Time to meet at the Town Hall! – a look back on how ‘Mr John’ solved Ipswich Town’s similar woes of 1964

A PALTRY points tally from the opening games, an under pressure manager backed by his board and a growing feeling of unrest from supporters – the present day woes of Ipswich Town have a great deal of similarities to those of 1964. STUART WATSON looks back on what it took to spectacularly turn things around 48 years ago.

WE’VE been here before – and it took the manager to resign, a supporter to be promoted to the board and the appointment of a disciplinarian to the Blues hot-seat to spectacularly turn things around.

In the summer of 1964, discontent among the Portman Road faithful was already well and truly bubbling after Newcastle United legend Jackie Milburn had overseen the Suffolk side’s relegation from the top-flight. Just two years after the club’s incredible First Division title under Sir Alf Ramsey, the Blues had not only finished rock-bottom, but they had conceded 121 goals in their 42 games.

Chairman John Cobbold – in what would become something of a strong policy over the ensuing years – continued to maintain his support for the under-fire manager. Milburn, however, decided to resign after claiming just one point from the opening five games of the new Division Two campaign.

“There was a huge amount of unrest among supporters at that time, just as there is now,” recalls Tony Garnett, the EADT’s Blues reporter of the day.

“The board could sense the atmosphere and called an Extraordinary General Meeting at the Town Hall. I was there and it was a noisy affair with plenty of disagreement and shouting.

“The supporters’ club wanted a fan to be elected onto the board and initially the board disagreed. Eventually John Cobbold and the rest of his board members disappeared behind a screen and, when they re-emmerged, they agreed that Ken Brightwell – a local estate agent – should join them.”

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With physio Jimmy Forsyth having taken charge as caretaker boss, Brightwell – later described as ‘anything but a yes man’ – was subsequently involved in the appointment of a new boss. And Bill McGarry – a 37-year-old who had made an encouraging start to his managerial career with Bournemouth and Watford – was the chosen man.

“Bill was exactly what the club needed at that time,” said Garnett. “There were a lot of talented footballers in the squad, but they needed some discipline and a few of them had admitted that much to me.

“I remember Bill tearing a strip off of Scottish full-back Joe Davin on a public train back from an away game. He also brought in some strong characters such as Cyril Lea from Leyton Orient.”

Having claimed just six points from their opening 10 games – one fewer than Town’s current haul from the same number of games – McGarry’s side quickly shot up the table and ended up finishing fifth that season. Two years of rebuilding later, they had been promoted back to the top-flight.

Fast-forward little under 50 years and Ipswich Town find themselves at a comparable low to that seen in the autumn of ‘64. Supporters’ discontent is at the highest point in recent memory, with manager Paul Jewell continuing to receive the backing of his employers despite coming under increasing pressure following a poor start to his second full season in charge.

That is where the similarities with the situation ends though.

Jewell has insisted he will not resign, while the reclusive Evans certainly won’t be calling a meeting at the Town Hall to discuss the situation with supporters.