Fifty years on from that mad Boxing Day that saw Ipswich Town concede 10!
- Credit: PA
Former EADT and Ipswich Evening Star sports editor Tony Garnett’s tongue is placed firmly in cheek when he describes the Blues’ joint-record defeat, on Boxing Day 1963, as a “bit unlucky”.
Tony, who also reported on Town’s 9-0 debacle at Manchester United in March 1995, was the unfortunate journalist sent to Fulham’s Craven Cottage and witnessed Jackie Milburn’s Blues suffer a 10-1 hammering at the hands of a Cottagers team including a certain Bobby Robson, who himself got on the scoresheet that day.
Town were 4-0 down after 20 minutes, a spell that included a three-and-a-half minute hat-trick from Graham Leggat – which is the seventh fastest treble in English football – and the performance from the “bewildered” and “perplexed” Blues’ was described as “humiliating”.
“In terms of possession, it wasn’t a one-sided game,” recalls Tony, who saw Gerry Baker hit the Blues’ solitary strike that day.
“But Jackie Milburn didn’t have much idea as to how to set up a team to defend and while George Dougan hit the post a couple of times early on, I think the player he was marking (Bobby Howfield scored a hat-trick) scored a few.
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“You could make an argument that they were a bit unlucky though as, had the game gone on for five or 10 minutes longer, it would likely have been abandoned as a result of the thick fog!
“I was on the team coach on the way back and you could not see anything more than a few yards in front of you.”
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Mother Nature may well have come close to saving Town that day, but it is unlikely they would have had much better fortune had the game been replayed at a later date.
A total of 55 goals were scored in the other nine Division One games that day (157 in the four divisions in total), suggesting Town could have been part of a freak set of results.
While the Blues were being beaten in west London, Terry Venables was among the scorers as Chelsea won 5-1 at Blackpool, while hosts Burnley humbled Manchester United 6-1.
Elsewhere, Liverpool matched Burnley’s feat at home to Stoke, Jimmy Greaves scored twice in Spurs’ 4-4 draw at West Brom and Blackburn won 8-2 at West Ham.
Town actually went and won the reverse fixture at home to Fulham two days later, 4-2, with just one change made to the team – Danny Hegan replacing Ted Phillips.
However, a total of 121 goals conceded and only nine wins to their name at the end of a dismal season told its own story.
The Fulham game was just one of a number of Ipswich Town horror-shows that season with a 9-1 defeat at Stoke, a 6-3 loss at Tottenham, 6-0 defeats to Liverpool, Arsenal and Bolton and a 7-2 home drubbing by Manchester United adding to their woes.
Tony was under no illusions that Town were on a downward spiral, so soon after winning the Division One title in 1962 under the England-bound Alf Ramsey.
“They were pretty hopeless,” he recalls.
“Jackie Milburn was a lovely fella but he brought in quite a few players from the north and Scotland and they did not really fit in with Ramsey’s men.
“I remember Fulham having a decent team with the likes of Bobby Robson, Tony Macedo in goal and Graham Leggat in attack who scored four goals.
“But there a few big defeats that season, including the 9-1 hammering at Stoke City.
“Was it a bad time to be a Town fan? Well not many people travelled to away games at that time, so a lot of the big defeats were not seen.”
It was certainly a difficult period for Town and just showed how quickly football can change.
TOWN at Fulham: Roy Bailey, Joe Davin, John Compton, Billy Baxter, John Bolton, George Dougan, Joe Broadfoot, Doug Moran, Gerry Baker, Ted Phillips, Bobby Blackwood.
Ipswich’s 10-1 defeat at the hands of Fulham was the catalyst for an unlikely love affair between London-based youngster Alan Benedick and the Suffolk side.
Alan, now 59, was taken as a Boxing Day treat by his QPR-supporting dad to watch his first football game and, by full-time, had become a dyed-in-the-wool Town fan.
“My dad had a tailor’s shop in Hammersmith, supported QPR and used to do all the tailoring and suits for the players and management at Loftus Road,” explains Alan.
“Fulham was quite close by, in the same borough, and that day I was asked if I wanted to go to a football match.
“I was a big football fan and even though I was only a kid, I was still aware that it was quite unusual to see a team shipping 10 goals in one game.”
Fulham raced into a 4-0 lead after 20 minutes, four-goal scorer Graham Leggat grabbing a hat-trick in that period, while there were also goals for future Blues boss Bobby Robson, and Alan Mullery.
“As the goals went in, I began thinking to myself, “this is ridiculous” and I felt really sorry for Ipswich. I took pity on them. That game started my love for the club.
“I remember being passed down to the front at Craven Cottage and saw quite a few goals being scored, which wasn’t good, but I was hooked.
“As a kid I always went for the underdog and while my dad didn’t like it, that was it and my love for Ipswich has continued all my life. If you cut me open, I would bleed blue and white probably.”
Into his early teens, Alan went through a spell where he did not miss a game, home or away, despite being based in London.
He went on to write the first-ever ‘Suffolk Punch’ Ipswich Town fanzine and after the Fulham game, saw things get better under Sir Bobby Robson.
“I always say you can change your house, your car, your wife, but you never change your football team,” jokes Alan.