Will the 2014/15 season be one of ITFC’s top 10? Here are the current favourites from editor Terry Hunt
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town have enjoyed some great seasons in their illustrious history. Not all of them ended with silverware in the trophy room – but every one was memorable for one reason or another.
This is editor Terry Hunt’s choice. Let’s hope the current season will make future top tens!
This was the start of something big. It was Alf Ramsey’s second season as manager, and Town won Division Three (South) on goal average from…wait for it…Torquay. Astonishingly, five of the regulars – Bailey, Carberry, Elsworthy, Leadbetter, and Phillips – were still in the team which five years later shocked the football world by winning the Division One title. Ted Phillips scored no fewer than 48 goals in the 1956-57 season. Oh, and Norwich finished rock bottom.
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After a few seasons of consolidation in Division Two, Town stormed to the Second Division championship, with Ray Crawford netting 40 times, and Ted helping himself to 30. How sweet - homespun little Ipswich in with the big boys. Surely the country bumpkins would go straight back to where they belonged…wouldn’t they?
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The answer, as we all know, was a resounding no! After a slow start, in their fourth game Town thumped highly-fancied Burnley 6-2. It went to the final game. Ipswich beat Villa 2-0 at Portman Road, and Burnley failed to win. The country cousins were Division One champions. Cue wild celebrations, and Ramsey’s famous “I feel fine’’ response to the nice man from the BBC. An absolute footballing miracle, which Ramsey would repeat four years later with England.
After a few seasons in the doldrums, tough guy manager Bill McGarry breathed new life into Ipswich. Crawford came back, still full of goals, and McGarry built a team good enough to win the Second Division championship. McGarry then quickly left for Wolves, saying he felt the Midlands club had more potential. Not sure you got that one right, Bill.
Robson’s first few seasons were a struggle, with Town staving off relegation a couple of times. But with Mills now installed as captain, Beattie and Whymark emerging, and the Irish duo of Hunter and Hamilton playing a huge part, this was the season which changed everything. From the first game, a 2-1 win at Old Trafford, Town were suddenly a force to be reckoned with. Fourth place got us a UEFA Cup place. Oh, and I nearly forgot – we won the Texaco Cup, winning both legs of the final against…Norwich.
Ipswich had been a top team for three seasons by now, and it was about time they won something big. This season they so nearly managed it. They finished third in the league, only two points behind Derby. But it was in the FA Cup that the real drama came. It took no fewer than four quarter-final games against mighty Leeds for Town to make it to their first FA Cup semi-final. After a goalless draw against West Ham at Villa Park, the replay was at a snowy Stamford Bridge. Referee Clive Thomas broke our hearts, controversially ruling out two Bryan Hamilton strikes. Cue tears everywhere.
Ironically, this was injury-hit Town’s worst league season for years. But in the cup we more than made up for all the agony of three years earlier. I had never known celebrations as wild as when Warky clinched the semi against WBA at Highbury. Then Wembley was something else. Town in the FA Cup Final – the stuff dreams were made of. And we absolutely played Arsenal off the park – it was the biggest 1-0 massacre in history. So fitting that Roger Osborne, the boy from Otley, should score the winner.
It could (perhaps should?) have been the greatest Town season of them all. But, in the end, fighting on three fronts and playing a grand total of 66 games took its toll, leaving us with “only’’ one trophy, instead of all three. But we took satisfaction from knowing we were the best team in England (perhaps the whole of Europe?), that we’d beaten eventual league champions Villa three times, and, of course, we won the UEFA Cup.
How much more could we take? Year after year, we were losing in the play-offs. Such great seasons, but bitter disappointment at the end. This was different. Yes, we were in the play-offs yet again, but a Marcus Stewart inspired comeback in the semi-final first leg at Bolton set us up for what was surely the most exciting match ever at Portman Road. Then another great comeback in the final at Wembley against Barnsley. Reuser racing clear to make it safe…wonderful memories. We were back!
…and didn’t we make the most of it? Town were the real surprise packages of that first season back in the Premier League, with Marcus Stewart taking top-flight defences by storm. Fourth place saw a return to European football. The good times were back. Burley and his boys were heroes. Such a shame it went so horribly wrong the next season.
Footnote: My apologies to Town fans with a soft spot for the 1991-92 Division Two champions. That season was next in line – but I’m only allowed ten picks.
See yesterday’s top 10 from Terry Hunt here