A LIFELONG Ipswich Town supporter who lives in a Colchester care home was overjoyed after he received a VIP match day ticket at his beloved Portman Road.

Staff at The Oaks Care Home arranged for the surprise for Derek Cook, who is 70, just one day before Town’s final game of the 2021-22 season, played in front of a crowd of over 26,000 against Charlton Athletic.

The gift was part of the home’s Wish Come True campaign, where staff arrange a special treat for a care home resident – and carers were only too happy to oblige when Derek wished to get to one of the games.

Mr Cook has been an Ipswich Town fan all his life, holding a season ticket for 25 years as well as travelling across the continent when the Tractor Boys competed in the UEFA Cup.

Gazette: Put your hands together – Ipswich won the game 4-0Put your hands together – Ipswich won the game 4-0

But due to ill-health and Covid-19 restrictions, Mr Cook had been unable to get to a game since 2019, the last time Town were in the second tier of English football.

However, he at last got to go to a home game with his good friend, Ken Rambie, who regularly visits him in the care home.

They have been friends with for more than ten years and often head into Colchester town centre together, with Derek on his mobility scooter.

Derek said: “I love my football – I’ve had two strokes and heart problems, so I had to give up my season ticket.

“The games aren’t on TV very often, but I do listen to every match on the radio.

“I’ve supported Ipswich Town since I was a little lad, and my favourite memory was when we won the FA Cup in 1978.

"It was amazing to watch them again and I’m going to frame the photos that were taken and put them up in my room.

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“Win or lose I love the game, Ipswich is my team, win or lose, bad or good I will always be an Ipswich supporter.

“They’ve invited me back for another game.”

Care home manager Carol Preston said she was thrilled to see Mr Cook's reaction to the surprise.

She said: “We knew Derek wanted to see a live match again and we thought, we’ve got to do it for the last match of the season.

“It was amazing to be able to surprise him with it like we did.

"It’s so lovely to make a wish come true and to make our residents feel valued and special because they are all special.”

Gazette: Full house – Derek Cook was one of 26,000 at the ground for the last game of the seasonFull house – Derek Cook was one of 26,000 at the ground for the last game of the season

The Oaks Care Home which offers nursing, dementia, end of life, respite and residential care, is within walking distance of Colchester’s town centre.

Mrs Preston added: “We strive to empower our residents to live with as much independence and normality as possible, so it put a huge smile on my face to arrange this for Derek.

“He hasn’t stopped talking about it since he’s been back.”

It was the perfect game for Mr Cook to get to with Ipswich romping to a 4-0 win, and Mr Cook is hoping he’ll be able to get back to the ground next season.

“It was such a nice surprise, I didn’t know anything about it.

“Seeing a live match again was brilliant and even better because they won 4-0. The club really looks after you.

Lee Smith, disability liaison officer at Ipswich Town, said the club is looking forward to welcoming Mr Cook back for another game next season.He said: “It was an absolute pleasure seeing Derek and we are all hoping that he will come back again next season.”