhall Stadium. For a short period during the 1920s, Portman Road was host to a number of whippet races in an attempt to increase revenue, and in 1928 a small stand was built on the west side of the ground. The football club turned professional in 1936 and the cricket club was forced to move out, so work began on the first bank of terracing at the north end of the pitch. The following year, on the back of winning the Southern League, a similar terrace was built at the southern 'Churchmans' end and 650 tip-up seats, bought from Arsenal, were installed. Portman Road was home to Ipswich Town's first Football League match on 27 August 1938, infront of a 19000 crowd. The Supporters' Association funded a number of improvements at Portman Road; in 1952, concrete terracing replaced the wooden terraces at the cost of £3,000 and another £3,000 was used to re-terrace the North Stand in 1954, bringing the capacity of the ground to approximately 29,000. In 1957, the association raised £30,500 towards the building of a new West Stand, increasing ground capacity to around 31,000. Floodlights were installed two years later; the result of £15,000 raised by the association. The floodlights were switched on by club president Lady Blanche Cobbold for the first floodlit match at the ground, a friendly against Arsenal, in February 1960.
The ground development continued with roofing enhancements to the North Stand and an increase in capacity to 31,500 by 1963. Dressing rooms were constructed in 1965 and new turnstiles were introduced two years later, including a separate entrance for juveniles at the Churchmans end. In 1968 the club agreed to a new 99-year lease on the ground with owners Suffolk County Council.
The two-tier propped cantilever Portman Stand was built along the east side of the ground in place of the existing terraces in 1971, providing 3,500 additional seats and increasing the capacity of the ground to approximately 37,000. Additional seating was added to the Portman Stand in 1974, following success in the 1978 FA Cup, the club invested in 24 executive boxes in front of the Portman Stand and, as a result of the Safety of Sports Ground Act (1975), reduced the capacity in front by introducing seats, taking the overall capacity down to 34,600. Plastic seats replaced wooden benches in the West Stand in 1980 and in the following year, the club announced a deal with Pioneer, with the stand expanded at a cost of around £1.3m, renamed as the Pioneer Stand and re-opened in 1983. However, the cost of building the stand meant the club had to sell players, and led to a decline in fortunes on the pitch. Safety barriers were removed from the North Stand in 1989 following the Hillsborough disaster and following the recommendations of the Taylor Report, the terraces in both the North and South stands were also converted to all-seating. The Pioneer Stand was renamed as the Britannia Stand following a new sponsorship deal with the building society in 1999, and in the following year a statue of Sir Alf Ramsey was unveiled at the corner of Portman Road and Sir Alf Ramsey Way.
Success for Ipswich Town in promotion to the Premier League in 2000 led to further investment in the infrastructure, with the club spending around £22 million on redeveloping both the North and South stands. The complete renovation of the South Stand into a two-tier stand added 4,000 seats to the stadium. The subsequent demolition and reconstruction of a two-tier North Stand added a further 4,000 seats and brought the total capacity of the ground to more than 30,000. In 2001, local brewery Greene King took on the sponsorship of the updated South Stand and as such, the stand was renamed the Greene King stand through until 2009, when the sponsorship deal ended and the name changed back to the original 'South Stand'. Following the death of former manager Bobby Robson in 2009, the club announced that the North Stand would be renamed as the Sir Bobby Robson Stand. The official unveiling took place at half time during the league match hosting Newcastle United F.C, another of Robson's former clubs, on 26 September 2009
I was quietly impressed by Portman Road. It looks nice, a mixture of the old and the new and the statues of old favourites outside the ground gave it a feeling of being cared for.
The ground currently has a capacity of 30311, and has hosted a number of England youth international matches, and one senior England friendly international match, against Croatia in 2003.
The away fans are sat in the top corner of the Cobbold Stand, there`s room for 1900 here, despite Tuesdays win I expect around the 450 mark to travel.
I sat by the halfway line in the same stand but in the family section on my last visit. Not a bad view from here and considerably cheaper than the away seats. The pastie bought inside the ground before the game still remains the tastiest I've had in many a year.
Where to Drink
Limited choice around the ground, that said we drank quite happily in the Old Orlean's. Relatively close to the ground on the retail park and it held a good mix of both home and away fans. Other suggested pubs are the Punch & Judy and The Station Hotel near to, surprise surprise, the station.
Plod & Stewards
Ipswich are regarded as a family club, and I'd expect a relatively low key approach to the game. Following recent visits we know that they have a good judge of character and 'select' the right individuals for ejection.
Fear factor Rating - 1
Just as the home form dipped, the superb away performance at Boro gave us hope again. Holloway rang the changes and boy, did it work. Injuries brought a change of players and tactics, here's hoping that whatever team runs out on Saturday, come 5pm the only furrows we see are those that deepen the worried brow of Mr Keane.
Onwards + Upwards