Tales of lost shorts and prophetic words – Class of 2000 reflect on Ipswich Town’s classic Play-0ff Final triumph

Goalscorers Richard Naylor, Tony Mowbray, Martijn Reuser and Marcus Stewart celebrate Ipswich Town's

Goalscorers Richard Naylor, Tony Mowbray, Martijn Reuser and Marcus Stewart celebrate Ipswich Town's play-off triumph. Photo: Jamie Niblock - Credit: Archant

It was 17 years ago today that Ipswich Town beat Barnsley 4-2 in an enthralling Play-Off Final at the old Wembley to secure promotion to the Premier League. Here some key men recall tales of lost shorts and prophetic words.

The game

George Burley’s men had been beaten in the play-off semi-finals for three successive years, but finally made it to Wembley with a thrilling 7-5 aggregate victory over Bolton.

Barnsley, who finished 11 points behind third-place Town in the table, took a sixth-minute lead when Craig Hignett’s long-range shot cannoned down off the bar, hit keeper Richard Wright, and went into the net.

Tony Mowbray's towering header brought Town level in the 28th minute. Photo: Archant

Tony Mowbray's towering header brought Town level in the 28th minute. Photo: Archant

Tony Mowbray’s towering header (28) levelled things up before Wright produced a stunning penalty save from Darren Barnard just before half-time.


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Richard Naylor’s deft finish (52) and Marcus Stewart’s header (58) put the Blues in charge, but Hignett’s penalty (78) kept the game alive.

Wright made a fantastic save from Gjorgji Hristov, then Blues sub Martijn Reuser raced away to thump home a 90th minute clincher.

Richard Naylor's deft finish put the Blues in front soon after half-time. Photo: Archant

Richard Naylor's deft finish put the Blues in front soon after half-time. Photo: Archant

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Town: R.Wright, Croft, McGreal, Venus, Mowbray, Clapham, Holland, J.Wright (Wilnis 89), Magilton, Johnson (Naylor 22), Stewart (Reuser 83).

Barnsley: Miller, Morgan, Chettle, Brown, Curtis (Eaden 71), Barnard, Appleby, Tinkler (Thomas 60), Hignett, Dyer (Hristov 64), Shipperley.

George Burley

A topless Richard Naylor celebrates his goal with with skipper Matt Holland and thousands of jubilan

A topless Richard Naylor celebrates his goal with with skipper Matt Holland and thousands of jubilant Blues fans at Wembley. Photo: Warren Page - Credit: Archant

“The memories of that day are still very clear in my mind, as I’m sure they are for all Ipswich fans because moments like that don’t happen too often.

“When we beat Bolton we all felt that this was our year. Everybody was keyed up and there was a lot of confidence.

“It was a classic game. I’m sure it was very, very entertaining for the neutral, but for those of us invested in it was an emotional rollercoaster.

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

“I vividly remember my assistant, Dale Roberts, jumping up and down behind me at the end. I think the overriding feeling was one of relief that we’d finally done it. For me personally that achievement probably eclipsed winning the FA Cup as a player.”

Marcus Stewart

“It was a hot, stifling day. Everyone says ‘just treat it like another game’, but it’s hard to do that when there is so much riding on it.

A sea of blue as Ipswich fans turn up in their numbers to see the Play-Off Final at Wembley in 2000.

A sea of blue as Ipswich fans turn up in their numbers to see the Play-Off Final at Wembley in 2000. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

“The occasion really hit home on the coach journey in. About a mile from Wembley there were thousands of fans in blue shirts waving scarves and those foam hands. Then you pass through the Wembley gates, get into the bowels of the stadium and it all goes quiet. That’s the moment you think about the responsibility to the fans and not wanting to let them down. I knew my job.

“The game itself is a bit of blur. I do remember taking my shorts off at the end and giving them to a Barnsley fan, then walking around the pitch covering my modesty with the top of the cup. I still have no idea why I did that!”

Richard Naylor

Substitute Martijn Reuser seals Ipswich Town's win and promotion to the Premier League with this las

Substitute Martijn Reuser seals Ipswich Town's win and promotion to the Premier League with this last-gasp goal. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

“The day before we trained at Chelsea, I think, and it was clear that David Johnson was struggling with injury. He was desperate to start, but I knew there was a good chance I’d be coming on sooner rather than later (in the 22nd minute). I had tendinitis in both knees and underwent surgery a few days after Wembley so I wasn’t massively confident of completing a whole game myself!

“There was a definite feeling of confidence among us. On the drive back I remember seeing all the fans being on all the bridges of the motorway waving flags. That was when it hit home what we’d done.

“We went back to the Suffolk Showground and you’d think we’d have all got plenty of drinks down our necks, but I just felt tired and drained. I went for a little walk with my wife and we just had a quiet moment of reflection.

'An explosion of relief' - Reuser celebrates his late clincher. Photo: Mick Eason

'An explosion of relief' - Reuser celebrates his late clincher. Photo: Mick Eason - Credit: PROFESSIONAL SPORT

“It was my 40th birthday recently and I’ve asked for a load of old football videos from the garage to be converted into DVDs so my 11-year-old son could see that his dad could play a bit!

“I haven’t really watched the game back much and when I have it’s a bit like I’m watching down on it rather than being in the moment. It’s surreal.”

Martijn Reuser

“I was disappointed to be on the bench, but very quickly there was a switch in my mind and I thought ‘it’s bigger than me, it’s about Ipswich Town getting promoted to the Premier League’.

“For me there wasn’t nerves. I’d played in the Champions League with Ajax and at the World Cup with Holland, so this was the normal level I wanted to play.

“I just had that feeling we wouldn’t lose. I know that’s easy to say afterwards, but it really did feel that way.

Richard Wright's penalty save at 1-1 was a big moment. Photo: Jamie Niblock.

Richard Wright's penalty save at 1-1 was a big moment. Photo: Jamie Niblock. - Credit: Archant

“I turned to Dale Roberts and said ‘put me on and I’ll score the winner’ or something like that (was introduced in 83rd minute).

“The minute I got that ball on the halfway line I knew I would score. I wasn’t the fastest player in the world, but no-one was going to stop me. When the ball hit the net it was just an explosion of relief. They are such great memories.”

Promotion at last: The Ipswich Town players celebrate Play-Off triumph following three previous semi

Promotion at last: The Ipswich Town players celebrate Play-Off triumph following three previous semi-final defeats. Photo: Jamie Niblock - Credit: Archant

A proud moment for Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks. Photo: Jamie Niblock

A proud moment for Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks. Photo: Jamie Niblock

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