|Brilliant Town Shock Favourites|
Written by clivebleedingthomas on Thursday, 9th Apr 2020 09:00
Circa ‘75 Holland had the best national team in the world, unluckily losing the World Cup final in ‘74 to West Germany and again in ‘78 to Argentina, each time being cursed by playing the host nation in their backyard.
Ajax had won the European Cup (now the Champions League) three years in a row - 1971/72/73 - Town’s opponents Feyenoord having won it in 1970. Rotterdam’s finest had, in fact, taken the Dutch title from the superb Ajax the previous year, 1974.
UEFA Cup First Round First Leg Wednesday 17th September 1975 Feyenoord 1 Ipswich Town 2
Feyenoord’s stadium had an athletics track around it, not uncommon then, and in their wisdom they had erected a temporary ‘stand’; what was little more than scaffolding and boards and in which we were housed on the running track itself. Their main stand towered above and behind us, rather dauntingly, as I recall.
The match kicked off in heavy rain which got steadily worse. From above we were pelted with beer bottles in the unrelenting downpour and none of us had packed umbrellas.
On the pitch we started steadily and seemed to grow in confidence as the game progressed. Clive Woods was impressive. I can never truly understand why he isn’t quite as lauded as some of our many legends, maybe his period of excellence was too short.
In the 32nd minute Trevor Whymark brilliantly put us in front after some clever play from Woods. The rain and the bottles intensified but we kept up our racket, if only to show a degree of defiance.
David Johnson (Jonty) almost scored with a header and then he had a goal inexplicably disallowed. A clear foul on Whymark in the penalty area went unpunished. We were all over them. We were beginning to wonder about the Russian referee. “Are you [Clive] Thomas in disguise?” we sung mockingly.
Half-time came as a welcome respite from the assorted deluge, so we gathered under the scaffolding to get out of the rain. At least the bottles had stopped. It was suggested they were stocking up on some more ammo for the second half. Spot on.
Their fans erupted in the 69th minute as Theo de Jong equalised with a great goal. Feyenoord had their tails up. Paul Cooper then made a fantastic save and with the crowd fully behind them they were looking odds on to get the next goal.
The rain intensified and the bottles kept coming. Town fans held their heads in hands, unable to watch.
Eventually many of us were so wet, sodden and bedraggled, and, together with a few who’d copped a Heineken bottle too many, had consequently started to congregate beneath the scaffolding seeking some shelter, of sorts, as we had at half-time. Certain parts of the pitch were thus obscured.
I can visualise it now as plain as day, peering as I was from between the legs of the hardy souls who had remained above and the boards and the scaffolding and the stair rod-like rain as Jonty rose above their defence and popped in a majestic header. 1-2! We emerged from our shelter cavorting like maniacs. Never have I been so wet.
Enlivened we returned to our ‘stand’ and watched as we ran the game down. The rain persisted but the bottles dried up, so to speak.
Roger Osborne was booked for time-wasting by simply having a shot a second after the whistle had blown. We saw it out though and how we celebrated. There is a point where you cannot get any wetter. It just didn’t matter any more.
We had leaders all over the pitch. Allan Hunter was simply immense. Kevin Beattie. Mick Mills. George Burley in his quiet way. Jonty was such a brave player. Ask Lazio. Whymark was unplayable. Ask Lazio. Osborne went on to famously shackle the world’s best player, Johan Cruyff, at Portman Road against Barcelona.
The terrible conditions didn’t seem to affect the artistry of Colin Viljoen or, indeed, Woods. Cooper didn’t have the busiest of nights but made his superb save at a crucial time and was so assured.
Bryan Hamilton was industrious and intelligent. We, as fans, really felt part of it. A visceral connection to the team who could see what we were putting up with. Not essentially the same as Millwall away in our FA Cup-winning year of 1978 but there were similarities.
After the full-time whistle we were eventually escorted by the police and dog-handlers back to the coach park. Quite a lot of what we would now describe as ‘ultras’ were waiting for us, but the police ensured that we boarded safely.
Then they left. We felt like sitting ducks. The ultras boarded the bus. Oh my God, we’re in trouble here was the consensus. The more pessimistic amongst us pronounced us as good as dead. About eight of them stood eyeing us from the aisle. Then the ugliest, biggest and most threatening one of them all, bedecked in all things Feyenoord, announced in perfect English to the whole coach that Ipswich were the best team they’d seen for a long, long time and congratulated us on our victory.
“Even better than Ajax?”, someone politely enquired.
They then wanted to shake all our hands, which they did, before wishing us good luck in the rest of the competition.
Town won the second leg 2-0 at Portman Road a fortnight later, thus knocking the favourites out. We drew Bruges in the next round and recorded a resounding 3-0 victory at home.
We were already in the next round… or so we thought. The nadir of all our European adventures followed, on Bonfire Night. The unthinkable happened Town going out 4-3 on aggregate.
Town team: Cooper, Burley, Mills, Osborne, Hunter, Beattie, Hamilton, Viljoen, Johnson (Lambert), Whymark (Austin), Woods.
Feyenoord: Treytel, Schneider, Everse, Ramijak, van Daele, Jansen, Rijsbergen (Olsen), de Jong (Wegerle), Vreijsen, Kreuz, Kristensen.
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