For much of the 20th century, Ipswich Town were one of the more successful clubs from less established markets in English football. The Suffolk side underlined this success with regular top flight appearances including the First Division league title in 1962. Throw in an FA Cup win in 1978 and a UEFA Cup win in 1981 and it proves why The Tractor Boys have such a rich history behind. Despite not featuring in the English top flight since 2002 and having struggled n recent seasons, the club still have a rich fanbase clamouring for success. With such an established history, who would make the top XI ever at Portman Road? Let’s see who would feature in the all-time greatest Ipswich XI?
GK: Paul Cooper
During the height of Ipswich’ successful spell in the 1970s and 1980s, it was Paul Cooper who stood as the man between the sticks. Despite not being the tallest, Cooper’s reactions and agility made him one of the best keepers in the country. This was evident as Ipswich claimed both the 1978 FA Cup and the 1982 UEFA Cup with him protecting the goal throughout both triumphs. Ultimately, Cooper spent 13 years in Suffolk from 1974-1987 before leaving for Leicester City. Across all competitions, Cooper made 575 appearances for the club making him an all-time great at Portman Road and one of their most experienced characters in the club’s history.
RB: George Burley
A revered figure at Portman Road, George Burley earned his stripes as both a player and a coach. The Scottish right-back was a core part of the squad that was successful in the 1970s and 1980s winning two trophies with the club, Burley’s powerful and no-nonsense approach made him a hard player to get past on the pitch. It was this consistency that earned him the club’s Player of the Year award in 1977 as Town continued to grow into one of the best sides in England. He would eventually leave Ipswich in 1985 to join Sunderland after spending 12 seasons with the club. His time as manager in the early 2000s also drew much plaudits as he led Ipswich to promotion to the Premier League in 2000 and even a UEFA Cup spot at the end of the 2000/01 season. A club legend through and through.
LB: John Elsworthy
Very few players spend their careers with just one club but that was what John Elsworthy did. The Welsh international spent 15 years with Ipswich playing with the club from 1949-1964. This longevity saw him win numerous league titles with The Tractor Boys. This started with the Third Division titles in 1954 and 1956 and stretched to the Second Division in 1961. It would be just one year later where Elsworthy featured as part of the 1962 squad that won the top flight title in the 1961/62 season. After notching up 396 matches and 44 goals for the club, Elsworthy retired for the professional game – knowing that he accomplished all the major goals he could with the club.
CB: Billy Baxter
One of Ipswich’s top defenders of the 1960s, Billy Baxter became a hugely popular figure at Portman Road as the club became one of the top clubs in the country. Starting his professional career with Ipswich in 1960, the Scot’s endless work ethic made him an integral part of the side that won back to back titles in the early 1960s. After claiming promotion by winning the Second Division title in 1961, Town would win the First Division one year later in 1962 – a whirlwind success for Baxter still emerging as a top professional. He remained with the club until 1971 where an argument with then-manager Bobby Robson saw him leave and join Hull instead.
CB: Terry Butcher
There are few names that have played for Ipswich that are famous as Terry Butcher. The relentless England international was known for his physicality and excellent aerial abilities. He rose through the ranks with Ipswich just as the team were peaking in the late 1970s. Butcher’s constant guts and passion made him a cult hero in Suffolk where he helped his team defeat AZ Alkmaar to win the 1981 UEFA Cup trophy. It was this form that started his decade long run in the England setup and he also claimed back-to-back Player of the Year Awards from the club in 1985 & 1986. After seeing Ipswich drop out of the top-flight, Butcher left English football and joined Rangers to prolong his career in top-flight football well into the 1990s.
CM: Mickey Stockwell
Despite not being a household name, few players have represented Ipswich Town quite as well as Mickey Stockwell. The tireless midfielder spent 18 years at Portman Road being a perennial part of a side that often bounced between the top two divisions of English football. A player who never ran out of energy, Stockwell could pick out a pass just as well as he could make a bone-crunching tackle. His efforts were perhaps best recognised in 1993 where he was awarded the club’s Player of the Year award. From there, Stockwell remained a part of the first team set-up until 2000 where left the club t join Colchester United. A club veteran that could always be relied upon when the going got tough.
CM: Arnold Muhren
One of Ipswich’s first foreign players, Arnold Muhren brought a wealth of technical mastery to the pitch at Portman Road. The Dutchman joined from FC Twente in 1978 and immediately helped his new side reach the stratosphere thanks to some slick passing and precise set-pieces. It is why Muhren became a key part of the Ipswich side that won the 1981 UEFA Cup and also earned him a regular spot in the Netherlands squad too. It would be this form at would bring his departure too as Manchester United signed Muhren shortly after Ipswich’s European success. It was a short but memorable spell for a player of real quality.
CM: John Wark
No-one can claim to be quite a record-breaker at Portman Road than John Wark. Wark’s attacking style and pressing from midfield made him a star for Ipswich in two distinct eras. He was a regular part of the famous side that won the FA Cup and UEFA Cup in 1978 and 1981 including scoring 31 goals in all-competitions in the latter season. Wark left Ipswich for Liverpool in 1984 but returned in 1991 and hung around for another six seasons. He picked up where left off though as the Scot played regularly all the way until he retired in 1997. His career speaks for itself though setting records for most club appearances (678), most Player of the Year awards (4) and second overall in goals scored (179). Perhaps the greatest club servant Ipswich could ever have asked for.
FW: Ray Crawford
There are perhaps no bigger unsung heroes in football than Ray Crawford. Crawford weaved his magic with two spells spread out over the 1950s and 1960s. Both spells were defined by Crawford’s mind-boggling ability to find the net particularly where he scored 143 goals in 197 games over 6 seasons. It was this goalscoring form that helped Ipswich lift the 1962 First Division title and shock the nation to claim the top prize in English football. After spells with Wolves and West Brom, Crawford returned to Portman Road in 1966 and continued his scoring streak notching up another 61 goals in the next three seasons. It’s a reason why Crawford is still Ipswich’s all time top scorer with 218 league goals and the first person ever to score a hat trick in all English competitions and in European cups as well.
FW: Ted Phillips
A local star right from the word go, Ted Phillips was never one to shy away from a shot. It would prove to be worthwhile though as he grew into one of Ipswich greatest ever strikers. Phillips was a part of the Ipswich squad during much of the 1950s and 1960s helping them rise through the ranks of English football. He was just one of a few players who helped the club rise from the third tier of the league system and then lift the First Division with the club in 1962. After that, he left for Leyton Orient in 1964 as his career winded down. With 179 goals for Ipswich, Phillips is still one of the club’s all-time top scorers decades after he shone at the top.
FW: Paul Mariner
During the height of Ipswich’s fame in the 1970s and 1980s, there was only one man keen to find the net – Paul Mariner. With the ability to create his own chances, Mariner always was able to convert shots when it mattered – a skill that helped Town immensely in their FA Cup and UEFA Cup success during his time there. It was why Mariner established himself as an England regular throughout the early 1980s as well as starring at club level. During his 8 year spell with the club, Mariner always reached double figure goal tallies showing remarkable consistency at a time when it wasn’t that common. A club legend to this very day.