Ranking Ipswich Town's top five centre-halves of the last 40 years
- Credit: Archant
Town have been blessed with a wealth of talented centre-halves over the last 40 years, some of them dominant powerhouses, others more cultured.
It has been very difficult to whittle the list down to a top five, as reflected in some of the omissions.
Bubbling just below the top five are the likes of old favourites Tony Humes, Ian Atkins and Ian Cranson, foreign imports Sergei Baltacha and Claus Thomsen, plus stalwarts like Jason Cundy, Mark Venus, Titus Bramble and Tony Vaughan.
Since the turn of the century, there have been high-calibre centre-halves such as Hermann Hreidarsson, Jason De Vos and Gareth McAuley, in addition to Town's current skipper and stalwart Luke Chambers.
So a very tough choice, with so many different options.
But here's my top five, with one footnote - Kevin Beattie, arguably Town's greatest ever player, does not feature because he was past his best, due to recurring injury, by the start of this period from the beginning of the 1980s.
1 TERRY BUTCHER
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Deservedly top of the pops, in this category, Butcher was aged 19 when he made his Town debut against Everton, in April, 1978. He never really looked back.
Mr Reliable, who was a star of Town's UEFA Cup triumph of 1980-81, made 64 appearances in that one season alone as Sir Bobby Robson's men also finished second to Aston Villa in the top flight and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.
The imperious Butcher went on to play 271 league games for Town, and earn 77 caps for England.
Rarely has there been a more courageous player to have donned a Town shirt - sometimes even splattered with his own blood!
2 RUSSELL OSMAN
The Butcher/Osman partnership was probably the best in the land throughout the first half of the 1980s, playing at the highest level and rarely missing games.
Osman was at Town from 1976 until 1985, playing nearly 400 games and being ever-present (66 games) during the wonderful season of 1980-81, which culminated in UEFA Cup glory.
Strong but elegant, he rarely put a foot wrong.
3 DAVID LINIGHAN
Hartlepool-born defender Linighan proved a very shrewd buy, when arriving from Shrewsbury for a £300,000 fee in 1988, staying at Portman Road for eight years and helping to propel Town into the new Premier League.
Appointed skipper in 1990, Linighan led John Lyall's Town to the old Second Division title in 1991-92 to ensure the club were one of the founder members of the Premier League.
His influence was such that he was named in the PFA Second Division Team of the Year for the 91-92 season, the only Town player included in that XI.
Linighan enjoyed three seasons in the top flight with Town, and had rattled up 328 games before his departure for Blackpool.
4 TONY MOWBRAY
Already one of the elder statesmen, by the time that he signed for Town in 1995, Mowbray fittingly made his last appearance as a professional footballer at Wembley, helping to guide Town back into the Premier League.
Mowbray was 31 by the time that he arrived at Portman Road, and was never one of the more mobile centre-halves, but he didn't have to be due to his towering presence and his ability to read the game.
It was easy to fathom why Mogga had been regarded in such high esteem at his first club 'Boro (424 games) and then Celtic (four seasons in the Scottish Premier), because he made a massive impression in his five seasons at Town under boss George Burley.
He led by example, and was confirmed as a 'captain marvel' when leading his team to a 4-2 victory over Barnsley in the play-off final of 1991-2000, scoring a key 28th minute equaliser to turn the tide in Town's favour at Wembley.
An old-fashioned centre-half, they are a dying breed these days!
5 JOHN MCGREAL
I agonised after this No. 5 slot. I had Gareth McAuley, Hermann Hreidarsson and Jason De Vos as major contenders, but in the end I opted for McGreal.
A former stalwart at Tranmere Rovers, McGreal settled in well at Portman Road and helped his new club to win promotion during his first season (1999-2000) via the play-offs.
One of his best moments was scoring in his third Premier League appearance, in a 3-0 win at Everton, a goal cherished because he was a Liverpool supporter.