Glory Years From 1971, when Colchester beat Leeds, to 1993, when Norwich beat Bayern Munich, the east of England was a football hotspot. Unlike Ipswich’s freak 1962 title win – they went down two years later– success was widespread and lasting. Ipswich and Norwich won three cups between 1978 and 1985, and Town were twice league runners-up. Outside Ipswich the peaks came later, when Cambridge (1992), Norwich (1993) and Peterborough (1993) all achieved their highest league position, City got to two FA Cup semis and Cambridge twice reached the sixth round. Even Colchester won the Conference and FA Trophy (1992), though admittedly they had to be relegated first.
Grim years East Anglia’s clubs are late developers. Having joined the League at regular intervals since Ipswich arrived in 1938, they haven’t had time for too much collective grimness. The mid-1950s weren’t too clever, with Ipswich, Norwich and Colchester all in the Third South together for a couple of years and the latter two finishing rank bottom for a season each. But even since Peterborough joined the League in 1960 they have never finished in the bottom four of the Fourth, while Cambridge, who arrived in 1970, have done it only once, in 1986.
Crowd pullers Ipswich’s pattern of success makes them one of the few clubs whose crowds were lower in the League’s peak season (1947-48) than in its pit of gloom in 1985-86. They and Norwich have both had remarkably stable crowd figures, only once since the war drawing an average below 10,000 (Ipswich’s 9,434 in 1952-53), but rarely straying as high as 25,000. Neither has ever been in the top ten best supported clubs.
Local favourites Norwich had a definite edge until the late Sixties. In 1959-60 their 26,402 average was nearly twice that of Ipswich, even though they were a division lower, and even in Ipswich’s championship season City, struggling in the Second, nearly matched their neighbours’ modest 22,863. More recently things have been much more even. Of the smaller clubs, Peterborough started with a bang, becoming the 35th most popular club in the country in their first season of 1960-61 (14,203), but have since sunk to less exciting levels, more or less on a par with Cambridge.
From WSC 168 February 2001. What was happening this month