A tribute to George

THOSE who were there, under Wembley's Twin Towers, in May, 2000, will remember it as one of the greatest days of their lives.The highlights of the Division One play-off final between Ipswich Town and Barnsley, went on and on.

THOSE who were there, under Wembley's Twin Towers, in May, 2000, will remember it as one of the greatest days of their lives.

The highlights of the Division One play-off final between Ipswich Town and Barnsley, went on and on. The joy seemed everlasting.

Big Tony Mowbray, making that incredible leap to score an equalising header. Our beloved Blue and White army singing their hearts out until the rafters shook, and the incredible victory celebrations at the end of the match.

Town had reached the Promised Land, the Premiership pastures of glory and plenty that chairman David Sheepshanks had oft foretold.

If you were there, that very special day, you might have shared a hug or an embrace with friends or relatives, or complete strangers. You might have shed a tear, as this writer did. You might have screamed until you were hoarse, or, later, roared around the streets of Ipswich in that marvellous celebration motorcade.

But for many the memories will centre on the smile of one man, almost lost in the sea of celebration.

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Out of the dancing, scarf-waving, flag-toting, posse of players, came one George Burley, manager of Ipswich Town football club.

He emerged, in that shy and self effacing way of his, with a smile that outshone the firework extravaganza all around him.

If it had been December, not May, his beaming face would have lit up a Christmas tree.

George's smile captured the moment. His joy was our joy, his triumph was ours too. We were together - and we had conquered the world.

Those dream-like hours, when we had our own magic carpet ride into the Premiership, will stay with us all forever.

And today, as George Burley ponders his next moves, one thing is certain. No-one will ever be able to take Wembley 2000 - and the incredible first year in the Premiership, away from him.

But football, in the jittery first part of the 21st century, is not an institution which stands on ceremony, or glories gone by.

Less than 30 months after Wembley, or 16 months after Premiership position number five, the axe has been wielded and George has gone.

The board, when push came to shove, shoved.

They knew that a Portman Road demo was in the offing, they knew that a new start was needed. They knew, in effect, that George had reached a wall that he could not even see the top of, never mind climb it.

Today The Evening Star pays a warm tribute to George Burley, a honourable, kind, and devoted manager, the like of whom we will not see again.

But we say David Sheepshanks and Co, - showing a much-need bout of decisiveness, was right to wield the axe.

Sheepshanks has been under massive pressure as football fortunes, as well as financial prospects, nose-dived.

He knows he and his fellow directors have not been blameless as the smiles turned to sourness.

But he knew change was needed - and that ITFC needed it fast.

For there is a chance - albeit a slim one, that Town can still salvage something from this woeful season.

The writing was on the wall for George in the 1-1 derby day draw against Norwich City.

As Delia danced, David gnashed his teeth at another limp performance.

The contrast between managers on the touchline was extreme.

George Burley was statuesque and quiet, Nigel Worthington animated and passion-fuelled, like his players.

While Ipswich's highly-paid and talented stars huffed and puffed, the gutsy Canaries crafted out a result - and almost three points.

Grimsby, on Tuesday, was the final straw. No passion and no apparent ambition is not a combination which will keep a manager his job for long.

So we say thanks, George and farewell.

Now is the time to look forward to the era when there is no more Mr Nice Guy.

What this fan and others need to see is, in this order, is quality on the field, passion in the dugout, and skill in the boardroom.

A combination of all these facets will be need is Ipswich Town is to drag itself out of the mire which it has allowed itself to be plunged into.

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