AFTER suffering one of the bitterest days in their history on Teesside back in the Spring of 1981, Ipswich Town have the chance to exact a little bit of revenge at Middlesbrough this afternoon.
It was on the final full programme of the top-flight season on May 2, 1981 that the Tractor Boys, under the command of Bobby Robson, suffered one of their most bruising ever episodes when they lost 2-1 at Boro – to dramatically scupper their hopes of a first Division One title since 1961-62 .
With Ipswich needing a win to keep their hopes of silverware alive, the day did go down in another club’s history, namely Aston Villa, who were afforded a massive favour by Boro and their late Yugoslavian international striker Bosco Jankovic, who scored twice to give the hosts a 2-1 win at the hosts’ former Ayresome Park home.
The result was greeted with joy by 20,000 Villa fans at Highbury, on a day when a 2-0 defeat at Arsenal would have put their hopes of winning the championship in the balance if Ipswich – with one game still to play – had won, with some Villa supporters having playfully celebrated ‘Bosco Jankovic Day’ ever since.
The stakes are not quite as high today, but are certainly considerable for Boro this time around against their Suffolk visitors, who have nothing to play for like the hosts famously did that afternoon.
All the pressure is on the hosts, embroiled in a three-way fight for automatic promotion with Burnley and Brighton which is likely to go down to the final day of the season on May 7.
But the Teessiders, denied a massive three points late on in a 1-1 draw at big promotion rivals Burnley in midweek, are fully intent on not being on the receiving end of a shock result as the then high-flying Ipswich were 35 years ago.
Ahead of a heavy-duty afternoon in front of an expectant near 30,000 crowd, head coach Aitor Karanka said: “I am calm because you can feel that the players are confident.
“They were obviously disappointed after Burnley because we almost had everything done, but the following day at the training ground they were pleased because they know we are in a good position.
“They are confident and looking forward to the game on Saturday.”