Preparations in full swing

SIR Bobby Robson was today preparing an emotional return to his spiritual home of Suffolk to lead the 30th anniversary celebrations of Ipswich Town's wonderful FA Cup triumph.

SIR Bobby Robson was today preparing an emotional return to his spiritual home of Suffolk to lead the 30th anniversary celebrations of Ipswich Town's wonderful FA Cup triumph.

The father-figure of English football will be joined by his entire cup-winning squad on Monday, some of whom will be jetting in from the four corners of the globe.

In what will be an occasion charged with sentiment, thousand of Blues fans are expected to turn out to salute their heroes at the Thirty Years of Honour reunion party, staged by The Evening Star, BBC Radio Suffolk and Ipswich Borough Council.

It was on a sun-kissed day in May, 1978, that unfancied Ipswich steam-rollered favourites Arsenal, Roger Osborne's late winning goal the difference between the sides.

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The moment inspirational skipper Mick Mills proudly lifted the famous trophy after climbing Wembley's 39 steps is embedded in every Town supporter's memory - whether they were at the game or not.

Now, on what is likely to be the final time the players and coaching staff are all together again, the magic of '78 is set to be rekindled.

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The team will converge at Suffolk's home of football - Portman Road - at 5pm, from where they will board an open top bus which will ferry them around Ipswich on the same journey they took three decades ago.

Scores of fans are expected to line the route, waving flags and scarves and honouring their heroes.

The parade will finish at the Cornhill at 5.45pm, where the squad will greet the legions of Blues followers from the balcony of the Town Hall.

The reception which will be given to Sir Bobby, bravely battling cancer for the umpteenth time, is likely to dwarf the moving welcome he received when he stepped up to receive his lifetime achievement award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The former England manager, whose passion, courage and dignity remain as undimmed as the sparkle in his eyes, was this week fittingly given the freedom of Ipswich.

The conquering hero and his team will then enjoy a gala dinner with a host of Suffolk dignitaries at the Town Hall before reliving the glorious 1-0 triumph over Arsenal, with highlights being played on a big screen to the expected 5,000 on the Cornhill.

An after-dinner celebration will then take place, with ticket-holders enjoying the chance to watch interviews with the players and receiving their own beautifully-crafted replica cup final programme.

Town legend John Wark, one of the first to confirm his attendance, said May 6, 1978 will forever be etched into his memory.

“It was the first and the best honour of my career,” he said. “It's something I will never forget.”

Colin Kreidewolf, secretary of Ipswich Town 1st, the club's supporters' trust, described the final as the best day of his life.

He said: “There was a fantastic atmosphere and we really 'mullered' them, hitting the woodwork three times.

“The mood back in Ipswich after the game was just wonderful.”

Evening Star editor Nigel Pickover added: “The anniversary is certain to be a poignant and memorable occasion, celebrating a truly wonderful achievement in Ipswich Town's proud history.”

For your FINAL chance to secure £40 tickets to the after-dinner celebrations, contact the Corn Exchange box office on 01473 433100.

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