Wark to Walters – Ipswich Town have often turned to former heroes... with mixed results
- Credit: ANDY PARSONS
With Darren Bent admitting he would love to return to Ipswich Town, Stuart Watson looks back at those who previously came back to their beloved Blues.
Town’s all-time leading scorer shared his goals out over two spells. The prolific striker was initially at the club between 1958 and 1963, helping Sir Alf Ramsey’s men to a fairytale top-flight title the very first year after promotion.
Spells at Wolves and West Brom followed before he returned to Portman Road in March 1965 aged 28. He played another three full seasons, scoring a further 61 goals to take his tally for the club to more than 300.
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After helping Sir Bobby Robson’s men to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory between 1975 and 1984, the Scottish midfield goalscorer extraordinaire left for Liverpool, but was sold back to second-tier Ipswich for £100k in January 1988. In his second spell, he twice was named Player of the Year as John Duncan’s men finished eighth and ninth.
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After a year at Middlesbrough Ipswich turned to him as an emergency defender initially on a week-by-week contract. With a reinvented Wark at the back, John Lyall’s men won the title in 1991/92 to earn promotion to the newly-formed Premier League and Wark finally hung up his boots at the end of the 96/97 season with his status as a Blues legend (179 goals in 679 appearances) set in stone.
Verdict: Hit and hit
The homegrown hero, who grew up just a goalkick away from Portman Road, scored on his Town debut aged just 16 in 1984. The attack-minded midfielder went on to help fire Town to promotion in ‘92 and earn a £1.9m move to Tottenham.
Towards the end of his injury-affected four years at White Hart Lane he returned to second-tier Town on loan. He made nine appearances at the start of the 97/98 season, scoring twice during a six-week spell which included wins against Man City and Man United, but a contract was not forthcoming and he dropped down a division to sign for Northampton.
West Suffolk striker played more than 200 games for his boyhood club (94-01) before moving to Leicester for £3m.
He was loaned back to the Blues in February 2005 but made just three starts during a three month spell.
Initially released as a schoolboy during the mid-90s for being too small, he returned from Hartlepool in a £750k deal in 2001. The penalty expert scored 36 goals in 139 appearances before moving back to the Premier League with Sunderland in 2005.
When his two-year deal there expired he turned down plenty of interest to re-sign for Ipswich. His second spell comprised of 10 goals in 69 appearances between 2007 and 2009, with finishes of eighth and ninth, before he was released by new boss Roy Keane.
Silky Spandiard was adored by the Blues faithful in the years following relegation from the top-flight (31 goals in 100 appearances between 2001 and 2005).
After two seasons back in his homeland with Malaga, he returned to Portman Road as a free agent and scored a further 23 goals in 114 appearances to cement his place in the hearts of supporters.
Homegrown keeper was tipped for big things but more often than not ended up playing the role of back-up custodian at Arsenal, Everton and West Ham and he returned to Ipswich as a free agent in 2008.
Was named Player of the Year as Jim Magilton’s men finished ninth but was released the following summer after a long-term knee injury. He was back at Town for a third spell in 2011 but made just once appearance, a 3-2 home defeat to Reading.
Verdict: Hit then miss
The hard-working Finnish striker was a cult hero during his first spell at the club (2003-05). Spells at Blackburn and Crystal Palace followed, with the front man returning to Portman Road on loan in 2008 under the management of his former team-mate Magilton to fill in for the injured Jon Walters.
One of his two starts ended with him limping off 36 minutes into a 2-1 East Anglian derby win against Norwich.
Another to have three spells. The homegrown midfielder was sold to Newcastle for £1m in 2003 as part of the firesale following administration. He returned on loan from Charlton in 2008, making nine appearances over a two-month spell,
After being released by Birmingham in 2014 he went on trial at Colchester and impressed in a pre-season game against Ipswich. That led to him signing a short-term deal at Town. Made three starts and five sub appearances, scoring in the FA Cup draw at Premier League side Southampton.
Verdict: Miss and miss
After becoming a household name with Newcastle and England, the homegrown prodigy returned to Town in March 2011 for a one-month loan from West Ham. He made four appearances under Pauln Jewell, three of them off the bench, admitting in his recent autobiography that he was keeping injury problems quiet through embarrassment.
Would have returned to Town for a third spell in 2013 had it not been for Tony Mowbray stepping in to sign him for Middlesbrough.
Ipswich-born defender went on to spend more than a decade in the Premier League with Newcastle, Wigan and Sunderland.
Joined the Blues on trial on the summer of 2013, playing in a pre-season game at Barnet, but was not offered a contract.
The robust Irishman (31 goals in 103 appearances between 2006 and 2008) went on to play for Palace, Norwich (briefly on loan) and Huddersfield before returning to Town as part of the academy staff in 2013.
The 34-year-old signed as a player on non-contract terms and made a single appearance as a late substitute in an FA Cup defeat at Preston.
The Welsh midfielder became a popular figure among fans and team-mates during his sparkling first loan spell from Crystal Palace in February 2014.
His two separate returns on loan (Sept 2014 and Mar 2015) were therefore greeted with a great deal of excitement, but both spells quickly ended in injury disappointment.
The Irish playmaker enjoyed five good seasons with the Blues (2005-10) before moving on to Crystal Palace.
He returned to the club on an extended trial in 2014, along with the likes of Kevin Bru, Balint Bajner and Leroy Lita, but ultimately a deal could not be reached and he eventually signed for Colchester after a year out the game.
Irish forward enjoyed three good seasons at Town between 2007 and 2010 before becoming a Premier League and regular for Stoke.
Following an injury-hit season at Burnley he joined Town on loan recently to add some experience to Paul Hurst’s new-look squad. Enjoyed an impressive second debut against Norwich, but soon sustained a nasty long-term Achilles injury just seven minutes after coming on against Bolton.