Will Town be next for Premier League?

THE richest game in the world- the Coca-Cola Championship play-off final - was won by Hull City. DEREK DAVIS was at Wembley to witness the magic and disappointment and wonders if it will be Ipswich Town's turn next.

Derek Davis

THE richest game in the world- the Coca-Cola Championship play-off final - was won by Hull City. DEREK DAVIS was at Wembley to witness the magic and disappointment and wonders if it will be Ipswich Town's turn next.

IT was the best of times for Hull and the worst of games for Bristol in this absorbing tale of two cities.

While Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks watched on in his role as a Football League director, and must have been thinking 'just look at what we could have won', Hull reached the Premier League.

They did so for the first time in their 104-year history and claimed the £60m prize in the process.

It was the best of goals to complete the Tigers' feat with 39-year-old Dean Windass volleying in from 18-yeards after clever play from on-loan Frazier Campbell.

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For Bristol it was the worst of luck, as they lost key defender James McCombe the night before through a virus. Then full-back Bradley Orr went off in the first half after two heavy blows to the head that left him with a suspected fractured cheekbone, and stitches above an eye that was almost closed before he collided with Nick Barmby.

It was Orr who was sent off at Ipswich during the 6-0 Town win, but just as he did back then Gary Johnson refused to make excuses and promised his team would bounce back.

Just as it was the best of times for Hull hero Windass, released by Hull 21 years ago, so it was for Wayne Brown who eight years earlier had watched from the bench as Ipswich won promotion.

The skipper that day was Matt Holland and he was at Wembley doing work for BBC Five Live. We chatted before the game and his determination and enthusiasm to get back into the top flight remains a strong as Brown's desire.

Although smarter and sleeker than before, Wembley has lost none of its magic.

From the moment you walk out of Wembley Park and see the arch rather than the twin towers, the arena oozes atmosphere. That feeling of hope, anticipation and belief is strong among both sets of supporters.

Two hours later it was the red of Bristol who traipsed back without a second glance, hoping - just as the supporters of 23 other clubs will be - that they get to return.

Town fans will recall that day in 2000 and close your eyes for a moment and the noise of the red clad supporters sat at the end where Barnsley fans sat before transported this writer back to when it was the blue, rather than the black and gold that occupied the 'winning end'.

There is no better way to reach the promised-land than through the final. Automatic is less stressful but bizarrely less fun. If only you could guarantee winning at Wembley.

The nearest Ipswich got this time, apart from the chairman in the royal box, was manager Jim Magilton talking in the £5 souvenir programme about how midfield would be the key.

Ultimately it was not. It was about a moment of class from Campbell and Windass and dogged defence from Brown and co, in a pretty forgettable game that was so typical of the Championship.

Of course it was more than just a normal game for the 86,000 fans. Stewards took pictures of fans posing by their seats. The Bristol fans sung 'Drink Up Your Cider' and bounced up and down like demented Wurzels while Johnson held his team talk on the pitch in a huddle. Then the players broke off to give their supporters a round of applause.

Hull were more stoic. The players build up was more routine, no frills, and the supporters were basic too.

'C'mon 'ull' was as inventive as they got, but when their players came to salute them it was as winners.

It was a tale that those Tigers fans will never tire of telling, just as Blues fans hark back to the glory days.

For Bristol it is another season of trying against the likes of Ipswich whose aspirations are matched by Marcus Evans' millions and unlike the Robins - failure is not an option.

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