Ipswich Town will be a big club again, insists Marcus Stewart on anniversary of 2000 Play-Off triumph

Marcus Stewart wheels away in celebration after heading Town into a 3-1 lead. Photo: Jamie Niblock

Marcus Stewart wheels away in celebration after heading Town into a 3-1 lead. Photo: Jamie Niblock

Seventeen years ago today, Ipswich Town beat Barnsley 4-2 in a thrilling Play-Off Final at the old Wembley. Marcus Stewart, the goalscoring hero of that era, believes the Blues will get back to that level again.

Former Ipswich Town hero Marcus Stewart believes the Blues will get back to the big time.

Seventeen years ago today, Stewart scored as Town secured promotion to the Premier League via a thrilling 4-2 Play-Off Final victory against Barnsley at the old Wembley.

The hot-shot striker subsequently netted 19 goals in the top-flight as George Burley’s men defied the odds to finish fifth, but relegation and financial ruin quickly followed and now the club is preparing for a 16th successive season in the Championship.

A Groundhog Day feeling has engulfed the Suffolk outfit in recent times and a growing sense of apathy among supporters has been reflected by a drop-off in season ticket sales of around 2,000 following the club’s lowest league finish in almost 60 years.

Former Ipswich Town striker Marcus Stewart believes the good times will return at Portman Road. Phot

Marcus Stewart fired Ipswich Town to a fifth place Premier League finish in 2000/01. - Credit: PA

With Mick McCarthy set to stay in charge as manager and owner Marcus Evans unlikely to drastically increase a limited transfer budget there is little cause to expect a drastic change in fortunes, but Stewart remains positive.

“With football things go in cycles and, at the moment, Ipswich are what they are – a club with sustained Championship status,” said the 44-year-old, who, as assistant manager, has helped take Bristol Rovers from the National League to the top end of League One.

“Clubs like Ipswich will always come back to being as big, if not bigger, than they were before though. That’s the way it works. I do genuinely believe that. I just hope that time comes sooner rather than later for Ipswich.”

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Meanwhile, Richard Naylor, who also scored in Town’s play-off triumph of 2000, said: “Mick (McCarthy) came in at a difficult time and has done a good job with limited resources. Things could be a lot worse when you look at what’s happened to clubs with similar budgets. I still speak to a lot of people behind the scenes there and I know they are working very hard in the academy to produce players for the first team.

“Hopefully something will click this season. If it doesn’t then maybe Mick will move on. I do think he’s earned the right to have another go with everything he’s done at the club previously and his CV in general. Other managers might have been moved on sooner, but Mick deserves to be given the chance to rebuild I think. It might just need a bit more investment.”