So much to look forward to!

Plymouth 2 Ipswich 1SO, the curtain has come down on Ipswich Town's worst season for 15 years.But don't despair - there is much to be said for staying in the Championship rather than becoming the whipping boys of the Premiership.

By Elvin King

Plymouth 2 Ipswich 1

SO, the curtain has come down on Ipswich Town's worst season for 15 years.

But don't despair - there is much to be said for staying in the Championship rather than becoming the whipping boys of the Premiership.

Yesterday was another quickly forgettable Ipswich display and there is no disguising that 2005-06 was one that had to be endured and only for a brief period in February could it be enjoyed.

And a return to the top flight - what Championship football is all about after all - would have solved the financial problems that have been haunting Ipswich since they were relegated in 2002.

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But, if you will excuse the pun, it would have come at a price.

West Ham's experience this season may explode this theory, but clubs have to be ready to make the huge leap and gate crash the world inhabited by the aristocrats of the Premier League.

Yes, season tickets will sell like hot cakes, the Frank Lampards of this planet will grace Portman Road and the whole town will benefit.

It is results that matter in professional sport however, and can any of you seriously put your hand on your heart and say that Ipswich Town have been prepared for such a rarefied existence since they lost their top flight status.

Assured and positive management by Joe Royle got them close on two occasions, but would this have proved beneficial to the long-term well-being of the Tractor Boys?

The scraps Royle had to work with this campaign after financial shortcomings had to be addressed were highly unlikely to bring any rewards. And a debilitating injury plague put paid to the prospect of any footballing miracle.

Put yourselves in the shoes of a West Brom supporter. Has he or she really enjoyed the last couple of years? Two seasons battling for promotion one level down would have had them dancing in the aisles at the Hawthorns.

And it is no contest to compare the quality of life for a Sunderland fan this dreadful season compared to last.

The Black Cats, depending on who they bring in as manager, will no doubt be back in the groove come August and a dark cloud of despondency will be lifted from the Stadium of Light.

Ironically, Town fans probably have more to look forward to than if they had a Premiership season ahead.

Don't concern yourself this Bank Holiday with the displays of recent weeks. The atmosphere, desire and application will be so much different when the knives come out in earnest at the beginning of the new season.

There is cause for realistic hope with the emergence of a considerable number of talented youngsters and the pedigree of the newcomers Royle has in mind.

Nobody is saying that Ipswich will be equipped to make a successful move to the Promised Land in 12 months' time, but they will be a great deal closer than they are now.

And along the way they will bring more

fervour, anticipation and joy to their supporters than a campaign as Aunt Sallys in the top flight would have produced.

Apart from a rather noisy minority, Blues followers deserve to have a much better 2006-07. They turned up in their hundreds at far-flung Plymouth yesterday when the Championship moved to a Sunday to play out a meaningless collection of final games.

Good luck to Leeds, Preston, Watford and Crystal Palace in the play-offs - they will need it - and worthy congratulations to Reading and Sheffield United on automatic promotion.

Reading, under the considered stewardship of Steve Coppell, are ready for the jump that will take them into orbit, but in contrast Neil Warnock's departure from Sheffield United is scheduled for around early December.

Ipswich, who travelled to Plymouth Airport by special charter flight from Stansted, made four changes. Chris Casement and Ian Westlake came back after injuries while Jaime Peters and Vemund Skard started, with Fabian Wilnis, Jim Magilton, Matt Richards and Danny Haynes dropping out.

Scott Barron and Dean Bowditch, who were in the original 18-strong did not travel, while James Krause and Liam Trotter were included on the bench for the first time.

The attendance figure was swelled by Argyle fans wanting to wave goodbye to striker Micky Evans 15 years after he made his Plymouth debut and he did not disappoint with a typical goal.

Striker Sam Parkin was back for the first time since breaking his ankle in November and came on after 55 minutes.

Tony Calpadi's goal meant that Ipswich have not gone consecutive games this season without conceding, while it is the first time since 1948 that they have failed to score a cup goal in a campaign.

Town took the lead yesterday when Nicky Forster kept his incredible late scoring run going, but they looked vulnerable at the back and can have no complaints at the defeat. They did not win away after Valentine's Day at Crewe.

Jim Magilton graced a Town shirt for the final time in the latter stages, and Trotter, a pupil at the West Suffolk Football College less than two years ago, made his full debut.

Peters looked lively at times and Skard did not let himself down, but it never really flowed in a real end-of-season contest.

So enjoy the summer. The Premiership, of course, would have been wonderful. But there are consolations.

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