FANS return to Portman Road after nine months tomorrow when the Blues host Portsmouth with 2,000 season-ticket holders set to watch the third-v-fourth clash against Pompey.

And haven’t they been missed!

As one of the few privileged to be present at behind-closed-doors games, it’s been like watching a dress rehearsal of a play or a band in a soundcheck.

Without the pre-match atmosphere provided by fans, I have to admit it’s sometimes been a struggle to get into matches in their early stages.

Once they’ve got going, games have lacked that natural ebb and flow that the reaction and noise of the crowd brings.

And goals, even last-minute winners, haven’t seemed to matter as much to the players or at least the celebrations have lacked intensity without fans to bounce off or run to the perimeter fence to hug.

At Plymouth last week, 1,808 Pilgrims ended their first day back at Home Park disappointed and singing derogatory songs about the referee after their side was defeated.

To be fair to them, for much of the match it looked like they would end the afternoon victorious until Danny Mayor picked up a needless second booking for a nothing foul and Jon Nolan and Kayden Jackson scored twice in two minutes to hand Town a 2-1 win.

Fans’ return to Portman Road comes at a time when relations between the club and its support are strained.

After news of my ban from press conferences broke and manager Paul Lambert’s comments about the “negativity attached to the football club”, owner Marcus Evans presumably inadvertently stirred the pot further with his statement last Thursday.

Many supporters read the line “I will not be swayed into making the mistakes neatly summed up by the term ‘be careful what you wish for’ which caused our demise a couple of years ago” as Evans pointing the finger in their direction for Mick McCarthy’s exit and the relegation which followed the next season.

It’s often said that results dictate everything in football, and that is the case to a degree.

But whatever’s happening on the pitch, community clubs like Town need their supporters onside and can’t afford to be at loggerheads with them, particularly during a pandemic with all the associated financial issues.

Whether Saturday’s 2,000 supporters are cheering a win against Portsmouth or otherwise, the Blues currently have plenty of bridges to rebuild.