‘A season in the sun’.... When Ipswich Town took the Premiership by storm
- Credit: Archant
After the euphoria of their play-off victory at Wembley in May 2000, Ipswich Town headed into the Premiership and embarked on one the best-ever seasons in the club’s recent history. 20 years on MIKE BACON looks back - and in a series of features in the coming weeks and months ahead, speaks to many of those involved, players, management and fans. He welcomes your thoughts.
Ipswich Town went into the 2000/01 season on a high.
The euphoric victory at Wembley in May 2000 - a 4-2 win over Barnsley - saw George Burley’s side back at English football’s top table - the Premiership, as it was known then.
I was editor of the Saturday night Green’Un football paper at the time and, like so many Town fans, I had been lucky enough to be at Wembley that May afternoon.
But what would a new season bring?
George Burley had, at the fourth time of play-off asking, got Town into the Premiership and it was with most of the players that got the club there, he put faith in as they embarked on their challenge. As we all know, they rose to that challenge magnificently.
One man who had called time on his career was Tony Mowbray - the brilliant defender, who scored in that Wembley final moved into a coaching role at Portman Road.
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So, back to life on the Green’Un that season.
Well, one of the first things I wanted to sort out for the newspaper was a regular columnist, who would give an insight to the fans of life at Portman Road.
I had already enjoyed ghost-writing Green’Un columns with Alex Mathie, Mark Venus and Kieron Dyer - he had now moved to Newcastle.
It was at a time of course when football clubs worked closely with their local media partners. I had a meeting with the club and asked for Marcus Stewart to be the columnist - if he was up for it.
He certainly was! And what a season, he as a player - and us as a newspaper - enjoyed.
In the weeks ahead I’m going to speak to many ex-players and fans about that season.
So for now I won’t rattle on through the games apace. Simply to say, like so many Town fans who enjoyed that wonderful campaign, it was a ‘season in the sun’ and one to remember.
On the Green’Un it was all systems go from the off ahead of the new season.
Marcus Stewart was on board and Kieron Dyer offered to continue to pen a column from Newcastle, now called ‘Ha’way The Lad’. We took up that offer very quickly. Little did we know what a season it was set to be for the Ipswich-born midfielder, including his England debut.
But back at Portman Road extra pages were being allowed for the Green’Un and although the season didn’t get off to the greatest of starts - with a 1-3 defeat at Spurs, the draw at home to Manchester United - Becks, the Nevilles, Scholes, Giggs, Keane, et al, filled the fans - and more importantly the players - with belief. Man U would go on to win the title by 10 points ahead of Arsenal.
The first win came at home to Sunderland, Titus Bramble charging through to get the only goal of the game.
Two more defeats followed - against Villa and Leicester, but then came what I always felt was the ‘breakthrough moment’ Leeds 1, Town 2, at Elland Road.
That victory set Town on their way to an unbeaten six-match league run, the win lifting everyone at the club - but so much more was set to follow.
Back in the Green’Un offices, Saturday afternoons became a pure joy.
Town would go and upset the ‘big boys’ on a regular basis as they marched up the table. Sales were up, advertising revenue rocketed.
The Blues headed towards the top five and were third for a long time, our columnist at the paper, Marcus Stewart taking the goalscoring charts by storm - he was to end up with 19 league goals - only Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on 23 finishing above him.
And the beautiful thing about Marcus Stewart?
He used to come into the Green’Un offices most weeks and sit and chat through his column. We set up a ‘Ask Marcus’ email address and the questions flooded in - especially about those woolly gloves! He was such a down-to-earth guy - still is.
By the end of the season Town had finished fifth and qualified for Europe.
It had been a total joy to have been Green’Un editor during that campaign.
So, over to you.
Let me know your memories of that season, e-mail me... email@example.com.
The places you went, the goals you remember, the highs, the fun, the joy. 20 years on, are those memories still vivid?
Next up: I speak to the gaffer who directed the whole damn show! GEORGE BURLEY - and from him, the game that season he remembers with most fondness.