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On This Day : Ipswich Town – Champions of Europe

Back in 1981, when the UEFA cup still existed and definitely meant something, the small Suffolk town of Ipswich, under the guidance of the great Sir Bobby Robson achieved the unthinkable.

I was only a few months old, so cannot lay claim to remembering it, I was actually born on the day Ipswich panned Widzew Łódź 5-0 at home on their way to glory. My mother, an ardent Town fan listened to that game in November on the ‘wireless’, with babe-in-arms (the last time I was small enough to be carried, I am told).

YouTube: Uefa Cup Final 1981 Ipswich Town v AZ Alkmaar (5-4 on Agg)

Robson’s Ipswich were bucking all trends, having won the FA Cup earlier in his reign, Robson had built a team to fear. The signings of Frans  Thijssen and Arnold Muhren augmented an already talented squad including such cult heroes as John Wark, Terry Butcher, Mick Mills and Paul Cooper – the greatest goalie England never had.

Back in those days, the final was a two-legged affair, and with a 3-0 lead from the home leg, Town journeyed to Amsterdam to face AZ Alkmaar on their turf. A goal after four minutes put Town 4-0 up, Dutchman Frans Thijssen scoring on Netherlands soil, only for Alkmaar to equalise, and go ahead before 25 minutes were on the clock.

Johnny Wark, equalised for Town, creating a 5-2 aggregate but AZ stuck again before the break, and when AZ scored with 17 minutes to go in the second half, backs-to-the-wall it was to be. Town clung on for the duration to win the only European trophy in theirs, and indeed East-Anglian history, to date.

The icons of this day, and the glory days of Ipswich are immortalised in murals around Portman Road, and in the very near future a statue of Kevin ‘The Beat’ Beattie is to be erected to join those of the clubs two iconic managers; Sir Alf and Sir Bob.

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