Football is more than a game.

I don’t think anyone watching the scenes after the final whistle at Portman Road, or throughout the weekend, could argue with that.

To be at pitchside was one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments, and it was impossible not to get swept away in the emotion. In the ground were kids who have never watched Ipswich play in the top tier before. People my age who remember Martijn Reuser’s screamer in the 2000 play-off Final, the subsequent 5th place finish to qualify for Europe, with the legendary 1-0 win over Inter Milan following the year after. Then there were those who had been there to witness the glory years under Sir Alf Ramsey and Sir Bobby Robson too.

What Kieran McKenna and his team have achieved has so rarely been done before. Only four other sides have won back-to-back promotions from League One to the Premier League since it was founded over 30 years ago in 1992. McKenna has amassed more points than any other manager in the top four leagues since his appointment, and the team scores goals for fun. More than that, despite the grind of a 46-game Championship season, their never-say-die spirit and endless energy meant that Portman Road was rocking throughout, and they gave our town hope and belief again.

On Sunday, 55,000 people lined the bus route for the promotion parade, while 35,000 poured into Christchurch Park to celebrate McKenna and co. It felt like the whole of Suffolk was out in town on Saturday night too. The pubs and bars throughout Ipswich were heaving, and the whole town was decked in blue. This was a proper bank holiday party that started before a ball was kicked on Friday night, right through to the embers of Monday evening.

At this point I want to thank Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk County Council, and Ipswich Borough Council – especially those who did a magnificent job cleaning up the town the morning after – for all their work in facilitating such a brilliant weekend for the town.

Clearly, the Premier League status will bring a huge financial boost to the club, and the town more widely. Ipswich Central believes it could generate in excess of half a billion pounds worth of economic benefit for the area, with our hospitality sector, in particular, benefiting.

Yet, this is not just about money. It is about pride, joy and community too. This weekend saw Ipswich at its very best and a return to English football’s top table after more than 20 years away. You simply can’t buy a feeling like that, and you just wanted to bottle it up so it would last a little longer.

To add to the celebrations, yesterday it was announced that Ipswich’s St Mary-le-Tower is to become a Minster, a historic announcement which is significant not just for the Christian community, but our town as a whole. It elevates our profile and importance, and again puts us on the map for all the right reasons.

Huge credit must go to the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Revd Martin Seeley, and the Rev Tom Mumford, vicar of St Mary-le-Tower, for showing the vision and perseverance needed to achieve this wonderful legacy for the town. This recognition is lasting, positive, and inspirational.

There is something special happening in Ipswich, and now is the time to build on this momentum and grasp the opportunity to build a new future for the town. Ipswich Town F.C. have been promoted – now is the time to pull together, be ambitious, show pride, and get our town of Ipswich to where we want it to be too.

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