Ipswich Town promotion party on pitch after game
| |

Ipswich Town: Dreams Do Come True

English football has had many fairytale stories over the years, from Bournemouth’s race up the divisions despite points deductions, Leicester City’s 5000/1 Premier League title and perhaps most recently, Luton Town’s climb from the National League to Premier League across the space of a decade. After all, everyone loves an underdog story.

However, over this past weekend, another legendary story was born as Ipswich Town earned themselves promotion back to the Premier League after a 22-year absence from England’s top flight. Following on from their promotion to the Championship just 371 days prior, the Tractor Boys became the first side to accomplish back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League since Southampton in 2010/11 & 2011/12.

The Phone Call That Started It All

On December 4, 2021, with Ipswich languishing in the bottom half of League One, the club made the decision to sack Head Coach Paul Cook following a 2-0 loss to Charlton Athletic.

Twelve days later, CEO Mark Ashton appointed Northern Irishman Kieran McKenna as Ipswich manager, and the two parties agreed to a three-and-a-half-year contract. Ashton has since stated that he had been keeping tabs on McKenna’s work at Manchester United throughout his time with both Bristol City and Ipswich Town and felt it was the perfect appointment for the club.

A quick upturn in form followed the appointment as Town won seven of McKenna’s first ten games in charge; however, they were ultimately unable to make up lost ground on the play-offs and eventually finished 11th in the table come the end of the campaign. Not the finish fans were hoping for at the start of the season but there were signs of progress under McKenna.

The Journey Begins

Throughout the 2022 summer transfer window, Ipswich spent big—£2.48 million to be exact—bringing in Leif Davis, Marcus Harness, and Panutche Camara for hefty fees, as well as Freddie Ladapo, Greg Leigh, and Dominic Ball on free transfers. These were rightly considered to be very strong signings for the League One outfit and gave fans hope that they could really form a promotion charge in the coming season.

See also  Sir Dave Brailsford Has Held One-on-One Meetings With The Manchester United Players to Present INEOS Master Plan

The Tractor Boys kicked off their season at home to Bolton Wanderers in front of an excited and intrigued Portman Road crowd who were eager to see how the season would pan out. The result of that game was a 1-1 draw, which saw Ipswich kick-start a nine-game unbeaten run that showed the rest of League One they were serious about challenging for promotion this season. Long runs of good form like this would go on to be a theme of the season for Ipswich, as they gained promotion with 98 points, finishing runners-up behind league winners Plymouth Argyle, who amassed 101 points across the season.

A hugely successful season for Ipswich saw them return to the Championship for the first time since their relegation in 2019.

Ipswich Town: Daring To Dream

Ahead of the 2023–24 campaign, eagle-eyed Championship fans had picked Ipswich out as a potential top six challenger following their excellent League One campaign. New signings such as Jack Taylor, Brandon Williams, and Dane Scarlett, as well as returns for George Hirst and Omari Hutchinson, who had previously been on loan with the club, only looked to improve an already brilliant squad. Could Town fans dare to dream of a seemingly impossible back-to-back promotion to the top flight?

Similar to the year prior, Town started well as they won their opening three games before falling to Leeds in a dramatic 4-3 loss at Portman Road and come Christmas Day, Ipswich had a stronghold on the automatic promotion places as they were seven points ahead of Leeds, who sat third and had already beaten Ipswich twice this season.

See also  FFP and Player Transfers: A Comprehensive Guide To Understanding Finance in Football

The Tractor Boys faced some adversity between Christmas and mid-February as a stuttering start to 2024 saw them drop points to some poor sides such as QPR, Stoke City and Preston North End, amongst others. However, a run of six wins on the spin across a three-week period showed that Ipswich were not going to fall by the wayside in this promotion race. A brief scare saw them lose 2-1 away to Cardiff as they conceded twice in injury time but they instantly bounced back with a 6-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road a week later.

Following the international break, Ipswich earned a hard-fought win at Blackburn on Good Friday before they took on Southampton in a massive game at Portman Road on Easter Monday. Leif Davis would give Town an early lead after just thirteen minutes, only to find themselves trailing 2-1 ten minutes later. Nathan Broadhead would equalise for Ipswich partway through the second-half and the game looked to be 2-2 until Jeremy Sarmiento scored possibly the biggest goal of Ipswich’s season as he netted a 97th-minute winner to give Town all three points.

A trip to Carrow Road followed five days later, which saw Ipswich lose 1-0 to their fierce rivals Norwich City due to a Marcelino Nunez free-kick. This looked to be a big blow to Town’s promotion hopes as they went on to draw their next three. Were they about to collapse at the crucial moment?

Luckily for Town fans, Leeds United continued their world-renowned form for falling apart when the pressure’s on and also hit a poor run of form. This meant that with two games, one more than Leeds due to re-arranged fixtures, Town’s destiny was in their own hands, with four points being all they needed to secure their promotion back to the top flight for the first time in over 20 years.

See also  Championship 23/24: The League Title Nobody Wants To Win

Last Tuesday, the Tractor Boys defeated Coventry 2-1 in front of a packed-away crowd at the CBS Arena, which meant that they only required a point against Huddersfield at home on the final day to seal their fate. Leeds fell behind early on to Southampton at Elland Road shortly before Ipswich got a lead of their own through Wes Burns at Portman Road.

Come half-time, Ipswich looked to be set for promotion as they led 1-0 with Leeds also losing 2-1; however, Omari Hutchinson would seal the deal with a lovely strike shortly after the break to fire Town into a two-goal lead, and then it was party time in the stands as the sold-out crowd knew they would be supporting a Premier League side next season.

The celebrations spilled over onto the pitch after full-time as thousands of fans flooded onto the turf to join the players and staff in celebration of this amazing moment.

Whether or not Ipswich Town can survive with the big digs of the Premier League remains to be seen, but no matter what, they have given their fans two seasons of football that will live on forever in club and wider football history.

About The Author

Similar Posts

One Comment

Leave a Reply