Ipswich Town's original rise to the Premier League - can they repeat the great memories?

Published on 2 November 2023 at 13:00

With the Tractor Boys sitting pretty in second place in the Championship, I took the time to look back upon the side's inaugural appearance in the first ever Premier League.  


The day is May 2nd, 1992. Ipswich Town fans are celebrating their side winning the Second Division title after a 3-1 win at Portman Road versus Brighton. Manager John Lyall saw striker Steve Whitton grab a brace and midfielder Gavin Johnson chip in with another goal as the Suffolk-based side finished four points clear of second-placed Middlesborough. 


The team would play in the first ever Premier League season, after the “Big Five” in 1990 agreed to break away from the original First Division. The club’s representatives met with Arsenal’s David Dein, Everton’s Phil Carter, Liverpool’s Noel White, Martin Edwards of Manchester United and Irving Scholar of Tottenham agreeing upon the proposal of a “Premier League”.


They believed a restructuring of football was needed to develop the game of football as a whole. They signed the Founder Members Agreement, explaining the principles of the league. The League would have commercial independence from the Football League and the FA, allowing it to organise its own broadcast deals and sponsorship agreements.


On 20 February 1992, the 22 First Division clubs resigned from the Football League and the Premier League was established three months later on the 27th of May. 


I spoke to Ipswich superfans Jon Bugg and Dan Talbott about their stint in the Premier League and their fondest moments supporting the club through this time.


Q. What did it feel like to see your side promoted into the first ever Premier League season?


Dan Talbott told me that “it felt absolutely amazing to see Ipswich get promoted to the Premier League.


“There was an overall buzz amongst all Ipswich fans and the only downside was the terracing going and being turned into seats. I feel like it really took away from some of the atmosphere from our first home game against Aston Villa, which ended 1-1”.


The safety barriers were removed from the North Stand in 1989 after the Hillsborough disaster saw 96 Liverpool fans tragically lose their lives. The terraces in the North and South stands were also converted to all-seating after the Taylor Report recommended all stadiums should be all-seater stadiums for the safety of their fans.


Jon Bugg stated; “Our capacity was 22,000 and this was the first year that Portman Road was an all-seater stadium. From memory, it was around 85/90% full most weeks with 5 to 6 sell out attendances”.


When I asked Jon Bugg about his team’s promotion, he exclaimed; “When Ipswich won the old Division 2, I didn’t give the Premier League any thought. It just felt so good as an 18 year old to see my team rub shoulders with the very best.


“It was only in the final few weeks before it started and the coverage really ramped up that it became real. The lure and attraction of top stars took 2 to 3 seasons after USA 94 when players like Jurgen Klinsmann and David Ginola came along that I realised how big a part TV coverage and money were playing”.


Live football coverage was sparse back in the day, with live broadcasts being few and far between. Highlights of games were almost impossible to watch in comparison to today, where they are released on social media sites such as YouTube and TV for their audiences to consume at their own leisure. The former owner of Sky, Rupert Murdoch, saw this as an opportunity.


Murdoch was launching Sky at around the same time of the first ever Premier League season. He made a huge gamble, bidding 304 million pounds for five years of TV rights. People were opposed to the idea at the time, with the idea that too much football would become a problem and not many people would watch it.


At the start of the season, Sky were at a loss, losing around two million pounds a week. However, by the end of the year, Sky was in profit with one million subscribers watching their coverage.


Q. How many games did you get to and how many were you able to watch on TV? Did you have the Premier League Sky deal? 


JB: “I went to around 90% of the Ipswich games that season, only missing games through work. I lived with my parents and we had Sky but we never really paid much attention to the lengthy buildup or “The Boot Room”. We tended to just watch the games.”


When Dan Talbott was asked about why he didn’t watch the buildup, he laughed and explained how Sky Sports would dedicate two whole hours to their Super Sunday build-up before matches. This time was eventually halved in 1996. Dan did, however, express a love for The Boot Room, which consisted of presenter Andy Gray sitting in front of a Subbuteo pitch talking through the previous weekend’s tactics. 


Q. Were you hopeful that Ipswich would be successful after getting promoted to the Premier League?


Jon Bugg responded; “I hoped we would end up around midtable in the first season and, after a promising start, I found it immensely disappointing that we meekly fell away towards the end of the season, sliding towards the wrong end of the table. 


Dan Talbott echoed this with; “I thought we were good enough to be able to survive in the league. We were 6th at one point after beating Tottenham Hotspur away with a 2-0 win and Manchester United at home with a 2-1 win but the team began to fall away, finishing 16th in our first full season.


Q. What are your personal high and lows of that season?


JB: “My highs of the season were beating the defending champions Leeds United 4-2 and Manchester United 2-1 at Portman Road. We also did the double over our arch rivals Norwich, which were both on Monday Night Football on Sky. 


“The lows of the season in my opinion would be the two cup exits at the last 8 stage to Sheffield Wednesday in a League Cup replay and Arsenal at home in the FA Cup”. 


Ipswich took a 3-0 lead at halftime against Leeds United at Portman Road but the defending champions struck back to make it 3-2 after goals from Lee Chapman and Gary Speed gave them hope before Jason Dozzell scored a fourth to kill the game off and record a historic win over their visitors. 


Ipswich also beat eventual champions Manchester United 2-1 with Chris Kiwomya and Frank Yallop scoring with Brian McClair scoring a late consolation, but it wasn’t enough to stop Ipswich from going into fourth place in the Premier League. 


A 2-0 win at Carrow Road and a 3-1 win at Portman Road were enough for Ipswich to do the double and embarrass bitter rivals Norwich on MNF in the 1992-93 season.


Dan Talbott also expressed a distaste for his side’s cup runs with Ipswich crashing out at the quarter final stage of the FA Cup and the League Cup. A 4-2 loss saw goals from Tony Adams, Kevin Campbell and a brace from Ian Wright saw Arsenal progress past Ipswich, where they would go on to beat Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup Final.


Sheffield Wednesday were also the team to knock Ipswich out after a 1-1 draw at Portman Road meant the home side had to travel to Hillsborough, with the side being knocked out by a 1-0 score line.


Q. What was your team like that season? Who were your best players?


Jon Bugg noted; “Our team was largely the same players that had got us promoted as the funds weren’t there straight away to strengthen the squad. It became clear that Jason Dozzell and John Wark were more than comfortable at that level but the lack of pace through the rest of the team really showed when we faced top class opposition”.


Dan Talbott declared; “Jason Dozzell and Chris Kiwomya formed a decent partnership in the league but you could tell the rest of the squad had not been invested in after getting promoted from the 2nd Division due to funds not being at the top level”.


Jason Dozzell and John Wark were instrumental in the midfield in the 1992-93 season, with both players being inducted into the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame. Jason Dozzell scored seven goals and got eight assists, which earned him a 1.9 million pound move to Tottenham at the end of the season. John Wark came back to Ipswich for his third spell at the club, scoring 135 goals in his time there


Chris Kiwomya continued his good form from the Second Division, becoming the club’s top goalscorer two seasons in a row, with the English striker bagging 13 goals in the Premier League, which also earned him a place in the Ipswich Town Hall of Fame. 


It was a season that saw Ipswich Town finish 16th in the Premier League but it left fond memories in the eyes of their loyal fans with some great moments and talented players to reflect back on in the club's decorated history.


By Callum Burgess - https://twitter.com/Calstagram123

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