New grounds, early start in the FA Cup and a new competition all await Ipswich Town when League One life begins
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town will be playing in the third tier for the first time since 1957 from next season. ANDY WARREN looks at what awaits them.
You have to go back more than 60 years to find the last time Ipswich Town were playing in the third tier of English football.
The 1956/57 season was a successful one for the Blues as they secured the then Division Three South title under Alf Ramsey, who would of course go on to win the First Division with Ipswich in 1962, the World Cup with England in 1966 and then receive a knighthood in 1967.
Legendary striker Ted Phillips led the way with 42 goals, playing alongside the likes of John Elsworthy, Jimmy Leadbetter, Larry Carberry and goalkeeper Roy Bailey.
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They secured the title on goal ratio, an old method of separating teams, with the Blues averaging 1.9 goals per game as opposed to Torquay’s 1.4, after the two sides finished locked on 59 points.
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The entire make-up of League One for 2019/20 has yet to be confirmed, of course, but there are certain to be a number of firsts for the Blues next season.
Ipswich have never played against Fleetwood, Rochdale, Wycombe, AFC Wimbledon or Forest Green Rovers, all of whom could potentially be in the third tier next season.
There will be a first visit to Oxford’s Kassam Stadium, with Town’s last game against the U’s coming at their old Manor Ground home in September 1998.
Ipswich haven’t played Bristol Rovers in the league since 1991, Shrewsbury since 1990, Lincoln since 1961 and Mansfield since 1947.
There will also be a first league visit to Accrington Stanley – a return to the scene of the crime following the Blues’ FA Cup exit at the Wham Stadium earlier this year.
An early start
On the subject of the FA Cup, their humbling at Stanley in January ensured the Blues were dumped out of the competition at the first hurdle for a ninth-successive year. That run has included 13 winless games and four exits at the hands of lower-league opponents.
Next season, though, they will enter the world famous tournament at the first-round stage for the first time since the 1956/57 season.
On that occasion they beat Sussex County League Division Two side Hastings United 4-0 in front of 13,000 fans at Portman Road before ultimately exiting to Fulham in round three.
It’s worth noting that first-round participants this season included Haringey Borough, Billericay, Chorley and the Metropolitan Police.
Don’t worry, though, the Blues will still be seeded for the first round of next season’s League Cup.
As if the excitement of a first-round FA Cup tie wasn’t enough, there is also a first crack at the EFL Trophy.
Open to the 48 clubs playing in League One and League Two, as well as 16 Category One academy sides, this year’s final between Portsmouth and Sunderland was played out in front of more than 85,000 fans at Wembley.
But the early rounds can be something of a slog, with the tournament split into north and south sections, with each then split into eight groups of four teams.
Each group includes three league club and one ‘invited’ academy side, with teams playing each other once either home or away and the top two qualifying. Academy sides play all three games away from home.
This is where the potential of an awkward clash between Ipswich Town and a Norwich City’s Under-23s outfit at Portman Road side arises. The Canaries last entered a side in the 2016/17 season and are not certain to do so next season, even if they are promoted to the Premier League.
Sunderland and eventual winners Portsmouth both played eight games en route to the final, with all matches, in both the group and knockout stages, going straight to penalties if the teams are tied after 90 minutes.
It’s a competition which has been much-critiqued in recent years, with matches in the early rounds being played in front of sparse attendances and the introduction of academy sides opposed by many competing clubs.
For context, Sunderland hosted a Stoke Under-23 side this season in front of just 7,000 supporters, which they won on penalties after a 0-0 draw. The Stadium of Light holds 49,000.
Despite its detractors, this competition does offer the most viable route to the new Wembley Stadium, with the Blues one of only 11 clubs in the top four divisions to have not played there since it re-opened in 2007.
Ipswich Town have lost all four of their games coming out of international breaks this season, so it’s perhaps not such a bad thing that they don’t exist for League One and League Two sides.
Games can be postponed if clubs have three or more first-team players called up for international duty, though this doesn’t happen automatically with a request needing to be made to the EFL.
An international call-up is only recognised if a player is called into their country’s senior or Under-21 squads, though.
With Danish international Jonas Knudsen certain to depart this summer and Bartosz Bialkowski out of the Poland reckoning, Irishman Alan Judge is the only player certain to be with the Blues next season with a recent history of senior call-ups.
Andre Dozzell and Flynn Downes have been with England’s Under-20s throughout this season while Jack Lankester was on standby for the Under-19s, but their call-ups would not be recognised under EFL rules.
Barry Cotter and Corrie Ndaba were with the Republic of Ireland Under-21s during the March break, but the Blues would need these two to be first-team regulars if an appeal for a postponement was to be successful.
Under the lights
There are more midweek games, too.
The Blues will have played nine midweek evening games by season’s end but, by contrast, Sunderland will have played 19 thanks to their packed league schedule, early FA Cup start and run in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Toto Nsiala played in 58 games for Shrewsbury last season as Paul Hurst’s men made the League One play-off final, the Checkatrade Trophy showpiece and the third round of the FA Cup.
It’s a busy old schedule.
New financial rules
The Blues will be playing by different financial rules in League One, with Salary Cost Management Protocol (SCMP) replacing Financial Fair Play (FFP) in the third tier.
These new rules require clubs to prove in advance, during various auditing points throughout the season, that their expenditure on players’ wages does not exceed 60% of their turnover.
Relegated Championship clubs are given a season’s grace, during which wages can’t exceed 75% of turnover, with the Blues’ most recent accounts showing Ipswich to be spending 108% of their turnover on salaries for the period ending June 2018.
There are other forms of relief. Players signed prior to September of this season on three-year deals or more are excluded from the auditing process, while the wages of professionals aged 20 or under prior to the start of the season do not count towards the total. Flynn Downes, Andre Dozzell and Jack Lankester will all fall into this category.
Ipswich have clauses inserted in players’ contracts which will bring significant salary cuts following relegation and this, coupled with the areas of relief highlighted above, will greatly aid the Blues in meeting SCMP demands.