Ipswich Town secured promotion back to the Championship with a 6-0 home win against Exeter City yesterday. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts. 

East Anglian Daily Times: The Ipswich Town team coach was greeted by thousands of fans ahead of kick-off.The Ipswich Town team coach was greeted by thousands of fans ahead of kick-off. (Image: Steve Waller)

A 6-0 home victory to secure promotion and the most magical part of the day came before a ball had even been kicked. 

When the team coach arrived at the ground around 1.30pm, thousands of supporters lined the streets to show just what this moment meant to them.  

Blue smoke and roars of encouragement filled the air.  

For the long-suffering among them, this was a realisation that 20 years of hurt was finally about to end. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Blue smoke fills the air as Ipswich Town fans greet the team coach ahead of kick-off.Blue smoke fills the air as Ipswich Town fans greet the team coach ahead of kick-off. (Image: Steve Waller)

For the younger ones, many perched atop parents’ shoulders with looks of utter intoxication, a lifetime love affair had just been locked in. 

Could the players get the job done amidst such emotional scenes? We very quickly got our answer.  

Morsy to Chaplin, a shot from outside the ‘D’, deadlock broken. Hirst hustle, Luongo clinical, 2-0.  

Sublime outside of the boot cross by Broadhead, Hirst converts on the stretch, 3-0. Burns tripped in the box, Broadhead converts from the spot, 4-0. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Conor Chaplin (left) and Wes Burns celebrate after Ipswich Town took an early lead against Exeter City.Conor Chaplin (left) and Wes Burns celebrate after Ipswich Town took an early lead against Exeter City. (Image: Steve Waller)

Shell-shocked Exeter defenders getting in each other’s way, Chaplin volleys home, 5-0.  

That was all inside 32 minutes. 

A packed Portman Road was virtually stunned into silence for a spell. No-one could quite believe what they were seeing. 

Burns latched onto a fine Chaplin pass and lobbed the stranded keeper for 6-0 soon after the restart. Ipswich finally declared. 

Town not only came into this game in incredible form but also, quite clearly, had laser-like focus. Injury-hit Exeter, meanwhile, arrived without a recognised striker and nothing to play for. It created the perfect storm. 

MORE: All the best pictures as Town win promotion on an epic day at Portman Road 

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East Anglian Daily Times: Luke Woolfenden is mobbed by Ipswich Town fans after promotion to the Championship was secured.Luke Woolfenden is mobbed by Ipswich Town fans after promotion to the Championship was secured. (Image: PA)

When the brief and respectful pitch invasion cleared, Luke Woolfenden ran back out the tunnel with a crate of beers. 

Fellow Ipswich boy Harry Clarke hugged his nan and, alongside other family members, shed a tear for his late granddad. 

Not far away, Wes Burns stood with an arm around each of his proud parents. 

Conor Chaplin, now leading in the race for the Golden Boot, clutched his Fans’ and Players’ Players of the Year awards beaming ear-to-ear. 

Everywhere you looked there were reminders of just how much this meant to everyone involved. 

East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town skipper Sam Morsy is held aloft by supporters.Ipswich Town skipper Sam Morsy is held aloft by supporters. (Image: PA)

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Walton, Clarke, Woolfenden, Burgess, Davis, Morsy, Luongo, Burns, Chaplin, Broadhead, Hirst... 

This team will roll off the tongue for years to come. The contributions of Ladapo, Donacien, Evans, Harness, Edmundson, Jackson, Humphreys, John-Jules, Edwards, Leigh, Aluko, Keogh, Vincent-Young and Ball must not be forgotten or underestimated though. 

McKenna made that point by bringing on Hladky for his first league minutes of the season towards the end.  

On and off the field, this has been a real group effort. There’s been a team behind the team. The same is true of Kieran McKenna and his support staff. 

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East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna is given the bumps.Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna is given the bumps. (Image: PA Images)

Taken to another level by their January signings, Town have finished the season as one of the form sides in world football. 

The stats are, quite frankly, ridiculous.  

It’s 13 wins in 14 now with an aggregate scoreline of 43-2 during that run. Goal difference currently stands at +66. 

This has been no easy ride though. It’s easy to forget that just 11 weeks ago Ipswich drew 0-0 at Bristol Rovers to make it four wins in 15 in the league. 

Walton’s penalty save at Cambridge and Broadhead’s free-kick goal against Sheffield Wednesday were both massive moments. 

Looking slightly further back, those late equalisers at Portsmouth and Lincoln have proved really crucial too. 

Many of us, emotionally scarred from the past, had a bit of a wobble back in February. It was beginning to feel like this club was cursed. 

McKenna held his nerve though and ensured his players continued to trust the process. 

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East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer enjoy the moment.Ipswich Town owners Brett Johnson, Berke Bakay and Mark Detmer enjoy the moment. (Image: PA)

A win in next Sunday’s season finale at Fleetwood would see the Blues finish on 100 points and 100+ goals. 

And yet that still might not be enough to win the title.  

Fair play to Plymouth if that’s the case. They too are under a rookie young manager in Steven Schumacher. And they saw key man Morgan Whittaker recalled in January and star keeper Michael Cooper ruled out for the season in February. 

Paul Mariner will be looking down smiling on this battle for top spot. May the best team win. 

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East Anglian Daily Times: Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna and chief executive Mark Ashton celebrate promotion.Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna and chief executive Mark Ashton celebrate promotion. (Image: Steve Waller)

Football moves quickly and already talk has started about where Ipswich go from here. 

How long can the club keep hold of McKenna? The former Manchester United assistant boss has big ambitions, but I believe the scale of this project can see off the vultures for some time yet. 

How well equipped is this squad for the Championship? Pushing second-tier champions Burnley all the way over two FA Cup games in January has to fill us all with immense hope on that front, as does Sunderland’s current position of seventh. 

Backed by the ambitious American ownership group, the Blues will undoubtedly spend again this summer.  

Chief executive Mark Ashton, taking to the mic during the celebrations, declared ‘Norwich City, we’re coming for you’. 

The oil tanker has turned. This is just the start.