Great Football League Teams 3: Ipswich Town 1960-1
When Ipswich Town lost 4-0 at Scunthorpe United’s Old Show Ground in August 1960, no man would have predicted their ascension to become Champions of England less than two years later. Contrary to impressions of the era, average gates at Portman Road were modest at an average of 15,095, and the club had only emerged from the Third Division South in 1957.
You may have heard of the man in charge of course and even then, Alf Ramsey had an England playing spell on his CV. In managerial terms, however, the notorious vowel contortionist was still finding his footing, even if there were indications of the salad days to come.
While Tottenham Hotspur swept to their historic double under Bill Nicholson, Ramsey’s tight unit, devoid of star names, but spurred by camaraderie, were making up for that sketchy trip to Lincolnshire. Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips are a front duo to list alongside any in a pantheon of excellence. Crawford netted away hat tricks twice in the Autumn, with Brighton tumbling 4-2 and Leeds 5-2 (he was later to confirm himself as the Peacocks’ nemesis in a famous FA Cup giant killing).
The goals cascaded, a hundred in all, with the front men grabbing seven tenths. Phillips, winner of a newspaper competition to diagnose the hardest shot in football (clocking in at 87 miles per an hour), swooped twice as rivals Norwich were defeated 3-0 and 4-1 over the space of 26 Christmas hours.
Such fixture list oddities were not anomalous and if we would all like to see a return of the yuletide local derby double header, we might perhaps baulk at friendlies peppering the run-in – Ipswich faced a Suffolk XI in a 75 year celebration of the county FA and Lowestoft in a testimonial for Charlie Peck before the fixture list was completed – and people say the Blazers have influence now.
A 1-0 win over Liverpool sounds better now than it perhaps was then, but a 3-1 March victory against closest rivals Sheffield United at Bramall Lane announced the Blues’ intent. The title was won with a 4-1 hammering of Derby County and if the record of 59 points and 9 defeats was mediocre for a championship winning side, Ramsey’s early deployment of the wingless wonder ethic and tough tackling screening midfielders like Billy Baxter (later to come to blows with Bobby Robson) proved an East Anglian tonic.
Town had never graced Division One, but Crawford certainly wasn’t intimidated. A year later, he was the joint top scorer a level above and scoring in a 3-1 England win over Austria. Ipswich achieved the impossible by scooping the English League, a situation one might say could never happen again if it were not for Nottingham Forest’s identical laureate in 1978. The marvel that was Jimmy Greaves was to set a limit on Crawford’s international ambitions and the squad was back below decks again two years later, but Ramsey had established his reputation.