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29th May 2017 v 29th May 2000
Written by TimS on Monday, 29th May 2017 20:24

What were you doing on Monday 29th May 2000? What have you been doing on Monday 29th May 2017?

As I write this blog, it would have been into the second half at Wembley 17 years ago, the old Wembley before the stadium turned into the expensive, cold, more corporate, but internationally comparable arena that we know now.

As I have written elsewhere, this Wembley match was bizarrely not quite as memorable for me as games in the ensuing 2000/01 season. Being at University in North Wales, I was lucky to get to many grounds in the North West of England. The Liverpool win for me at Anfield in December 2000 was more memorable for me.

However, I still think about my trip to Wembley for the play-off final. I can still feel the weather of that day which was sunny and surprisingly hot for late May. I know what I was wearing which was my proud white Greene King away shirt and jeans, thinking that I was the swaggering Essex man about town.

Travelling up from Colchester where my parents lived at the time, the screaming buzz of the train carriage gradually increased as Town fans piled onto the train at Witham and Chelmsford. The train was full and standing by Liverpool Street but no one really cared.

I can remember the good wishes from the train driver blaring on the train speaker as the train slithered into London Liverpool Street - something that I never thought could be done. In this pre-smartphone age, I can remember how lucky I was to easily meet my best friend from school days outside Wembley Park tube; everything seemed to go like clock work on that day.

I can also remember randomly bumping into old school pals around the end of the stadium, and even meeting my old English teacher from school who was sitting a couple of rows behind me at Wembley, it made me feel that Suffolk had emptied on this Bank Holiday Monday and decamped to Wembley. Was this what happened in 1978? I had been forever told about 1978 for nearly 20 years. 2000 and this match was my time.

The game was a blur. I wonder how many fans can now accurately take us through what happened in the game. I remember the goals especially Martijn Reuser’s final smash into the goal cueing delirium from me and those around me.

Drunk on the atmosphere, I had felt it reasonable to spend nearly £10 on a Town flag and rushed back into central London after the game, running from Bond Street to Tottenham Court Road with the flag fluttering behind as if I was part of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Everyone around central London seemed to be saying well done to me as if I had played in the game myself and scored the winning goals. I loved the adulation. This had not happened to me on Millennium night five months earlier.

Having lost my voice and possibly my dignity, I collapsed back on platform two at Colchester station on that Monday evening. Everyone was happy, even my parents who were not the most devout of football fans. It was a great day, a proud day and a day of memories that will never be forgotten.

For me, the open top bus tour around Ipswich was a dramatic anti-climax. Combining the visit to Ipswich with a trip to the cinema to see one of the worst movies that I have ever seen (Pearl Harbour) it was a muggy and close stand on Crown Street whilst the bus slowly drifted past us.

Similar to watching the Olympic torch relay or the Tour de France in subsequent years, we stoked ourselves into fever pitch before the Ipswich open top bus trundled past us. I have seen a few further open top bus tours since then across the UK; these events have turned into much more outlandish affairs, but 17 years on, I still remember that day too. I would want younger fans to have the same memories.

Football for me will only mean something to people if they feel proud of their team and have memories that they can treasure for their support. Turning football into a pastime as memorable going supermarket shopping or waiting for a bus will rapidly mean that the game will lose its attraction.

Sadly throughout the 2000/01 season, I never quite appreciated how lucky I was to watch Town tearing up the rulebook leading to European football the following season (and there is a whole set of emotions linked to Town playing Inter Milan in November 2001).

At that time in May 2000, I felt a strong sense of relief that Town had made the Premiership, we were going to play the Arsenals, Chelseas and Manchester Uniteds. There would be no play-off misery come May 2001 and the future would be full of milk and honey.

It is difficult not to see the events of 29th May 2000 in the wider context of what happened next. For a while, ‘Doing an Ipswich’ became a byword for a Icarus style movement of a team going to close to their sun, getting their wings burnt with expensive and under-performing signings, and getting relegated the following May.

Then the seemingly endless seasons in the Championship and for me, and a general fracturing of the Town fanbase from the club, which is something that needs to be urgently reviewed.

I don’t know that the match 17 years ago will ever quite be viewed in the same way as what happened in 1978 and 2001 but it was my moment, along with many people roughly in their mid 20s to mid-40s now.

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