Ranking Ipswich Town’s top five keepers of the last 40 years
PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 November 2020 | UPDATED: 18:21 12 November 2020
Football writer Carl Marston takes advantage of a blank weekend ahead to compile his top five Ipswich Town keepers of the last 40 years, a tough task
A blank weekend of competitive action leaves me the luxury of compiling a top five list, which is always good for talking points and discussion.
Here I reveal my top five Ipswich Town goalkeepers of the last 40 years, a list which begins after the golden eras of Roy Bailey and David Best.
Bailey rattled up 315 league games (mainly under Sir Alf Ramsey) between 1956 and 1965, winning Championship medals in the top three divisions along the way, while Best followed suit with 168 league games (1968-74).
I watched the odd Town game, as a young schoolboy, when Best was the agile Town custodian, before his switch to Portsmouth in the mid-1970s, but for me the first keeper I watched regularly, sits on top of this list.
CARL’S TOP FIVE
1 PAUL COOPER
The opposition are awarded a penalty. No problem. Chances are Paul Cooper would save it.
Cooper was Town’s dependable last line of defence for 13 years, rattling up 575 senior games and playing a key role in the lifting of the FA Cup in 1978 and the UEFA Cup in 1980-81.
He faced stiff competition from Laurive Sivell for much of his stay, while in later years he also kept the likes of Mark Grew and Jon Hallworth at bay. But there was ‘only one’ Paul Cooper!
He once saved an amazing eight penalties from 10 in a campaign (1979-80), and would surely have played for England in any other era than the one he grew up in, when the duo of Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence proved impossible to dislodge.
My clearest memories of Cooper are him standing on his goal-line, in his green jersey, while crouched low down with his arms swinging, watching intently as some unfortunate penalty-taker would step up to try and beat him from 18 yards out. More often than not, they would fail.
Cooper, committing late, usually guessed the right way to stop the ball. It was not pot luck; it was skill, and judgement.
2 RICHARD WRIGHT
A mainstay of Town’s team of the second half of the 1990s and early noughties, under George Burley, local lad Richard Wright (Ipswich-born) was a vital cog in Town’s glorious First Division play-off campaign of 1999-2000 and subsequent fifth-placed finish in the Premier League.
I was in the Wembley press box to watch Wright’s penalty save from Darren Barnard in a 4-2 win over Barnsley in the play-off final of 20 years ago, and interviewed him afterwards. Two England caps followed, as did subsequent moves to Arsenal and Everton.
3 CRAIG FORREST
The big Canadian was such a loyal servant to Town, a giant figure at 6ft 5ins, in comparison to the smaller statures of Cooper, Wright, Sivell and alike.
Forget the fact he was in goal during Town’s infamous 9-0 defeat at Manchester United in 1995. Forrest, a commanding presence, played every game of Town’s title-winning campaign of 1991-92, to ensure a place in the inaugural season of the Premier League.
4 LAURIE SIVELL
I was fortunate to watch the diminutive Sivell in action, on occasions, during his 15-year stay from 1969 to ‘84. He was as quick as any keeper to scamper off his line and block the path on an oncoming striker, and all his team-mates would describe him as a ‘great shot-stopper.’
More often than not a back-up keeper for Best and Cooper, many years before the concept of a substitute keeper on the bench became the norm, Sivell did make an appearance in Town’s triumphant UEFA Cup run of 1980-81, in a second round, second leg tie at Bohemians Prague.
5 KELVIN DAVIS
A solid performer during two seasons at Portman Road, under Joe Royle, Davis was deservedly named in the Championship ‘Team of the Year’ in 2004-05 when Town finished third. He left for Premier League Sunderland, but hit top form at Southampton.
Those bubbling just outside my top five: Matteo Sereni, Asmir Begovic and Bartosz Bialkowski.
Here are a few of the Town keepers that often get overlooked, because they played so few games.
But they might jog a few happy memories.
FRED BARBER: Renowned for running onto the pitch wearing an old man’s mask, Barber played just one game for Town while on loan from Luton Town towards the end of 1995.
PHIL PARKES: The ex-QPR and West Ham stalwart (with his great moustache) played 743 league games, but just three for Town at the end of his career under former Hammers boss John Lyall.
LEE BRACEY: Moved up the divisions from Bury to Ipswich in 1997, but never played a game in more than two years, being stuck in Richard Wright’s shadow.