Ipswich Town fans make 400-mile road trip to watch Marcus Stewart’s last match

IT was a perfect way to end a memorable playing career.

Marcus Stewart had deliberately picked Exeter City’s trip to Bristol Rovers as his swansong as it pitted his current club, the Grecians, with his home-town side.

And the man who fired Ipswich Town into the play-offs before becoming the leading English goalscorer in the Premier League a year after couldn’t have written the script any better.

Coming off the bench with 24 minutes left and the score goalless, the 38-year-old played a vital part in Daniel Nardiello’s 78th minute opener as Exeter went on to claim a 2-0 win.

Stewart was then greeted to generous applause from both sets of fans after the match before his team mates formed a guard of honour as he left the field.

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Speaking yesterday, Stewart said: “Retiring has been something I have thought about for a while and I thought this would be an ideal game. It was a great day and I got a really good reception from both sets of fans, even though we won. It was a little surprising but very flattering.”

Stewart might have only played in Suffolk for little over two years but he became an instant terrace hero after signing from Huddersfield and helping Ipswich finally overcome their play-off hoodoo in 2000.

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He remained for two further seasons, scoring 19 league goals as the club finished a fantastic fifth before getting relegated the very next year.

He went on to play for Sunderland, Bristol City, Preston and Yeovil before joining Exeter where he netted his 250th career goal in a 2-2 draw with Rochdale.

Revealing his hopes for the future, Stewart added: “I have been helping with coaching for six years now, and two years in the first team. So this is something I would like to do full time next year. The Exeter boss, Paul Tisdale, started as a coach and advised me to do the same.”

Stewart is still loved in Suffolk, as shown by the gushing tributes among Town fans after he announced his decision to retire at the back end of last week.

But if the down-to-earth striker needed any other evidence, he only had to look at two standout fans among the 7,500 supporters inside Bristol’s Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Stewart revealed: “I actually spotted an Ipswich fan and his son who drove down to watch my last game. I chatted to them after the game and we had some photos done. That touched me a lot.”

- Were you the Town fans that undertook a 400-mile road trip to watch Marcus Stewart’s last match? And what are your memories of Stewart during his Ipswich days? Let me know at dave.gooderham@archant.co.uk

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