The Pride of Anglia: Six of the Best Kits
“Name a more iconic duo,” the meme goes, before being run out of town by sarcastic Twitter dons and Championship Manager fans replying with “Tsigalko and Samba,” or “West and Okoronkwo.” But genuinely, please, name one that tops The Terrace and Ipswich Town; if you’re answer isn’t “The Terrace and…..” Sheffield Wednesday, Exeter City, Cork City, Shamrock Rovers, Derry City or Scarborough, we don’t want to hear it.
So obviously we were delighted when Ipswich’s Director of Retail Operations Lee Hyde told us he was delighted to get going with our Director Carl Sewell. Remember Radio Orwell, Tractor Boys? Yeah, so do we. What about a nice pint of Abbot Ale? Yes please, Greene King. Felt a tinge of sadness when Fison’s fertiliser factory burned down last month? You would have if your heart bleeds blue.
Two of those legendary ITFC sponsors are no longer with us, but they’re immortalised in the hearts and minds of fans of the Town and printed into plastic for your phone, woven into cotton for your towel, and pressed by hand into a proper mug for your morning brew. A morning brew you can have on us, if you fancy one, too!
Why them, though? Asked no true Blue………..Well, we’ll tell you anyway.
1983 – Pioneering Football Without Bobby Robson
Sir Bobby Robson may have left Town after 13 years in charge but sponsors Pioneer bridged the gap between the Bobbys. The next day, Bobby Ferguson was appointed manager and spent just shy of five years at the club. Having enjoyed a 12-year education under Robson, Ferguson made the step from reserve team coach, to first team coach, and then, ultimately, Robson’s successor.
It was the strip’s second and final season, before a red horizontal stripe was added, but will fondly be remembered as one of Ipswich’s first shirts to carry a sponsor, becoming so in 1981. It was a wonderful start for Ferguson’s men in his second season in charge, winning four of their first five, only being prevented from an 100% start by a 2-2 draw with Watford.
The early success didn’t carry through the entirety of the season, with the Tractor Boys finishing in 12th place, but it does stand out for being the last time the club won at Old Trafford, beating Ron Atkinson’s side 2-1 thanks to an 86th minute goal by Alan Sutherland.
1986 – Transmission Ceased
“Oh, you’ll be there between each line of pain and glory,” Gladys Knight belted out, “‘cause you’re the best thing that ever happened to me.”
When Radio Orwell first started broadcasting at 6am on 28 October 1975, Keith Rogers wasn’t to know quite how resonant the first record the station ever played would become when they embarked on their first major sponsorship deal – Ipswich Town Football Club, in 1985.
In their sole season as shirt sponsors, the impact of Robson’s departure finally took its toll, as the last remnants of his glory faded and the club were relegated from the First Division, missing out on safety by just a point, after 18 seasons in the top flight.
The club were reticent about dismissing their manager – they hadn’t sacked one in their then 108-year history – so gave him the ultimatum of having to secure their return at the first time of trying. Ipswich lost 2-1 to Charlton Athletic in the 1987 play-off semi-final, and with that Ferguson was gone.
1990 – Nuclear Fisons
In the white away kit from 1989-92, Ipswich’s Umbro number saw them clad in a smart blue collar with white and red trim, and in it they secured their return to the newly formed Premier League.
Hired in May 1990, John Lyall went on to take Ipswich back to the top-flight of English football in the 1991/92 season, thus becoming one of the founding teams of the new top division. Their preseason return of one win in six games did not bode well for the league campaign ahead, especially given two defeats in Finland, but after just two losses in the opening 16 games, optimistic fans had reason to believe in a possible return to the promised land.
Early exits in the three domestic cup competitions allowed Lyall’s men to focus on the league and Chris Kiwomya’s 19 goals helped fire them to the Second Division title, aided by a prolific second half to the season by Chris Whitton, who otherwise had an unremarkable return of 15 leagues goals in 88 appearances.
1993 – Lucky in Lace
Kiwomya continued his scoring form as he made the step up to the Premier League and Ipswich were seemingly making the leap effortlessly too. Come the new year, the club were sat in the top four and had the most doting-eyed fans dreaming of a place in the UEFA Cup.
Only losing two in the first half of the season, Town were unbeaten at home in their red lace-up, white-collared shirt. The design has become emblematic of 90s football, with Manchester United also sporting a lace-up collar during the decade. Emblazoned across it was still local pharmaceutical conglomerate Fisons.
Unfortunately, the second half saw a massive drop off in form, however Ipswich remained resolute at Portman Road, losing just four of their 21 games their that season. Such impressive home form ensures the shirt is fondly remembered, even before you take one of the decade-defining designs into consideration. Finishing 16th, survival was ensured.
1996 – Burley’s Boys
Back as manager, George Burley’s return came nine years after pulling on the shirt at Portman Road for the last time. The right-back made just short of 400 league appearances for the club, before playing his last competitive game in 1994; the same year in which he took the managerial reigns in Suffolk.
With Greene King on the shirt, Ipswich could have fittingly performed like a pub team, yet Burley’s first seven seasons of an eight-year tenure was one of continuous improvement. In the 1995/96 season, they fell two points short of promotion and over the next three seasons they lost three consecutive play-off semi-finals, but in the 1999/00 campaign, promotion was finally secured.
The UK’s largest pub retailer and brewer remained on the front of the strip throughout their steady rise, but the blue to white fade shirt and black and red collar, make the first to take their name the most well-remembered. Ian Marshall and Alex Mathie will at least think so, both enjoying their most prolific seasons in their respective careers, with 19 goals.
1981 – The Pride of Anglia
Champions of Europe, you’ll never be that. Well it was the UEFA Cup, but it still counts and even if a Canary thinks it doesn’t, there’s also the 1978 FA Cup and that First Division title in 1962.
The two-legged tie was Ipswich’s crowning moment on the continent. Having raced into a 3-0 lead at Portman Road in the first leg, Bobby Robson’s men added a fourth four minutes into the second, before Welzl and Metgod pulled the deficit back to two. Wark added to his first leg penalty with a 32nd minute goal to draw things level on the night, but Tol’s effort five minutes before half-time meant AZ Alkmaar had gone from being three goals down at kick-off to two at the break.
In the depths of the Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam Robson looked around his dressing room, from ‘keeper Paul Cooper, to his back four of Steve McCall, Mick Mills, Russell Osman, and Terry Butcher; to his three-man midfield of John Wark, who scored in both legs, to the Dutch duo of Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen, who had too scored in both ties; and , finally, his frontline of Paul Mariner, Alan Brazil, and Eric Gates.
Wark had already scored his 14th and final goal of the tournament – a record that still stands to this day – but the job was to go and ensure the lead was held. A 70th minute free-kick by AZ midfielder Jonker made the scored 5-4 on aggregate, which made the final 20 minutes incredibly nervy for the visitors, but The Tractor Boys ploughed through the final stages strongly and saw the lead over the line.
Champions of Europe, you’ll never be that.