Sir Bobby rides into town

VIDEO Thousands of people lined the streets of Ipswich town centre on Monday to cheer on Sir Bobby Robson and the players of 1978. Watch exclusive video of the open-top bus as the sporting legends make their way to the Town Hall and an army of loyal fans.

SINCE leading Ipswich Town to FA Cup glory Sir Bobby Robson has reached the highest echelons of the footballing world.

But the special relationship which the legendary manager maintains with Blues fans, and his great affection for the club, could not have been clearer yesterday.

The father-figure of English football returned to Ipswich with his FA Cup-winning squad to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the historic triumph.

Thousands of Ipswich fans young and old flooded the streets with a sea of blue and white to watch as their heroes toured around town on an open top bus.

The journey mirrored the route taken three decades before - after Roger Osborne's 78th minute strike earned Sir Bobby's unfancied men a 1-0 win over favourites Arsenal in the FA Cup final.

And the supporters certainly turned back the clock to give their team a tremendous reception as the bus made its way from Portman Road to the Cornhill - where the squad was once again greeted by a legion of cheering and applauding followers from the balcony of the Town Hall.

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Remembering the 1978 final Sir Bobby said: “To see everybody together again is wonderful. It's a fantastic turnout and takes me back 30 years. It was a long time ago - many of the players haven't changed and they're still very young and fit.

“We had a lovely team spirit - that will never break up. We had great team morale - we had good players and quality on the pitch of course but that was a huge reason behind our success.

“In the final itself we were the better side but just couldn't put the ball in the net. I wondered if we would score or if we would get robbed. But once Roger got the ball over the line I knew that we would hold out and we did very well.

“The team really deserved the victory.”

Sir Bobby, who also led Ipswich to glory in the 1981 UEFA Cup, is confident of Town's success for next season.

“With the investment of the Marcus Evans Group they have a bright future and if they buy the right players they can get back to the Premiership which is where they belong and deserve to be,” he said.

The former England, Barcelona and Newcastle boss is battling cancer for the fifth time and as part of yesterday's celebrations was handed the Freedom of the Borough by Ipswich mayor, Inga Lockington.

“This is a great day in my life and it's a great pleasure for me to be here,” he told fans on the Cornhill. “I'm overwhelmed to receive the Freedom of the Borough - it's a great honour for me and an honour I respect. Thank you.”

Most of the 1978 squad was on hand for the open top bus ride - apart from goalkeeper Paul Cooper who was unable to attend.

Kevin Beattie, who bravely played in the final despite injury, said: “It's amazing that it's been 30 years since the win and we're still getting the same response - you couldn't ask for any more.

“Ipswich isn't the biggest place in the world but it has got the greatest fans and they never forget you - that's what it's all about.”

Goal hero Roger Osborne said: “To see all the old players has been tremendous. One of the best things about the club was the team spirit - the players are all friends. To score the winning goal makes it even more special. It was a fantastic feeling.

“Everyone is desperate for Ipswich to do well and it's nice to think that in the future someone will repeat what we did.”

John Wark, who hit the post twice in the final, said: “The turnout has been exceptional - I'm really overwhelmed. What gets me is that there are so many children here - I expected them to be in their 40s and 50s but there's so many youngsters it's fantastic.

“I still remember everything about the game. I can't believe I didn't score - I struck the ball too well. We should have won by four or five really - it was a 1-0 massacre.”

Legendary striker Paul Mariner said: “To think that people still remember is incredibly touching. It was a massive day in the club's history and a massive day in the players' lives.”

Captain Mick Mills, who proudly lifted the famous trophy after climbing Wembley's 39 steps, said: “That is probably my proudest moment. As a kid growing up you dream if you will ever be able to do it and I was lucky enough to have that chance. It was a very special day for the people of Ipswich.”