Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Club focus -- Ipswich Town


Strangely for a team that have been in the top 2 divisions since I started watcing football I can't recall ever seeing Ipswich live. That will change on Saturday when I go to Ipswich v Scunthorpe.

When I was a small lad and Villa were the champions of England and Europe Ipswich were themselves a force to be reckoned with losing out on the last day of the season to Villa in the race for the title in 1981 and going on to win the UEFA Cup the following year. Most of the players were household names, although being very young at the time I perhaps remember them for the wrong reasons: Paul Mariner in the Golden Wonder cards, Alan Brazil in Topps bubble gum cards, John Wark as the ugly guy on 'Escape to victory' and player of the year in 1981, Franz Thijssen and his unpoppable balls. They were the balls that actually didn't pop, quikly turned a dirty brown and if you played out with them in the wet turned to concrete. I actually have fonder memories of them when another Dutch international Johnny Metgod was their ambassador, but I think Franz was the original.

Anyway, back to Ipswich Town: The club was formed in 1878, but they didn't turn professional until 1936 snd they are still the only professional club to ever have come from Suffolk. When they were formed they started life out as Ipswich AFC, but changed to Ipswich Town when they merged with the local rugby club in 1888.

After playing in various leagues, Ipswich became founder members of the Eastern Counties League in the 1934-5 season. In 1938 they joined the league and played in division 3 South until 1953.

In 1960 Ipswich reached the top flight for the first time and in 1962 they won the league under Alf Ramsay. However, Ramsay was soon on is way to manage England and to win the World Cup. Another football legend took over at Portman Road in the shape of Jackie Milburn. Wor Jackie was a nightmare as a manager though, and Ipswich got relegated in 1964.

In 1968 Bill McGarty got Ipswich back up into the top division, but one year later he was off to Wolves to be replaced by another manager who would later leave the club to take over the national side, Bobby Robson.

In 1978 they won their first major silverware under Robson when they won the FA Cup. They also came second in the league in 1981 and beat Man United 6-0 on the way and 1982 they won the UEFA cup. However, Robson was on his way and Ipswich didn't recover and in 1986 they were relegated.

Since those halcyon days Ipswich have been a bit of a yo-yo club, although there yo has gone a bit over the last few seasons. Highlights have been a 5th finish in the top tier in 2000, which led to a UEFA cup place and George Burley being named manager of the year. The lowlight was in 2006 when they finished 15th in the 2nd tier.

This season with Roy Keane in charge and being backed by the cash of Marcus Evans Ipswich were predicted to challenge for promotion. However, a large number of draws and a poor start to the season sees the just outside of the relegation places and perhaps they will finish worse off than 15th

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