Night the local boy tamed the Master

ENJOYING our series of greatest-ever Ipswich Town games, sports writer Mike Bacon tells of the match that sticks in his mind most. A night when the local boy tamed the Master at Portman RoadCOULD you imagine it now?Barcelona at Portman Road in a European tie.

ENJOYING our series of greatest-ever Ipswich Town games, sports writer Mike Bacon tells of the match that sticks in his mind most. A night when the local boy tamed the Master at Portman Road

COULD you imagine it now?

Barcelona at Portman Road in a European tie.

Oh, to see the likes of Ronaldinho, Messi, Eto'o, Deco, Henry, et al gracing the Portman Road turf.


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Well, back when I was a youngster, great European nights and great European teams at Portman Road was the order of the day. Spoilt? You bet we were.

Barcelona? It was more a case of Barca Who? after the Blues beat them twice in two seasons at Portman Road, although admittedly on both occasions losing overall on aggregate in the Nou Camp. But so what?

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You can't take away those stunning home wins, and my greatest-ever Town game was one of those victories, on November 23, 1977, UEFA Cup, third round, first leg: Ipswich Town 3 Barcelona 0.

I was only 12 at the time and a trip to Portman Road with mum as company (she loved her football but, I remember, used to get quite vocal) meant arriving early for an excellent front row position in the old East Stand, level with the 18-yard box, North Stand end.

We got in the ground about 6.15pm in those days, a good hour-and-a-half before kick-off. But by 7pm the ground was almost full, the floodlights on and more than 33,600 fans waited in anticipation for the game to start.

Barcelona, led by the brilliant Johann Cruyff, were star-studded, and included another Dutch international Johann Neeskens in midfield.

Roger Osborne, one of a plethora of local boys in the Ipswich side, was given the task of man-marking Cruyff and, boy, did he man-mark the Dutch Master - almost out of the game.

Eric Gates put Town ahead and the atmosphere was simply brilliant. Trevor Whymark, who will always remain one of my favourite Town players and one that never gained the recognition he should have, and Brian Talbot, made it 3-0 in the second half.

It was an outstanding performance, with Osborne receiving all the plaudits for keeping Cruyff quiet.

And, to make the night even better, mum let me sit up to watch it all again on Sportsnight . . . great days.

OK, so, we lost the second leg after a penalty shoot-out. But for Osborne that night was a performance to remember and, just six months later, he was to score the goal of his life at Wembley Stadium in the FA Cup final.

For me, and many thousands of Suffolk kids my age, in those days it was just another great European evening.

You could stick your Man U, Chelsea, Newcastle and Liverpool shirts as far as me and my mates were concerned! As kids we proudly bought and wore our own Blues shirts.

Yes, Ipswich Town were a simply cracking team in my young days, as even Barcelona found out in what I consider one of Town's greatest-ever performances.

Town team: Cooper Stirk, Mills, Talbot, Hunter, Beattie, Osborne, Gates, Mariner, Whymark, Woods.

Referee: A Prokop (East Germany).

Attendance: 33,663.

Whichever match is your favourite, let us know.

Write to us on the form printed in the EADT and send it to: Town's Greatest Game, EADT Sport, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or e-mail us at: sport@eadt.co.uk

We will take entries up until Monday, November 19 and then we will reveal your choice as the best Town game ever, and also what we consider the best entrant and why.

There will be a prize for the winner, too.

So get thinking of those great Town games.

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