Fuller Flavour: Remembering Dalian Atkinson, a true Town phenomenon
With no games to look forward to it’s the memories of action gone by that can fill our minds for now, and we can reflect on those good times that various games and players delivered to us, writes Karl Fuller.
Sadly, it’s a fair track back to remember some really good timesm, which so many of our younger fans will not have the privilege of seeing at first-hand!
The BBC gave us a taste of this last Sunday with an afternoon showing of some classic FA Cup quarter-final action when they screnned our tie against Everton in 1985. But it was a memory on Saturday that struck a chord with me as it would have been the 52nd birthday of former Town striker Dalian Atkinson.
Here was a player that would get backsides off seats as he scored some wonderful goals that still rank as my favourite scored by any Town player that I’ve seen live.
Although handed his debut by Bobby Ferguson in the 1986/87 season, it was really the next two seasons that Atkinson became a firm favourite with Town supporters. That said, on his league debut against Brighton on October 11, 1986, he showed flashes of things to come with a lively performance, delighting us with a number of amazing turns of speed and was instrumental in a 1-0 win courtesy of Mich D’Avray header just after the hour mark.
The following two seasons were the first two of three of the John Duncan era in the hotseat and anyone who supported Town through those times would tell you that they were dark times. The one shining light was without a doubt, Atkinson.
We had to wait until February 27, 1988, for his first Ipswich goal, which came at a time when he was on the transfer list, in a 3-2 away win at Barnsley and it was a brace of goals that helped us to victory.
The first saw him weave his magic to end a dismal run where Town had only found the net once in their five previous games. He outpaced the Barnsley defence to score the opener and then lobbed his second over future Town keeper Clive Baker from 30-yards.
He scored another brace in a 2-1 home win over Huddersfield in early April, the winner being a stunning solo effort and then came his finest hour two weeks later when he netted a hat-trick in a 4-0 home win over Middlesbrough. I remember this game fondly as I so nearly missed the occasion.
My friends and I were around 16-years-old at the time and had started to go to games on the train from our home town of Walton-on-the-Naze. We never bought tickets for the journey as we never came across a guard to check our tickets – until this day, of course!
We were thrown off the train and decided to try our luck by getting the next train from Kirby Cross and this time we were more successful. It meant arriving at Portman Road bang on kick-off which was just as well as Atkinson scored his first of the afternoon after just four minutes.
Anyone who has seen the goals of that game will say how special his first two were. Remember, Middlesbrough were riding high at the time and had a formidable central-defensive partnership of Tony Mowbray and Gary Pallister. Atkinson tore them apart that day. Incidentally, D’Avray scored the other goal of that game in what was his 200th appearance for the club.
His last goal of that season came in a 1-0 home win over Birmingham where this time, it was an exquisite touch that saw him net the only goal of the game to prove that the wasn’t always a bout pace and power.
The goals continued to flow the following season, and most continued to be spectacular, with a personal favourite of mine being his second from 30 yards in a 3-0 home win over Bournemouth.
It’s fitting perhaps he scored in the first-ever Premier League game at Portman Road, albeit for visitors Aston Villa. He was a true phenomenon and we’ll probably not see his like again for Ipswich.
Sadly, of course, Dalian wasn’t around to celebrate his 52nd birthday - he died back in 2016.
I’m sure all Town fans who were lucky enough to see him play will remember him for a long time.