‘I dream of this happening again for Ipswich Town’ - chairman, manager and captain remember Wembley 2000
- Credit: Archant
Today marks 20 years since Ipswich Town secured promotion to the Premier League in dramatic fashion at Wembley. ANDY WARREN looks back at a great day...
‘Reuser has scored for Ipswich Town... the goal that will take them to the Premier League. It’s Ipswich four, Barnsley two.’
‘George Burley knows that they’re there now!’
Immortal words from BBC Radio Suffolk, ITV and Sky Sports. It’s hard to believe they were all first uttered 20 years ago today.
Fuelled by the pain of three lost play-off battles, George Burley’s men got the job done at Wembley in the grand old stadium’s final club game, sending a county wild and prompting scenes of jubilation not seen by either the club or town of Ipswich since.
And it’s clear, talking to those involved on the pitch and those just as involved in the stands, the memories of May 29, 2000, remain some of the best and most vivid for all those of a blue persuasion.
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“Time certainly flies,” manager Burley said. “It really doesn’t seem that long ago.
“It was a long building process for us and the pain of losing in the play-offs was hard, getting so close but then missing out. But it was all part of us building something.
“We had so much support, from the club and from the fans, so to get the job done at Wembley that day was wonderful.
“It was so important to so many. People still speak about it now and say it’s the best day they’ve had in their lives. It was a great final and a special day for everybody there.
“The club didn’t have a rich backer back then. It was run by people who loved the club and loved the town and it was supported by so many as well. We showed the success you can have if you have a plan, some good ideas and the right spirit. It’s something we will never forget.
“The memories of the goals, the fans, Richard Wright’s penalty save and so many other things are really strong in the memory.
“When I look back I have so many happy memories of that day and of the club building, getting stronger and stronger to get back into the Premiership.”
The Blues’ class of 2000 roll off the tongue. Wright, Wilnis, Croft, McGreal, Mowbray, Venus, Brown, Clapham, Stockwell, Holland, Magilton, Wright, Naylor, Johnson, Stewart, Scowcroft, Reuser. Household names.
Just as memorable are the big moments. Craig Hignett’s early thunderbolt, which bounced in off of Richard Wright’s arm and shredded the nerves. Mowbray’s towering header, Wright’s penalty save, Naylor’s shirt flying around his head, Stewart’s brilliant header, another big Wright save from Hristov and then Reuser’s dramatic clincher.
It’s a game players and fans alike can recount like it was yesterday.
“What a team we had,” said captain Matt Holland.
“George Burley had put together a squad of really good players and really good characters. They were a pleasure to play with and people I will remember forever.
“It had been something we had been working towards for so long, so to win and Wembley and win promotion to the Premier League was a feeling you can’t describe.
“After the final whistle, all I could think of was getting up to the Royal Box, picking up the trophy as quickly as possible and then throwing it in the air. It didn’t matter how tired I was, how many steps there were to climb or how heavy my legs were, I just wanted to get our hands on that trophy.
“Throwing that trophy towards the Ipswich fans was such a good moment and we stayed out on the pitch for a long time to celebrate with the supporters. We enjoyed that moment together and all the hard work we had all put in.”
Once Burley and his players had climbed the 39 steps to the Royal Box to get their hands on the trophy, they were greeted by a man who had been there through it all and kicked every ball with them. Chairman David Sheepshanks.
“They were all heroes that day, every single one of them,” Sheepshanks said.
“I still hear the Peter Drury commentary from the ITV highlights.... ‘Reuser, Premiership!’ And that will live with me forever. It was an unbelievable day.
“There were hugs galore and it was just so joyous. After all the pressure of previous years the feeling of making it was such a good one.
“It was extraordinary to know a dream and five years of hard work had come to fruition.”
Holland added: “Coming home down the A12 and seeing the fans hanging flags over the bridges was amazing. I reckon we played Wonderwall by Oasis 50 times or more on the way back. George was at the back with us, having a few beers and enjoying the moment.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to look back on my career and say that I played at Wembley, helped get our team promoted, finished fifth in the Premier League and scored a goal at the World Cup.
“Winning promotion with Ipswich was so special. I will remember it forever.”
But what all those involved are keen to stress was the importance of the role played by the Ipswich supporters and those behind the scenes, who were there through the bad times and enjoyed the good in the Wembley sunshine.
“Credit must go to everybody,” Sheepshanks said. “The directors who supported each other and made decisions together within a really well-moulded team. David Rose, Trevor Kirton, John Ford in the ticket office, Pat Godbold who has been the heartbeat of the club for so long - everyone deserves a mention because there were so many brilliant people. People like Sally Webb (Secretary), Mark Andrews in finance and Alicia Gooderham with the PR.
“The coaching staff, the late Dale Roberts who was a magnificent support to George, Dave Williams the physio and his wife Anne-Marie who continues to be a great support to me to this day and of course all the players as well. Everyone. But not least the supporters.
“The fans had been through so much disappointment and wanted this so badly. But my word we celebrated it and enjoyed such a wonderful crest of a wave the following season.
“Hopefully good times like this aren’t too far away again. I dream of this happening again for Ipswich Town, and why shouldn’t it?”