Keane’s fiery stare in the snow and the comeback which saved Jewell’s job - a look at two of Ipswich Town’s Greatest Games
PUBLISHED: 17:00 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 18:12 30 March 2020
East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star sports editor Mark Heath reflects on two of the most memorable games in his tenure in the job - the snow game and a miracle at Oakwell.
I’ve proudly been sports editor at the EADT and Star for almost a decade now, a job that has been the highlight of my career in journalism.
It still amazes me to this day that I actually get paid to watch, write and talk about sport. I am, as many on social media have often reminded me, stealing a living.
In my time on the sportsdesk, I’ve watched and reported on four Town bosses - messrs Jewell, McCarthy, Hurst and Lambert – while I was lucky enough to be digital editor during the remarkable Keane era, and I still remember the incredible buzz around the place when he was unveiled. Town were as good as up with him at the helm - sadly, of course, it didn’t quite go to plan.
So, while many Town fans will understandably point to the Bolton play-off semi-final classic, that promotion-clinching win at Wembley or the likes of the FA Cup Final victory as among their most memorable games, my take on things is a little different - and more recent.
For me, two Ipswich Town matches will always stand out - the famous snow game at Portman Road against Leicester, and the unbelievable 5-3 comeback win at Barnsley, the game which probably saved Paul Jewell’s job. For a while, anyway.
Let’s take a look at each in turn, then - and let me know what your memories are of these and other Town classics you hold dear!
- The snow game: December 18, 2010, Ipswich Town 3 Leicester City 0
With snow widespread across Suffolk, it looked highly unlikely that Town’s home clash with Leicester City would go ahead, but with the game set to be screened live by Sky Sports cammeras, the teams did indeed take to the pitch as scheduled. Funny that...
Watching at home on TV – I was digital editor at this point – I just couldn’t see how the game would be finished.
The Blues would of course prevail 3-0, with Jason Scotland (two) and David Norris grabbing the goals, but there was high drama throughout.
Referee Stuart Atwell suspended the game for 17 minutes in total as the snow continued to fall, with the pitch almost totally white.
But, with Town three goals to the good by half-time and boss Roy Keane under pressure, there were famously tense scenes as the fiery Irishman fixed Atwell with his thousand yard stare when it appeared the game would be called off.
That’s what I recall most - that famous Keane stare, eyes ablaze, as discussions went on about calling proceedings to a halt. The game was over as a contest, all the drama was about if it could/would/should be played to a finish.
Lines were constantly cleared by Town ground staff in a bid to keep the match going, while Leicester boss Sven-Goran Eriksson watched on and lobbied for a call-off.
Sat at home, with a couple of libations inside me – it was almost Christmas, after all – I vividly recall arguing with others on social media, plus my wife, who happens to be a Foxes’ fan.
They’re grown men and it’s only snow, let them play, was my general argument.
Looking back now, it seems incredible that the game was completed.
There’s always been something a bit special about games with a dusting of snow - the yellow ball, cleared lines (blue in this case), shirtless fans and players sporting gloves, snoods and the like – but for me, this will always top that list.
- The miracle at Oakwell: December 10, 2011: Barnsley 3 Ipswich Town 5
Pretty much a year later, and I was firmly ensconced in the sports editor’s chair at Archant Suffolk Towers, aided and abbetted by two legends of the sportsdesk, Nick Garnham and Mike Bacon - the latter of whom still espouses the virtues of speedway and non-league football to me to this day!
Anyway, it looked as though I was about to preside over the departure of my first Town boss. The Blues had been on a dreadful run under Paul Jewell, losing seven straight games and sliding towards the relegation zone, with the Town manager insisting that his team, loaded with new signings, just needed time to gel.
But the first half at Barnsley bore all the hallmarks of team led by a dead man walking. Town were dreadful as they slunk in with tails firmly between legs at half-time 2-0 down. It could have been more too, were it not for a comedic goal-line clearance from self-styed ‘Superman’ Ibrahima Sonko. More on that shortly.
Daggers were clearly being sharpened for the Town boss and the entire hierachy, with fans unveiling not very complimentary banners in the break. I alternated between sharing frantic text messages with Terry Hunt, the long-serving EADT editor, and our photographer at the ground, Warren Page, to make sure we had pictures of said banners.
It was, we were sure, just a matter of 45 minutes before Jewell would be given his marching orders.
We hadn’t reckoned on a quite frankly ridiculous reversal of fortunes in the second half. On loan midfielder Keith Andrews, who transformed into a poor man’s Frank Lampard in terms of his goal production at Town, came out and fired Town level with a quickfire double.
His first, a volley from outside the box, was a beauty. Town didn’t stop there though, Danny Collins, Michael Chopra and Jason Scotland all netting to put the Blues 5-2 up with seven minutes to play. They simply blew through Barnsley like a storm.
The Tykes got a late consolation - a wonderful free-kick from Craig Davies – but Jewell’s job was saved. To this day, I wonder what he said at half-time.
He limped on for almost another year, before famously departing Town having ‘gone to watch a DVD’ of his final game, a home loss to Derby, in October 2012.
Of all the goals and incident in this game though, it’s Sonko’s clearance which still lingers most in my mind. With the ball spinning towards the empty net after keeper David Stockdale had made a save, Sonko hurled himself at the sphere, shanking it off his shin and onto the post, from where the danger was cleared.
If that had gone in, Barnsley would have been 3-0 up at the break. Fine margins and all that.