Town legend Billy Baxter dies at 70

IPSWICH Town legend Billy Baxter, who was a key player in the club's First Division Championship win in 1961/62, has died aged 70.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town legend Billy Baxter, who was a key player in the club's First Division Championship win in 1961/62, has died aged 70.

Baxter played 459 games for Town and scored 22 goals, including 40 league matches under the management of Alf Ramsey in the championship year, when he was mixing football with completing his national service.

He was also a member of the side that was promoted back to the First Division in 1967/68 under Bill McGarry.

Baxter had had a leg amputated, and he died in a Dunfermline hospital from cancer on Monday.

Baxter joined Ipswich from Edinburgh amateur club Broxburn Athletic in June 1960 and joined Hull City in March 1971 after a reported fall-out with Sir Bobby Robson.

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He also played for Watford and Northampton, where he was player/manager, before going back to Scotland where he worked as a British Telecom engineer for many years.

Last night, Baxter's former team mate Ted Phillips said he rated the Scot as the best player to have played for the Blues.

While Phillips and Ray Crawford were scoring the goals that saw Town stun the football world and win the First Division championship in 1961/62, it was Baxter who was working wonders in midfield.

Baxter spent much of his Town career playing at the back, where he showed amazing skill to leap high and hang in the air.

“Bill was not a tall man, but he used to beat me in the air when we played against each other in training,” said Phillips, who was one of many of Baxter's former colleagues at John Elsworthy's funeral yesterday.

“He was the most skilful player in our side that won the First Division title, and in my opinion the best player ever to wear an Ipswich Town shirt.

“He was based in Aldershot when we won the championship doing his national service but he was often allowed time away to train with us.

“I can remember his debut when manager Alf Ramsey put him in at left back against Norwich, and he had a tremendous match.”

Roger Osborne, the man who scored Ipswich Town's most famous goal - the 1978 FA Cup winner against Arsenal at Wembley Stadium - found out the secret of Baxter's ability to jump so high.

“Billy was my boyhood hero and I used to watch him as a 12 and 13-year-old whenever I could from the Portman Road terraces,” said Osborne.

“It was his brilliant attitude to the game that attracted me to him. Along with Ray Crawford he was the one I liked to watch most.

“I was lucky enough to meet him when he came back for a players' reunion and was surprised how short he was close up.

“I asked him how he could leap so high and hang in the air and he said it was because he played basketball as a boy.

“He was just invincible at the back.”

Pat Godbold, secretary to a succession of managers at Portman Road and organiser with Simon Milton of player reunions, said: “It is another sad day for Ipswich Town with the recent loss of John Elsworthy.

“Billy played a huge part in the success the club enjoyed in the sixties, and will always be remembered as a great player.

“He was inducted into the club's Hall of Fame earlier this year.”