Champions of yesteryear reunion honours
IT was Andy Nelson who summed up an evening rich in nostalgia when he offered the opinion: "Only Ipswich could put on a show like that."The official proceedings at Ipswich Town's plush Galleria Restaurant over, the former Town captain who had travelled over from Spain for a not-to-be-missed reunion was adamant.
By Mel Henderson
IT was Andy Nelson who summed up an evening rich in nostalgia when he offered the opinion: "Only Ipswich could put on a show like that."
The official proceedings at Ipswich Town's plush Galleria Restaurant over, the former Town captain who had travelled over from Spain for a not-to-be-missed reunion was adamant.
"Ipswich are special, unique even," he said. "There are bigger clubs, but there are none to compare. I can't think of any other that would have laid on a celebration like that."
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It was the 40th anniversary of what, according to chairman David Sheepshanks, will forever rank as "one of the most outstanding and remarkable feats in the history of English football."
And he's right, because what Town did in the 1961-62 season, when they won the League Championship at their very first attempt, is unlikely ever to be repeated.
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Dozens of former players, some international stars and household names, others not nearly so well known, rubbed shoulders at the club's annual reunion.
But this was no run-of-the-mill occasion – not with the heroes of '62 reunited for what could be the very last time.
From the moment they were introduced individually, each to rapturous applause, to the final curtain in the wee small hours, the title-winning old boys lapped up the occasion.
Bill Baxter, the baby of Ramsey's inexpensively-assembled side and whose bust-up with Bobby Robson hastened his departure in 1971, was particularly pleased to have made his first return to Ipswich since then.
How he and his former colleagues enjoyed being the focus of attention all over again, signing autographs and posing for souvenir snaps. This was their night.
Yet they proved to be modest heroes, playing down the scale of their achievement as they partied the night away, some like long-lost brothers to those they had not seen in more than 30 years.
There will be further applause at Portman Road tonight, when Town supporters, some of whom can easily recall the glory days under Alf Ramsey, will have their own chance to pay tribute prior to the crucial clash with Manchester United.
How Ipswich could do with a repeat of the outcome when United visited in the 1961-62 campaign and were soundly beaten 4-1.
Ted Phillips scored twice on that occasion, with strike partner Ray Crawford and the graceful John Elsworthy also on target en route to the league crown.
Crawford scored at a phenomenal rate – 227 in 353 appearances – and Phillips wasn't far behind with 179 in 293. Ipswich will never see their likes again.
Essentially, though, it was a team triumph by a group of individuals moulded into a successful unit by manager Ramsey, who possessed one of the most astute football brains in the business.
His widow, Lady Victoria, and their daughter, Tanya, were top-table guests as BBC commentator John Motson OBE kicked off the speeches in response to the loyal toast proposed by current boss George Burley.
There was a special floral presentation to both Lady Ramsey and Pat Godbold, whose usual attention to detail had ensured the evening's success.
Then it was time for more reminiscing among a very special group for whom Ipswich, the town as well as its football club, will always have a special place in their hearts.