Twenty-One Years Away—How Ipswich Town miraculously returned to the Premier League

On Saturday, May 4, Ipswich Town—a team who were competing in League One just one year ago—were promoted to the Premier League after an emphatic 2-0 win against relegated Huddersfield Town.

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By Sin Liu

Ipswich Town—a team competing in League One just one year ago—were promoted to the Premier League after an emphatic 2-0 win against relegated Huddersfield Town on Saturday, May 4. Masterclasses from winger Omari Hutchinson, midfielder Conor Chaplin, and goalkeeper Václav Hladký gave the Tractor Boys their 28th win of the season and continued Ipswich’s incredible undefeated run at Portman Road since August. 

At the start of the 2023/24 Championship season, despite some bookies foreseeing Ipswich Town finishing in playoff positions, few anticipated their remarkable second-place finish, surpassing former Premier League regulars like Southampton and Leeds United. Additionally, Ipswich earned themselves a staggering 96 points in the Championship’s 46 games, a total unheard of for a newly-promoted team.

Much of Ipswich’s success can be attributed to head coach Kieran McKenna, who has taken the club from a stagnant League One side to a Premier League-quality one. Ipswich are the first team since Southampton in 2012 to achieve back-to-back promotions from the third tier of English football to the first. Ipswich’s success is also largely due to their extensive squad depth. Though Ipswich can count on attackers Ali Al-Hamadi and George Hirst, the club also has quality backups—they boast the presence of Bournemouth-loanee striker Kieffer Moore, who has scored seven goals for the Tractor Boys. Additionally, Ipswich benefits from midfielders Sam Morsy, Massimo Luongo, and Wes Burns, all of whom have contributed to the club’s remarkable +35 goal differential. Playing for Town were also remarkable young wingers, including Chelsea-loanee Hutchinson and Brighton-loanee Jeremy Sarmiento, although it remains unclear whether they will stay at the club during Ipswich’s Premier League debut season.

Unfortunately for Ipswich Town, their promotion ecstasy has been partly shrouded by rumors of savior coach Kieran McKenna being linked to Brighton and Hove Albion. Should McKenna indeed depart, Ipswich appears ready to turn to former Birmingham City manager Wayne Rooney. While Rooney achieved notable success with Derby County in the 2020/21 season, navigating challenges such as a -21 points deduction, his subsequent stints with both Derby and Birmingham both ended in relegation.

Now that Ipswich have been promoted, the question has risen: Will the Tractor Boys have what it takes to survive the drop in the Premier League? For myself, and for most pundits, the crucial factor will be the money Ipswich spends this summer and the subsequent transfers they make: especially on the wing, as Chelsea may recall Hutchinson for the 2024/25 season. As we’ve seen in this Premier League season, clubs like Sheffield United, who spent sparingly after their promotion to England’s top flight, struggled to compete with the league's intensity. It underscores the necessity for teams to invest significantly if they aim to contend in such a fiercely competitive league. Currently, Town are rumored to be gunning for Wigan center-back Charlie Hughes and Coventry City midfielder Ben Sheaf. However, at this moment, speculation is all we have. Only time will reveal the strength of Ipswich’s 2024/25 Premier League season. Nonetheless, for now, it’s all celebration and ecstasy in Ipswich.