A season we’d love to remember, or a year we’d like to forget? Whatever you might think, 2010/11 certainly had its memorable moments for Ipswich Town. Continuing our top ten countdown, here’s Part Two of our look back at the best and worst of the Blues’ campaign:
5. End of an Era (07 January 2011)
One of the best moments, or one of the worst? You decide. Roy Keane’s tenure as Ipswich boss had little to commend it; millions of pounds spent, a record-breakingly bad start to a season last year, two successive Christmases staring relegation in the face, a record East Anglian derby defeat (for the moment, at least) and one of the poorest win ratios of any permanent manager in the club’s history. To make matters worse, Keane was spotted gesturing towards Town fans as he walked along the touchline after losing his final match to Nottingham Forest – something which told chairman Marcus Evans and chief executive Simon Clegg that the Irishman was starting to crack.
It is small wonder then that Keane was shown the door in January, bringing to an end a decidely dire era in the club’s recent history. Whilst some might have wanted him to be given more time, it’s safe to say that by no means all Blues fans – or players for that matter – were sorry to see the back of the former Sunderland boss. With Paul Jewell arriving to replace him at Portman Road three days later, Ipswich were soon enjoying a rejuvenation of form and spirits, leaving Clegg to remark that the club probably should’ve gotten rid of Keane sooner.
4. Here’s Jimmy! (27 January 2011)
Kieron Dyer’s return was mentioned earlier in this countdown, but it was Jewell’s first signing as Ipswich boss that really impressed. One of the stars of the new manager’s promotion campaign with former club Wigan Athletic in 2005, Jimmy Bullard arrived on loan from Hull City promising an injection of quality and an infectious personality.
Truthfully though, even Jimmy himself probably couldn’t have foreseen how good his time at Town would prove to be. A stunning 30-yard volley on his debut away at Derby County set the tone as the 32-year-old flourished for the Blues, putting in strong performances and further displaying his penchant for long-range corkers against Cardiff City, Scunthorpe United and even Norwich City. So impressed were the Ipswich fans that they voted him Player of the Year after a fantastic three months at Portman Road. Perhaps more importantly, Bullard looked like he was enjoying every minute of it as well.
Whether or not Jewell is able to secure a permanent deal for Bullard remains to be seen. However, even if he is not at Portman Road next season, the mop-haired midfielder’s time at the club was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the campaign.
3. The Demolition of Doncaster (Doncaster 0-6 Ipswich, 15 February 2011)
There was a time when Ipswich used to deal out four, five or even six goal thrashings to league opposition every couple of months. Those days have seemed very distant in the past few seasons, but they did make a brief return for one night at the Keepmoat Stadium. A Sam Hird own goal got things started before Colin Healy made it two for the Blues after 33 minutes.
However, the night was to become a particularly special one for Connor Wickham. The then 17-year-old striker hit his first of the match at the end of the first half, then grabbed another just after the hour mark. Gareth McAuley made it 5-0 soon after before a stoppage time penalty saw Wickham claim his first-ever senior hat-trick – a performance which won him February’s Player of the Month award.
The 6-0 scoreline was not only Ipswich’s biggest win in over three years, but also equalled the club’s biggest ever victory away from home. Furthermore, as Town’s 4th win in six league matches since the arrival of Jewell, the result reaffirmed the revitalisation of the club under the new boss, sparking hopes of a much brighter future ahead.
2. Double Derby Disaster (Norwich 4-1 Ipswich, 28 November 2010 & Ipswich 1-5 Norwich, 21 April 2011)
Ipswich fans have suffered plenty this season, but surely nothing hurt more than being pummelled by the old enemy – not just once, but twice. Norwich City spent last season one division below the Blues, but based on these two matches – and this season as a whole – you certainly wouldn’t have known it.
First came the ‘Nightmare on Carrow Road’ where Keane’s side, crippled with injuries and ill confidence, went behind to Grant Holt’s opener before Damien Delaney got Town back in the game… and then got himself sent off. Keane’s substitutions failed to make things better as the moustachioed Holt struck twice more to seal his hat-trick before Wes Hoolahan found a fourth to condemn the Blues to their heaviest officially-recorded defeat against the Canaries.
Worse yet, that record didn’t last long. Despite that battering, Jewell’s rejuvenated Ipswich side were fancying their chances in the return fixture at Portman Road, especially after a run of four wins in five. Instead, it turned out to be Norwich’s pre-promotion party. Andrew Surman and a McAuley own goal got things off to a bad start, and despite a second half bullet from Bullard, goals from Simeon Jackson, Russell Martin and Daniel Pacheco ensured Paul Lambert’s side would go one better than November with an unprecedented 5-1 victory.
With Town languishing in mid-table, Norwich went on to seal a place in the Premier League for the first time since 2004/05, rubber-stamping their newfound superiority over the Blues. The Canaries will surely treasure the memory of this season for a lifetime. For Ipswich, we can only hope to forget it as soon as possible…
1. Priskin Guns Down The Arsenal (Ipswich 1-0 Arsenal, 12 January 2011)
We’ve seen how Ipswich have had more than their fair share of lows this season, but we had to finish this countdown with a high. And in 2010/11, they surely didn’t come any higher than this. Despite the dreary league campaign and a fleeting appearance in the FA Cup, the Carling Cup was the one competition in which Town truly excelled this year.
Few would’ve guessed how far Town would progress when they were scraping their way through the early stages of the tournament, with David Norris hauling the Blues through two extra-time battles against lower league sides Exeter City and Crewe Alexandra. Things started to pick up when they beat Millwall in Round 3 though, and after a kind draw at home to Northampton gave them easy passage to the Quarter Finals, they then upset the odds to knock out Premier League West Bromwich Albion for a place in the semis – only to then be drawn against clear favourites Arsenal. Worse still, by the time the big day arrived, Keane was gone and caretaker boss Ian ‘Charlie’ McParland was left needing to pick the players up from their 7-0 thumping by Chelsea just 3 days earlier.
And yet, what might have looked like a sure-fire route to elimination actually produced a night to match any of the great moments in Ipswich Town’s illustrious history. Far from looking a class above, Arsenal were actually being outplayed in the first leg at Portman Road, but with every Town chance being squandered, it looked like it just wasn’t going to be their night. However, when a ball over the top of the Gunners’ backline from Healy sent the much-maligned Tamas Priskin clear on goal, the Hungarian did not miss his chance for glory, slotting coolly past Wojciech Szczesny to send a packed Portman Road into raptures and claim an historic 1-0 win over the Premier League giants.
The story didn’t end there either, as the Blues then went to the Emirates Stadium and valiantly defended that precious lead for a full hour of the second leg. Eventually though, their resistance was broken as Nicklas Bendtner, Laurent Koscielny and Cesc Fabregas rattled in the goals to send Arsene Wenger’s side to Wembley. Even so, it could never take away the memory of that great night at Portman Road, and as the Gunners subsequently fell to Birmingham City in the final, perhaps the Blues had the last laugh after all.
So the book closes on another chapter in the adventures of Ipswich Town, with its twists and turns, its heroes and villains, its highs and its lows all forming part of the story of 2010/11. In just 12 weeks however, a new chapter will begin, and who knows what memorable moments may await us in 2011/12…
By Darren Campbell
If you missed it, why not check out Part One of our look back at Ipswich Town in 2010/11. This week you can also vote in two upcoming site polls on which you think were the worst and best performances from the Blues in the past 12 months.
You can also give us your own review of the season or share your opinions on any Town topic of your choice by writing an article for Vital Ipswich, or you can add your voice to the debate on our club forums by registering an account. Remember, Vital Ipswich is your site, so make your voice heard!