WATCH! Marcus Stewart dropping in the Panenka, as the Saints go marching.... off! A 'season in the sun' for Town fans, 20 years on

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Marcus Stewart, left, and team-mates Matt Holland and Alun Armstrong celebrate Stewart's winner against Newcastle at Portman Road that 'season in the sun'. Stewart's goals inspired Town that season - Credit: PA

It’s one of “seven or eight” hat-trick balls Marcus Stewart owns.

Trophies of a football career spanning 20 years, more than 650 games and 250 goals, and with it a delicious spell at Portman Road that will never be forgotten by those Blues fans who saw it.

Cool as a cucumber. Marcus Stewart nets Town's winner at Anfield, in December 2000

Cool as a cucumber. Marcus Stewart nets Town's winner at Anfield, in December 2000 - Credit: Archant

Southampton, away, April 2, 2001, in the Premiership, live on Sky and under the floodlights at The Dell, Marcus’ dinked Panenka penalty in the 71st minute completed his hat-trick, sealed a 0-3 victory for Town and put him on the verge of an England call-up.

He was on the way to those 19 league goals come the end of the season, only beaten by Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – while two ahead of Arsenal’s Thierry Henry.

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So, I find it rather difficult to ask him, “what are your highlights from that 2000/01 season - the ‘season in the sun’, as I’m calling it?”

For the popular West Country lad, born in Bristol, who made woolly gloves a fashion icon in Suffolk during his time at Portman Road, trying to think of highlights of that campaign must feel like me asking him to spot trees in a wood.

Lean on me: Matt Holland and Marcus Stewart congratulate James Scowcroft at Leeds Picture: PAGE PIX

Lean on me: Matt Holland and Marcus Stewart congratulate James Scowcroft at Leeds, after Scowie had scored at Elland Road in September 2000. Town's first away win of that season. - Credit: Archant

“Yeah, it was quite a season,” Marcus admits.

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“Looking back, we had such great team spirit. There were no superstars. We were strong all over the pitch and had an especially strong spine to our team.

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“I never felt under any pressure at Ipswich. I backed myself to score goals wherever I went and that included in the Premiership. I was good at putting disappointments to one side, things never bothered me. I just got on with life.

“As a team we didn’t know what to expect that year after we were promoted. The history books sort of told us we might not do well, but after we got a few wins, momentum was key.”

By the time Marcus and his team-mates arrived at The Dell that April evening in 2001, Town were gunning for not just a European spot - but a Champions League place.

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Town players celebrate Marcus Stewart's (far right) hat-trick during their Premiership match against Southampton in April 2001 - Credit: PA

The Town striker’s three league goals moved him onto 18 at the time.

“I remember that Southampton game really well,” he said.

“The pitch was a bit dewy that night and that suited our game. We enjoyed pinging the ball about. I seemed to always feel fitter during a night game. I just felt stronger. It was my one and only hat-trick in the Premiership and yes, I did a Panenka spot kick to get my hat-trick.

“I didn’t do it to be cocky or arrogant. I did it more than just that one time. I often took penalties and I didn’t want to get known as someone who always did the same thing. I mixed it up, including the Panenka.

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“It was after that game I thought I might get an England call-up.

“Not that I thought about it much, that’s not my style. But I must admit I did wonder if I would get it, because I felt if I didn’t get it now, then when would I?”

As it turned out an England squad, that included the likes of Owen, Heskey, Phillips and Sheringham, in the striker ranks, couldn’t find a place for Marcus Stewart - so close, yet so far.

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Marcus Stewart scores from the penalty spot against Newcastle United in 2001. The day Sir Bobby Robson returned to Portman Road, as Newcastle boss. Town won 1-0. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

“I couldn’t do any more than I was doing,” Marcus said.

“I remember being among the PFA Player of the Year nominations at the end of the season - in the top six - five of them were strikers.”

Indeed, at a time of top English marksmen, Marcus was in good company, with an Ipswich Town team that were stunning all in the Premiership.

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“As I said, it was a wonderful season and for me personally to score all those goals was great,” he said.

“I remember getting a couple at Manchester City and of course the one at Liverpool. There were so many good times that season.”

Marcus Stewart pounces on a poor back pass to beat Everton keeper Paul Gerrard, during Town's 3-0 wi

Marcus Stewart pounces on a poor back pass to beat Everton keeper Paul Gerrard, during Town's 3-0 win at Goodison Park in September 2000 - Credit: Archant

But the good times at Town didn't last. And as Town were relegated, so Marcus joined Sunderland on a three-year deal in 2002. 

He retired from playing in 2011.

Today, aged 48 and after leaving Walsall as assistant coach, he is taking a break from football.

“I’m taking some time out, enjoying my family,” he said.

Sunderland's Marcus Stewart celebrates scoring his sides 4th goal against Cambridge United, during t

Still banging them in. This time at Sunderland where, after leaving Town, Stewart enjoyed some fine seasons. - Credit: PA

“It’s been sort of 30 years of nothing but football and I would like to get back into it eventually, but for now we’ll have a bit of a break - although I am doing a bit of refereeing - I enjoy that.

“In fact I used to referee fun games in training when I played. Now I’m taking a ref’s course.”

So, there you have it.

Just a few ‘season in the sun’ memories from a man who provided Town fans with a plethora of them.


WHAT are your memories of that ‘season in the sun’? Games? Goals? Marcus Stewart? Let me know.... mike.bacon@archant.co.uk

UP NEXT: Town fan KARL FULLER. And why love was in the air as Town marched all the way into the top 5!

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