Town's woeful decline: The biggest fall from grace of them all
- Credit: Archant
Football writer Carl Marston looks back on his first proper season as an Ipswich Town fan, in 1974-75, and discovers the club has declined more than any other from that top flight....
These are dire times to be an Ipswich Town supporter, regardless of the most recent narrow win at rock bottom Burton Albion on Saturday, especially if you compare the current low ebb to when I was growing up in the 1970s.
Out of curiosity, I looked back to the season when I first started regularly attending matches, and taking proper notice of the various clubs' footballing fortunes.
That was the 1975-76 season, when I was aged nine. Of course I have got good memories of a few previous years as well, but that 75-76 campaign, just before the long hot summer, sticks out as my own main starting point.
And, surprise, surprise, of all the 22 clubs that the graced the top division in that season, Ipswich Town are now doing the worst of the lot, by far.
In fact, while 21 of the 22 clubs are still plying their trade either in the top tier (Premier League) or second tier (Championship), Town are the odd ones out, struggling to even break into the League One play-off zone.
Of course Town did enjoy terrific success in the early intervening years, not the least the FA Cup (1978 winners) and UEFA Cup (1980-81 winners), in addition to finishing fifth in the Premier League (2000-01).
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But the last two decades have been tough, following relegation out of the top flight in 2002, and now the club is sadly setting new lows almost by the week.
No wonder many supporters have had enough of the recent mess, under manager Paul Lambert, just as they lost patience with the likes of Paul Hurst, Mick McCarthy, Paul Jewell, Roy Keane and Jim Magilton before him.
Back in 1975-76, I don't think I really appreciated how lucky we all were in Suffolk to have such a fantastic football club.
Town finished sixth in the top division, having recorded two fourth slots and one third place in the three previous seasons, before going on to finish as high as third (1976-77 and 1979-80 and second (1980-81) in future campaigns.
They were great times to be a Town player, supporter or even just an, admirer, and its difficult to see how those wonderful years of sustained success will ever be repeated.
Liverpool, the current champions, were also crowned champions in 1975-76, while Sheffield United, who are rock bottom of the Premier League this term, also finished bottom that season after winning just six of their 42 league games.
As for the division as a whole, 14 of the 22 are still gracing the top division.
Another seven are currently in the Championship, all of them still among the top 40 clubs in the Football League pyramid, spearheaded by Town's deadliest rivals, Norwich City.
In 1975-76. Sir Bobby Robson's sixth-placed Ipswich finished behind champions Liverpool (managed by Bob Paisley), Dave Sexton's QPR (second), Tommy Docherty's Manchester United (third), Dave MacKay's Derby County, the defending champions (fourth) and Jimmy Armfield's Leeds United (fifth).
It was Liverpool's first piece of silverware won under Paisley, a double completed by winning the UEFA Cup, but they needed to win eight of their last nine league games to pip surprise packages QPR to the title. The Londoners had to make do with their highest ever finish.
For Town, the squad was brimming with defensive talent, including keeper Paul Cooper, Allan Hunter, Kevin Beattie, Mick Mills, George Burley and Colin Harper, plus midfielders like Bryan Hamilton, Colin Viljoen, Brian Talbot and John Wark.
Up top, were attackers of the class of David Johnson, Eric Gates, Trevor Whymark and winger Clive Woods.
Whymark was top scorer with 15 league goals that season, an accolade he was to repeat with the same number of goals the following campaign. Hamilton had topped the Town charts the previous two seasons, with 19 goals in 1973-74 and 17 in 1974-75.
Out of interest, and as a comparison, here's the table from 1975-76 with the current position of each club in the Football League pyramid in brackets:
1 Liverpool (4th)
2 QPR (40th)
3 Manchester United (1st)
4 Derby County (43rd)
5 Leeds United (12th)
6 IPSWICH TOWN (51st)
7 Leicester City (3rd)
8 Manchester City (2nd)
9 Tottenham (5th)
10 Norwich City (21st)
11 Everton (6th)
12 Stoke City (28th)
13 Middlesbrough (27th)
14 Coventry City (37th)
15 Newcastle (15th)
16 Aston Villa (10th)
17 Arsenal (11th)
18 West Ham (9th)
19 Birmingham (38th)
20 Wolves (14th)
21 Burnley (17th)
22 Sheffield United (20th)