History is on Town's side

IPSWICH Town will be defying history if they fail to win Premiership promotion this season, writes Derek Davis.Since the Premiership started in 1992 every team that has been top of the Division One table on New Year's Day has gone on to play in the Premiership the following season.

IPSWICH Town will be defying history if they fail to win Premiership promotion this season, writes Derek Davis.

Since the Premiership started in 1992 every team that has been top of the Division One table on New Year's Day has gone on to play in the Premiership the following season.

The first team to do it was Newcastle United in 1993 when they saw in the New Year sitting on top of the table and ended up as champions, with West Ham and Swindon, which included a baby-faced Kevin Horlock in its squad, also going up.

The latest team to do so was Norwich City, who went top at Portman Road on December 21 last year and stayed there.


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Of the teams that sang Auld Lang Syne as league leaders nine of the 12 finished as champions.

Joe Royle's Manchester City in 2000 were the last team not to finish top dogs when they led the pack on January 1, when Charlton pipped them at the post.

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Royle's new Blues survived the blip at the New Den on Sunday to go into Saturday's game against West Ham three points clear of Sunderland with 52 points, one more than the manager had at Maine Road, with a game less played at the same stage of the year.

Town had 46 points after 25 games that year and went on to finish third and go up via a glorious day out at Wembley.

Getting to 52 points seems a good omen too, as Middlesbrough, the other team not to finish as champs when top at this time of year, found.

They were actually just ahead of Nottingham Forest on goal difference seven years ago today before eventually being squeezed out by Frank Clarke's side.

Town will accept all the omens, good fortune and other people's slip-ups in their quest to be playing in the big league next season, but they won't get there on luck alone.

It has been obvious for some time that an indomitable team spirit, more than a fair sprinkling of quality, an outstanding work ethic and sheer bloody-mindedness, are massive factors in their success.

The arrival of Darren Currie could well be the equivalent of the Canaries getting Darren Huckerby last year and the extra impetus he gave them.

But the Blues are not about one man.

The wafer-thin squad has coped when losing a player to injury or suspension so far and the need to bring in even more new signings has not reached the critical stage.

As the Arsenal loanee Danny Karbassiyoon is finding, it is not easy to force your way into this tightly-knit, successful side.

The transfer window will be a nervous time even though there appears to be little to no chance that anyone would want to leave, with the exception of Pablo Counago. When Town get through that and are still top two on February 1, then even more doubters will start believing.

The one slight worry still is that Town have not had any real bad runs. The defeat at Millwall was indeed a blip and, unlike Wigan, Town have not lost two in a row all season.

To go through the whole of 2004 without failing to score at home is an incredible achievement, and they have already kept more clean sheets in this campaign than the whole of last season, although, frighteningly enough for the opposition, improvements can still be made at both ends.

To hit 50 goals for in the league alone with a little more than half a campaign gone is phenomenal. Many will remember how George Burley predicted 100 goals and as many points for Town in the relegation season. While that never materialised both figures are still possible for Royle's side, although 92 points, an average of two a game, is more likely.

Targets will no doubt have been set, as a team and by individuals, but they are being kept under hats, with just one aim being loudly and proudly repeated.

Premiership football.

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