Ipswich Town Football Club, or the Tractor Boys as they are otherwise known, was originally founded in 1878 as an amateur club. Their main rivals are Norwich City and Colchester United, and games against Norwich in particular are known as the East Anglian derby. Although their home ground of Portman Road has proved something of a bastion, it has been almost 20 years since the Suffolk club added silverware to their trophy cabinet. With new investment coming into the club, however, fans are optimistic that happier times may not be too far away.
The club originated from at a meeting at Ipswich Town Hall, and was initially known as Ipswich Association FC. This was so that the club would not be confused with the local rugby team known as Ipswich Football Club. The two clubs were joined in 1888, before the rugby team was eventually dropped in 1893.
In 1907, the club joined the Southern Amateur League, and slowly began to establish themselves in league competition. Ipswich became champions in the 1921/22 season, and eventually outgrew the division after winning the Championship a further three times in 1930, 1933 and 1934. This led to Ipswich Town becoming founder members of the Eastern Counties League in 1935, and joining the Southern League a year later, where they became champions in the first season. Scott Duncan then took charge of team affairs from 1937.
Following this sustained period of success, the club was elected to join the Football League Division Three South, after the conclusion of the 1937/38 season. However, the league programme was abandoned the following season, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.
With the conclusion of the war, Ipswich initially produced some uninspiring football. But the club’s fortunes soon changed, as they were crowned Football League Division Three South Champions in the 1953/54 season. Unfortunately for Ipswich, their promotion exposed a number of defensive frailties, and this led to their immediate relegation back to the Division Three South in 1955. Duncan left this post soon afterwards, to be replaced by Alf Ramsey.
Despite hitting a club record 106 league goals in the 1955/56 season, Ipswich were unable to make an immediate return to Division Two. However, they were soon to break another club record, as legendary striker Ted Phillips netted 41 goals in the 1956/57 season and restored Ipswich’s status as league champions. This promotion also meant that the club were back to where they felt they rightfully belonged in Division Two.
There was no repeat of the immediate relegation that Ipswich had previously suffered. Instead they performed admirably, and the club won the Football League Division Two Championship in the 1960/61 season. With the club in a higher league position than it had ever been, many expected the Tractor Boys to have a brief stay in English football’s top division. However, Ramsey and co showed that Ipswich were not there just to make up the numbers, as the team immediately won the First Division Title in the 1961/62 season.
This success meant that Ipswich were rewarded with European Cup football the following season. After the club enjoyed a memorable victory over Floriana, the Tractor Boys were eventually knocked out by the mighty AC Milan. Ramsey was then offered the job to take charge of England, and predictably left the club soon afterwards in 1963.
Life after Ramsey
Jackie Milburn took over as manger for a single season, but his appointment had an adverse affect on the club’s form, as Ipswich were relegated in the 1963/64 season. Bill McGarry was drafted in as Ipswich’s new boss in 1964, hoping to quickly erase the memories of Jackie Milburn’s nightmare season at the club.
McGarry achieved stability if nothing else in his first couple of seasons as Ipswich manager. However, with the team’s form steadily improving, the club achieved promotion back to Division One in the 1967/68 season, after being crowned Division Two Champions. McGarry’s success inevitably saw other clubs attempt to head hunt him. The pull of Wolverhampton Wanderers was too strong for the Ipswich boss, and he left in 1968, to be replaced by Bobby Robson in 1969.
The Bobby Robson years
Robson enjoyed a steady start as Ipswich manager, and his first domestic success came in 1973 when the club won the Texaco Cup. This coincided with a respectable fourth place league finish, which landed the club a UEFA Cup spot for the first time in the club’s history.
Ipswich were also enjoying a good run in domestic competition at the time, with the club regularly finishing in a high league position. This coincided with their FA Cup success in 1978, as Ipswich beat Arsenal 1-0 in the final at Wembley.
The following season also saw Ipswich have a good run in the European Cup Winners’ Cup, where they eventually bowed out at the quarter-final stage. The 1980/81 season also proved to be fruitful for the club as they finished as Division One runners-up, FA Cup semi-finalists, and also won the UEFA Cup at the sixth attempt. A thrilling campaign saw Ipswich beat the likes of Saint Etienne and FC Koln, before defeating AZ Alkmaar 5-4 in the final.
Bobby Robson’s final year as manager of Ipswich Town capped off another fine season in the club’s history, as Ipswich once again finished as Division One runners-up, as well as reaching the Football League Cup semi-final. Once again the FA looked to Ipswich Town in their search to find the next England manager. Robson accepted the FA’s offer, having spent a memorable 13 years at Portman Road.
The inevitable decline
The next manager at Ipswich Town would undoubtedly have a hard time replacing the legendary Bobby Robson. Another Bobby, this time Bobby Ferguson, took over the managerial reigns at Ipswich. Unfortunately for the fans, his time was to prove considerably less successful. The club trod water in Division One for a few years after he took over, although the club did manage to once again reach the League Cup semi-final in the 1984/85 campaign.
Sadly, this glimmer of success was short-lived, as Ipswich soon found themselves relegated back to Division Two in the following season. Bobby Ferguson almost brought Ipswich straight back up to Division One at the first attempt. The club were forced to settle for the play-offs, but they ended in disappointment after a 2-1 aggregate loss to Charlton Athletic. That defeat effectively cost Ferguson his job, and he was subsequently replaced by John Duncan.
The Ipswich side under Duncan showed little sign of improvement, and achieved a succession of mid-table finishes. The board soon grew impatient at the club’s apparent lack of progression on the field, and John Duncan was sacked in 1990.
Success under John Lyall
The Ipswich Town board then opted to appoint a manager with a proven track record, bringing in John Lyall, who had previously enjoyed a degree of success at West Ham United. After an unconvincing first season in charge, Lyall repaid the board’s faith in him, as he guided Ipswich Town into the newly named FA Premier League, after finishing as Division Two Champions in the 1991/92 season.
After a promising first half of the season, Ipswich were well placed to gain a UEFA Cup spot going into the new year. However, the team’s early season form abandoned the players after Christmas, and Ipswich were made to settle for a disappointing 16th place finish. The following season saw little improvement, and the team eventually survived relegation by one place. Lyall’s job was hanging by a shoestring and, with the team performing poorly in the league, he was sacked in December 1994.
Back to the second tier
George Burley then took charge at Ipswich, but he had a mammoth task in front of him to keep Ipswich in the Premier League. Needless to say, he suffered a disastrous first season in charge as the team were immediately relegated into the First Division. That season was also significant, as it was also statistically the poorest in the club’s history. Ipswich won just 16% of their games, and lost 70%. The omens couldn’t have been worse for Burley. To his credit, he did then guide the club to three consecutive play-offs, even though they all sadly ended in defeat.
The first was in the 1996/97 season, as Ipswich drew 3-3 with Sheffield United, but lost on away goals. The following season saw Ipswich lose 1-0 home and away against Charlton Athletic. In the 1998/99 season, many fans felt it would be third time lucky in the play-offs for the Tractor Boys. Sadly, it was to once again end in heartbreak, as Ipswich once again lost on away goals to Bolton Wanderers.
As a result, the Ipswich fans may have been forgiven for being a little sceptical about their promotion prospects when the team reached the play-offs for a fourth time in the 1999/2000 campaign. However, this time Ipswich were successful in their bid to bring Premier League football back to Portman Road. In a hard fought match, Ipswich eventually came from behind to beat Barnsley 4-2.
The team performed commendably in their first season back in the Premier League, finishing in fifth position, as well as reaching the League Cup semi-final for a third time. The 2001/2002 season brought mixed fortunes for the club. Ipswich were once again involved in UEFA Cup competition, this time defeating Torpedo Moscow and Helsingborgs, before bravely losing to Internazionale 4-2 on aggregate. Unfortunately for Ipswich, their good European form was not reflected in their league position and the team were relegated after finishing in a lowly 18th place.
Relegation to the First Division severed affected the club’s finances, and the board were forced to take Ipswich Town into administration. Due to the UEFA Fair Play ranking system, Ipswich were rewarded with another season in the UEFA Cup, where they eventually went out 4-2 on penalties to Slovan Liberec in the second round. Ipswich didn’t have the best of starts in the First Division, and Burley was subsequently sacked in October 2002.
Stability under Joe Royle
Joe Royle then became the new manager at Ipswich town shortly after Burley’s departure. After a couple of solid seasons at Portman Road, Ipswich qualified for the play-offs in the 2003/04 season. However, despite a 1-0 victory over West Ham United in the home leg, Ipswich lost 2-0 at Upton Park and the fans’ hearts were broken once more.
Although Ipswich reached the play-offs the following season, again facing West Ham United, there was to be a familiar outcome, with West Ham winning 4-2 on aggregate.
This second successive defeat to the Hammers had severely knocked the players’ confidence, and the team finished in 15th place the following season. Joe Royle resigned from his position by mutual consent, and was replaced by club legend Jim Magilton.
Magilton guided the club to 14th place in his first season in charge, after making a number of changes to the playing staff at Portman Road. The club started the 2007/08 season well, and are currently ninth in the table, on the fringes of the play-offs. With new investment having recently been put into the club, and Jim Magilton signing a new contract as manager, fans will be hoping that a swift return to the Premier League may well be just around the corner.
- Football League Division One Champions: 1961/62
- Football League Division One Runners-Up: 1980/81, 1981/82
- Football League Division One Play-off Winners: 1999/2000
- Football League Division Two Champions: 1960/61, 1967/68, 1991/92
- Football League Division Three (S) Champions: 1953/54, 1956/57
- FA Cup Winners: 1978
- Texaco Cup Winners: 1973
- European Cup: 1962/63
- UEFA Cup: 1980/81
- Record League Victory: 7-0 (v Portsmouth, Division Two, 7 November 1964) (v Southampton, Division One, 2 February 1974) (v West Bromwich Albion, Division One, 6 November 1976)
- Record Cup Victory: 10-0 (v Floriana, European Cup prel. rd, 25 September 1962)
- Record Defeat: 1-10 (v Fulham, Division One, 26 December 1963)
- Most League Goals: 106 (Division Three (S), 1955/56)
- Highest League Scorer in Season: Ted Phillips (41, Division Three (S), 1956/57)
- Most League Goals in Total: Ray Crawford (203, 1958-1963 and 1966-1969)
- Most League Goals in One Match: 5 (Alan Brazil v Southampton, Division One, 16 February 1981)
- Most League Appearances: Mick Mills (591, 1966-1982)
- Record Transfer Fee Received: £6,000,000 (from Newcastle United for Kieron Dyer, July 1999) (from Arsenal for Richard Wright, July 2001)
- Record Transfer Fee Paid: £4,750,000 (to Sampdoria for Matteo Sereni, July 2001)