Monday 29th May was, without a doubt, the best day of my life: when my beloved Blues reached the Division One Play Offs and George Burley’s heroes lifted us up to the promised land of the Premier League.
Hearing and seeing so many club legends recall the magnificent events of the day has been giving me goosebumps all week, and it made me wonder what different memories our fans might have to share.
Each of us experienced it in a different way, so I’ve asked Ipswich fans on Twitter and Facebook to share their favourite memories from our momentous trip to Wembley:
As a season-ticket-holders who lived in Cambridge, my Dad, middle sister and I travelled to London via the A11 and it wasn’t until we almost reached the M11 that we started to notice other blue scarfs flying from car windows.
We spotted one parked up on a layby just before we hit the motorway, a group of young men stood around looking at the flat tyre, yet still in high spirits as we waved and cheered to them on our way past.
To this day, we still turn to each other when we drive past that spot and remember that moment, it felt like the beginning of the Blue Army coming together for this special day.
Setting off from Ipswich was clearly a special experience, Kevin Higham left his home in Leicestershire at 4 am to drive to Portman Road:
‘Me, my Dad and my Grandad then travelled down to Wembley with the Town fans and when we got there saw a sea of blue and red on Wembley Way. They have both since passed away, so these are really treasured memories.’
Andrew Perkins travelled down by club coach:
‘I could only get one ticket and ended up heading there by myself, but the rest of the fans were in good voice! I remember the A12 was closed and we had to detour through Essex to get on M25.’
As did Colin Love:
‘The A12 was full of cars with scarves and flags hanging out of the windows, and then on the return trip people stood on the bridges waving flags and scarves at all the fans travelling home.’
While Professional Darts player and fellow Ipswich fan Kevin Painter almost didn’t make the game:
‘On the weekend of the play-off final, I was at a competition in North Wales. I left the camp at 6am on the morning of the match and headed to pick up a couple of pals.’
‘Somewhere along the M6, I had a blow-out! But I managed to get to my friends in Cambridgeshire to switch cars and then on to the game. Things could have turned out much worse!’
Many of our fans travelled huge distances to be there, like Andrew Tilly:
‘This is the only game I've ever been to. I flew over from New Zealand just to see it and back home again four days later. I was in heaven all day!’
And others watched it from home, like Frankie:
‘I was only 11. I remember running around the garden in celebration afterwards and getting told off for being too loud!’
Or even followed it while sat outside the ground, like Andrew Woodfield:
‘My dad could only get 2 tickets so he took my older brother (despite him being a Manchester United fan at the time).’
‘But we were due to go on holiday that day, so my mum and I sat in the car and listened to it on the radio!’
‘Even though I was technically at Wembley that day, I didn’t see a ball get kicked and I’ve never let my dad get away with it!’
Arriving at Wembley:
Once we arrived at the stadium, I remember my Dad parking up at the side of the road – something that definitely wouldn’t be allowed nowadays.
As we joined Wembley Way about halfway up, I was absolutely blown away by the blue, white and red colours and the hubbub of cheerful chants all around me.
Gareth Cook recalls playing football in the car park against Barnsley fans, while Laura Bilner tells me her 9-year-old-self greeted Barnsley supporters with a chant of ‘Blue Army’!
Our tickets meant we were seated quite centrally in the ground, almost next to the halfway line, a position that meant we could clearly see the cup being lifted later on.
Do others remember where they sat?
Andrew Perkins, who told me earlier he travelled by coach on his own, arrived at his seat to find it was right next to where his mates were sat after all!
A few fans recall the strange weather just before kick-off, something I had completely forgotten:
Dan Thomas remembers: ‘The hail storm about five minutes before kick-off.’
And Krissy Day told me:
‘I remember pre-kick off, it absolutely fell down with rain. I was thinking maybe the game won’t go ahead.’
‘But then the clouds parted and Wembley was bathed in sunshine.’
You all know how the game went, I think I’ve memorised every second of my Play Off Final DVD, so I won’t relive the details here. But it is interesting seeing which parts of the match were most memorable for those of us watching from the stands.
Starting with the moment we went a goal behind as a shot from Craig Hignett rebounded off the bar, only to hit the back of home-grown keeper Richard Wright’s arm and go into the back of the net.
Peter Abbott says: ‘I remember going 1-0 down and turning to my wife and saying, ‘not a problem we can win this.’ The day just felt like it was ours.’
And I have to say, I completely agree. It’s probably the last time I felt truly confident that Town would win a game!
Mogga makes it 1:1
Mark Dowling flew over from Dublin on the morning of the game and walked round Wembley Way for hours trying to get a ticket. He finally bought one from a tout for £150, but it was in the Barnsley end!
‘When we scored, I jumped up – but quickly had to shout about Barnsley’s bad defensive errors to cover myself.’
‘By the time third goal went, in the lad sitting next to me gave me the nod to suggest he was a Tractor Boy also.’
Super-sub Naylor makes it 2:1
Again, we’ve all discussed for hours the day that Richard Naylor booked his place in the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame with a phenomenal performance after replacing the injured David Johnson.
Bam – Bam has long been one of my favourite players, I was lucky enough to interview him while he was Club Captain under Magilton and when he later played at Doncaster.
I’m certain it was that day which cemented him in my list of top 5 ever players!
David Pascoe sent me an excellent piece on this topic, ‘The Redemption of Bam-Bam’, which you can check out here.
Stewart puts us two goals ahead
For me, this was the best goal of the day: the build-up was superb and the way the player’s joined together for a seamless strike on goal was indicative of how well that team had been built.
Daniel Blowers agrees, but for another reason:
‘Stewart’s header was great because we were singing, ‘are you watching Norwich’, just as the ball was played down the left side of the pitch in front of us.’
‘It was a great header, not that Mowbray’s wasn’t!’
But I dare say there’s one moment that every single Town fan remembers from that day.
Remember when Manchester City secured the Premier League title in 2012? Well, this is our ‘Agueeeeeeeeeerrooooo moment’.
Christopher Overett told me:
‘Stewart’s was the best goal technically, but my favourite has to be Reuser’s at the end. It put an end to the agony of the final 11 mins of the game, thinking every time they got near our goal they’d equalise.’
Kev Sherwood added: ‘When Reuser scored scored the 4th everyone went nuts but all I could do was sink into my seat out of shear relief and exhaustion with ears running down my cheeks because we’d finally done it after years of hurt.
Daniel Blowers recalls: ‘George Burley and Dale Roberts celebrating on the touchline when Bam- Bam put Reuser in and he finished it.’
While Nic Wright remembers: ‘The top tier of the stand bouncing as we jumped up and down each time we celebrated our goals!’
Remember Andrew Woodfield from earlier who was listening to the game on the radio, his recollection of this moment is special too:
‘What I remember most was after the goals, we’d turn the radio off and here the insane noise from inside the ground!’
And Jack Saunders sums things up perfectly when he describes a sense of relief:
‘I just remember this overwhelming feeling of dread, right up until Reuser's goal. I just knew we were going to mess it up, right up until we didn't.’
It’s my Dad’s favourite moment too. Speaking to him just before writing this article, he described the reaction from the crowd as ‘an explosion of joy.’
He’s always been very reserved at games, but as my sister and I looked round to him to celebrate, we found him with his arms around the two supporters in front of us – absolutely elated.
To this day, that is one of my most treasured memories of him and of life as a football fan.
Reaction to the game:
Then the final whistle blew, and we had finally made it. At the fourth time of asking we had one the Play-Offs and secured our spot in the Premier League for the following season.
Andrew Perkins tells me: ‘I was in tears of happiness at the end!’
While Mark Dowling, the fan who was sat in the Barnsley seats decided to finally inform the policeman standing beside him that he was in the ‘wrong end’:
‘He let me walk over to the celebrating fans and I watched Matt Holland lift the cup amongst our fans. It was a great day and a great experience.’
Jack Saunders had a great view of this moment:
‘Our seats were right next to the steps and I remember everyone clambering over us to get closer to the players.’
‘But I was right at the end of the row, so I got a high five from every single player as they went past.’
‘I also got to throw my scarf to Matt Holland, which is one of the three scarves he's wearing in all the photographs!’
The celebrations carried on long into the night:
In his recent interview with Blue Monday, skipper Matt Holland talks about the journey home with the players (there was a lot of beer involved) and how he went back to see his Dad once they were back.
And it’s true that most of us have special memories from the day that took place well after the final whistle had blown.
As my Dad, sister and I pulled up the drive in front of our house we were greeted by my Mum standing at the door in an Ipswich Town shirt.
Never before had she worn one, and she usually didn’t even know the result of a match until a few days later – but that evening she knew and she joined us in the celebrations!
I’ll leave you with some more memories of those final hours of the bank holiday, my thanks to everyone who has contributed to this heart-warming article:
‘After we’d sung and cheered our hearts out in the stadium, I remember the walk back along Wembley Way towards the underground station.’
‘It was so packed that the police were stopping groups of fans from both clubs together to prevent a crush at the station.’
‘The noise level dropped to almost a whisper for what seemed like ages, partly out of respect for Barnsley’s position - after all, Ipswich knew Play-Off defeat heartache more than anyone at that time.’
‘Years later, after Barnsley won a cracking Play-Off final against Swansea to return to the Championship, I had a look at one of the Barnsley fans’ forums and found many Ipswich fans congratulating the Tykes on their win - and plenty of goodwill coming back from the reds.’
‘I remember getting back into Ipswich and driving around the town, all the horns blaring, people waving, like nothing I'd seen before or since!’
'I remember so much of that game, but one of THE most memorable things was driving back into Suffolk and seeing the fans who hadn’t managed to go to Wembley on bridges and at the sides of the road with waving flags and scarves. Absolutely electrifying!
Kevin Higham, mentioned earlier telling us how he travelled from Leicestershire:
‘The drive back up the M1 home was great as well, driving passed the Barnsley fans with my Town flag out of the window. Sadly, both my Dad and Grandad have passed away, so that day holds many special memories and not just because of the result.’
And finally, a random one from ‘Super Frans’ which I simply couldn’t leave out:
‘Going into the urinal after the game to find myself standing next to Roger Osborne. God’s honest truth. Surreal moment.’
What are your favourite memories from that day? Let me know in the comments below!
My thanks to Stuart Goldsmith who provided the lovely photos for this article, I was shocked to find I have no photos at all from that day - something that would never happen now, my phone comes with me everywhere!
I'll be celebrating this special anniversary all day over on Twitter, so please feel free to come and say hello!