Ipswich Town celebrate 30 years since their 1992 title-winning season
There are fond memories of Ipswich Town's title-winning side of the early 1990's.
History-makers is one way of describing Portman Road's class of 1992, having sealed promotion in the first half of the year to compete in the inaugural Premier League season. Gavin Johnson was the centrepiece of success, having scored the goal to seal the title, before repeating the feat to score Town's first in the top-flight a few months later.
The Blues were not fancied to be a side capable of making a challenge for promotion alongside the big spenders of Blackburn and Derby, yet alone winning the league. But with a side full of character, experience and team spirit like no other, they triumphed ahead of Middlesbrough.
Managed by John Lyall, predominantly of West Ham United fame having racked up over 750 games in charge at the Boleyn Ground, Town players were able to crack open the champagne after a nervy run to the finish line, ending a tormenting last six years following relegation in 1986.
After that draw at Oxford, the esteemed Lyall, in his second season in the role, said: "It's been such a united effort, from the chairman to the board. It's such a happy place and it's been a pleasure really for me because I haven't really been under any stress at all."
But today marks the 30th anniversary of the final game of that season, when players put the champagne on ice for 90 minutes and got their hands on the trophy in front of an almost 27,000 strong home crowd.
The belief that something special could be brewing in Portman Road started in February, two months earlier, according to Town fan Adam Squire.
"We had that cup run, where we played Liverpool in the fifth round and we went out on a replay," he says from his home in Australia, sipping on a cold beer.
"But in that moment in time in February, I remember thinking to myself 'we deserve to be promoted, we are good enough.' Whereas six months before I hadn't thought that at all. But in February we made such a good fist of it, you remember thinking we are good enough to go up.
"They just got on a run and from Christmas onwards, they got on a period where for a couple of months I think we pretty much won every game through January and February. They just got themselves in this great momentum where every game you thought they were going to win."
A pre-Christmas slump saw Town go on a run of eight games without a win. Any hope of being a side capable of making a challenge were seemingly dashed, before a run of 16 wins from 22 games saw them thrust back into the mix of automatic promotion.
The angst kicked in two games before the pivotal clash in Oxfordshire. Lyall's men could have sealed promotion earlier than April 25, but another draw against Grimsby Town, preceded by defeats to Bristol City and Sunderland, saw them denied that opportunity.
"We all went to Bristol City; there was quite a lot of trouble with the Bristol City fans, and back then it was still quite common," the Australian resident adds when asked about the weeks prior to the jubilant celebrations.
"But we were rubbish. I think Ipswich took about 4,000/5,000 down there. I think we lost 2-1 and you remember thinking at that point 'we've blown this'. But then all the results went in our favour.
"I remember Grimsby at home. I drove up from Exeter and if we won that, we would have gone up. But we looked like we were choking, we really looked like we were choking."
All eyes were on the trip to the Manor Ground. With the yellows languishing at the bottom end of the table, there was huge importance on the fixture for both sides.
Following an overnight stay at his brother's home in Birmingham, Adam and his group made the trip down to Oxford for the memorable occasion.
Future Ipswich Town legend Jim Magilton put the home side in front, before Gavin Johnson headed home from a Town free-kick.
Reminiscing about the day promotion was sealed, Adam says: "Oxford's ground was an absolute terrible ground. It had this cage behind the goal basically that was absolutely shocking. It was a big game for Oxford, because I think Oxford were potentially going to get relegated if they didn't win, so there was a lot of tension again.
"Ipswich fans were all around the ground because that terrace behind the goal was only 4,000 standing. There were people all around the ground in the seats in the Oxford end, and there were little sort of incidents popping off all over the place.
"Towards the end everyone was climbing up the fences to get on the pitch. There was this big pitch invasion at the end when we got promoted. The pressure was off, the fun was on. When Johnson equalised, it just felt like 'this is it, this is the moment. We are going up.'"
Pandemonium followed at full-time, in the week that followed and at home to Brighton, who were relegated to the third tier. Corks were released off champagne bottles in the away dressing room in Oxford, before 26,803 crammed into Portman Road for the celebrations.
Gavin Johnson was involved again, while a Steve Whitton brace saw the Tractor Boys round off the win in style.
"Brighton at home was just a big celebration," adds Adam.
"It was just a massive knees up. There was lots of champagne football - everyone was having a great time. They finished the season fantastically getting that result, as often you get promoted and you lose the momentum. They turned up and put on a show. What a way to finish the season, it was real fairytale stuff.
"Everyone was having a party. Everyone was having an amazing time. You don't actually get the opportunity to have a game where you're already promoted, but there was no pressure.
"It was a celebration of being Ipswich."