tOWN'S LAST PREMIERSHIP XI
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
Written By Kes Hawkins
The eve of another premier league season is upon us. For some, this is a reason to rejoice as the anxious wait for that glorious sight of the likes of Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingaard’s synchronised dabbing on our TV screens is finally over. Others cynically lament the return of the ‘BPL’s commercial juggernaut into our lives, readying themselves for another 9 months of pub chat about how “it was all better for the oligarchs came and ruined it all” and lamenting “where the contact sport has gone” as the aforementioned pair and countless other handsomely-paid iconoclasts become cult heroes, villains, memes, gifs and everything in between over the course of 38 games.
It’s been a long, long fifteen years since our beloved men in blue competed in the highest echelon of English football, leading us to become something of a running joke amongst various other Championship-dwelling clubs. Ironic calls for the league to be renamed ‘Ipswich and friends’ have caught on and grown louder as the label of being the longest-serving second tier side grows ever more apparent when the topic of whom we happen to support comes up in conversation.
liverpool 5-0 ipswich
All of that leads us (or at least those of us old enough to remember) back to 2002 and a glorious Spring day in the North-West. Town travelled to Anfield with a mathematical chance of survival. First, they needed results to go their way elsewhere in the fixture between already-relegated Derby and Sunderland – only a Derby win would do. Then, Town needed three points themselves - this was some ask in itself, considering they were facing a rampant Liverpool side looking to solidify 2nd place (many argue that the Red men may have won the league this season had turmoil surrounding Gerard Houllier ‘s health not greatly unsettled the club). However, my 9 year old self, present that day, still had romantic ideas of a great escape.
These were brutally squashed as Town were outclassed by a Liverpool side that put five past them without reply – a double from John-Arne Riise in the first-half and one for Michael Owen and Vladimir Smicer each before Nicolas Anelka compounded Town’s misery in the final moments. I left Anfield with tears in my eyes, yet somewhat confident my beloved Ipswich would make their return to the Promised Land very soon. 15 years of agony, anger and apathy later, I’m still waiting for that – as are many other long-suffering tractor boys and girls.
But what of that Town side that endured that 5-0 drubbing in 2002? Did they stay on at Portman Road or head straight for the exit door? Was Town’s relegation a setback or a springboard to their ensuing careers? And what are they up to now? I’ve raided all the resources available to me to find out what happened to the blues’ starting eleven that fateful day – the last Ipswich Town XI to have played in the premier league.
town last prem xi
A controversial figure between the sticks for Town having made the straight switch from ‘that lot up the road’ without a fee (having been awarded the Canaries’ player of the season prior to this), Marshall stayed with the club until 2004, amassing 53 appearances. Despite some solid performances in an Ipswich shirt, sections of Town’s support never really warmed to the ex-Norwich stopper.
He went on to join Millwall, where he stayed until 2006, before a move to Coventry City where he made 59 appearances between 2006 and 2009. He departed next for Aston Villa, where he remains a goalkeeping coach today.
Bramble, 20 at the time and tipped for big things, left Suffolk following Town’s relegation, with Newcastle paying £6 million for his services. The big defender racked up 106 league appearances on Tyneside before leaving for Wigan Athletic. His performances in the 2008-9 season won him four personal accolades at the end of season awards ceremony. He linked up with ex-Latics boss Steve Bruce again in 2010, joining Sunderland for £1 million. He played 51 games for the club in a spell blighted by injuries and controversy surrounding his personal life.
He had accrued a total of 292 Premier league appearances but Ipswich-born Bramble’s playing career was all but over by 2013 when he had an unsuccessful pre-season trial back at Town. He now works back where it all began for him – the club’s academy – where he is coach of the Under 11s side, and only recently put his boots back on by joining local side Stowmarket Town.
The popular Icelandic defender spent the best part of another season with The Blues before a 900k transfer to Charlton in March 2003. The deal, completed outside of the transfer window, was put through as a result of Town’s plummet into administration. Hreidarrson showed himself to be a popular and loyal servant at The Valley, making 149 appearances in total – 21 more than he made at Town. He then totalled another 122 games for Portsmouth between 2007 and 2012.
On top of this, Hreidarrsson won 89 caps for his country during his career. For all his hard work and endeavour, the big man also carries the unfortunate tag of being one of the Premier League’s most relegated players having suffered the with five different clubs (Town’s descent in 2002 was his third). Finished his playing career in his homeland with IBV, where he also began coaching. Now manager of the womens team at Fylkir.
Voted player of the year in the season of Town’s premier league relegation, Veno and his rocket of a left foot played their last game for Town in 2003. He played 21 games not far up the road at Cambridge United before a brief loan spell at Dagenham & Redbridge.
Venus’s coaching career began after receiving a call from former-Town teammate Tony Mowbray who was managing Hibernian at the time and hired Veno as an assistant. The two have been inseparable as a coaching partnership since, working together at West Brom, Celtic, Middlesbrough and Coventry City. Venus briefly managed Coventry as caretaker after Mowbray’s departure before joining up with Mowbray again at Blackburn as the duo attempt to bolster Rovers back into the Championship at the first time of asking. The two ex-Town defenders have been tipped by some Town fans as their choice for Mick McCarthy’s replacement in the dugout for when the Yorkshireman’s tenure comes to an end.
(John McGreal, John McGreaaaalll – OOOH!) Stayed at Town until 2004 before joining Burnley. He played 96 league games for the Lancashire side before retiring in 2007. McGreal then moved back to East Anglia where he completed his coaching badges.
McGreal took up employment down the A12 at Colchester United in 2009, with their academy, and has worked his way up the ladder with the U’s, culminating in his appointment as first team manager last year. Will be aiming to steer Town’s closest neighbours to a League Two play-off spot this coming season.
The talismanic Dutchman’s injury-plagued 2001-02 season may have been one of the reasons for Town’s lack of form in the premier league. Stayed with the club until 2004, by which time he had fallen out of favour with boss Joe Royle. Returned to the Netherlands for spells with Willem II, RAC Waalwijk and NAC Breda before retiring in 2010.
Reuser has since gone into coaching and works with the national side’s U16 squad as well as the U16s of his hometown club Ado Den Haag. Has also carried out media work in Holland. Regularly posts his affection for his time at Ipswich on social media and has kept links in Suffolk.
One of the most revered Town players of this generation, club captain and Mr. Reliable himself. Stayed at the club after relegation before Town’s dire financial situation in the early noughties, coupled with failure to win promotion through the play-offs in 2003, meant that fans’ favourite Holland had to be sold to Charlton Athletic for a 750k which rose to £900,000 upon Charlton’s survival in the premier league.
Turned out for Charlton 191 times before calling time on his playing career in 2009. The former Ireland international is a regular in the media; having worked for Radio 5 Live, TalkSport Sky Sports, BT Sport and regional East Anglia show Late Kick-Off as a pundit, co-commentator and presenter respectively. Another ex-Town player who maintains an affinity for the club and often speaks fondly in the media of his time at the club.
Town’s relegation in 2002 was settled by fine margins, and it was an impressive young Miller’s effort vs Manchester United in the penultimate game of that season that went so agonisingly past the post that could have earned Town a well-deserved point going into the final day. The following seasons in the championship saw the centre-midfielder go from strength to strength in a blue shirt.
Blossoming under the management of Joe Royle, Miller became the midfield lynchpin in the side that made it to successive play-offs. Miller’s impressive performances and 15 goal contribution in 2004-05 have not yet replicated by any player to don the number 8 shirt since. Left for Sunderland in 2005 after Town’s play-off heartache before a short loan spell with Preston. Returned to Portman Road in 2007 and added another 10 goals in 69 league appearances to his total Ipswich tally. Released in 2009, spells at Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield, Bury Town and Hartlepool followed. Now 38, Miller was last listed as being on the books at Halifax Town as a player-coach.
The left-footed free-kick demon stayed at Town until 2003, another to fall victim to the club’s administration that saw many of the ‘old guard’ sold off. Went on to play in the premier league with Birmingham City.
Played 84 games for the club before joining Wolves in 2006. Stayed at Molineux for two years with a brief loan spell at Leeds in between. Stints at Leicester, Notts County, Lincoln City and Kettering followed before Clapham called time on his 449-game total professional career in 2011. Went into coaching and also worked closely with ex-teammate Tony Mowbray as a coach at Middlesbrough and Coventry City. Now plies his trade as a coach at championship side Barnsley.
The only player in this XI to still be kicking it at an established level. Relegation in 2002 did little to hamper Bent’s career, as the then 18 year-old became an established goalscorer at Town. The next three seasons in the championship saw Bent hit double figures in a blue shirt, notching 18 and 16 in 02-03 and 03-04 respectively, before his formidable partnership with Shefki Kuqi saw Bent fire in 20 goals in 2004-05.
This was equally as fruitful for Kuqi who hit the same figure that year. Sold, somewhat inevitably, for £2.5 million to Charlton upon Town’s failure to achieve promotion that season. Bent went on to establish himself as a proven goalscorer in the premier league with The Addicks, as well as in spells with Spurs, Sunderland, Fulham (loan) and Aston Villa. Has scored 106 premier league goals in his career as well as 4 goals in 13 England caps. At 33, Bent is still playing, and still finding the back of the net, with Derby County in the Championship. Romantic whispers of a potential return to Portman Road this summer began to circulate, although any tangible links are yet to come to fruition.
Town looked well and truly doomed in 2001-02 before Bent’s arrival mid-season. His 9 goals in 22 games were a huge catalyst in ensuring Town’s fight against the drop went right down to the wire. Stayed at the club post-relegation before being loaned out to Leicester City in 03-04.
Joined Everton later that year, where he spent two and a half years before another loan move to Wigan in 2007. Charlton Athletic was Bent’s next point of call. There were loan spells at Middlesbrough, QPR, Wolves and Sheffield United also. Ended his career at Indonesian Super League side Mitra Kukar. Stories regarding Bent’s career post-football are sparse, with Wikipedia stating the striker went into the ‘oil business.’ Brushes with the law have also figured widely in Bent’s post-football life – he has been tasered in his own home and charged for offences twice; most recently in an utterly bizarre incident that saw him caught in possession of cocaine at childrens’ theme park Chessington World of Adventures.
subs used that day
Stayed with Town for the best part of his remaining career before retiring at Grays Athletic in 2008. Played a testimonial game at Portman Road in 2009. Donned his boots at the age of 43 for local Ryman League side Leiston. Still resides in the area and has been on the coaching staff at Colchester United.
Another notable sweetheart of Ipswich Town. Left following relegation in 2002. Joined Sunderland and spent three seasons there before moving back to his native West Country with Bristol City. Went onto play for Yeovil and Exeter City before retiring from playing in 2011. Coached at Exeter before being made assistant manager at Bristol Rovers, where he has remained for the past four years.
Stayed at Town until 2003. Was loaned out to Bradford City before joining Darlington along with stints at Doncaster Rovers and Rushden & Diamonds. Retired in 2007. Now manages Northern League Premier side Blyth Spartans.
So, there we have it. The last players to have represented Ipswich Town at the very highest level. What are your memories of this ITFC first-tier XI, individually or as a collective? Would they survive in the Premier League of today? Share your insights with us in the comments below.