If you’re going to end your playing days on a high, then it doesn’t get much better than scoring in a Wembley win to help your team get promoted to the Premier League!
And that is exactly what Tony Mowbray did for Ipswich Town 20 years ago today.
The Rovers boss brought down the curtain on a distinguished career, which also included spells at Middlesbrough and Celtic, by netting the equaliser in the 2000 First Division Play-Off Final against Barnsley, which Ipswich went on to win 4-2.
Just like today, May 29th 2000 was a scorching hot day.
Barnsley opened the scoring early on when Craig Hignett’s long-range strike went in off Ipswich keeper Richard Wright, before Mowbray headed home Jim Magilton’s cross to level the scores.
After the break, goals in quick succession from Richard Naylor and Marcus Stewart put the Tractor Boys firmly in control, before Mowbray gave away a penalty in the 77th minute, which Hignett converted.
A nervy finale ensued, before Martijn Reuser raced away to score in the final minute, to secure Ipswich’s promotion to the Premier League in the final domestic fixture to be played at the original Wembley.
Mowbray, who was 36 at the time, admits it was the perfect way to end his professional playing career.
“It was a sunny day, a bit like today, I was 36 years old and played in the middle of a back three, with (Mark) Venus and (John) McGreal either side of me,” he said.
“We were a good team. We were a confident team. We had a great victory against Bolton in the semi-finals.
“We took a knock early on, but we got back into the game. I was fortunate enough to get on the end of a Jim Magilton cross and score at the back stick with a header, which was amazing for me. It was my last ever game of football and to score at Wembley is quite a memory for me.
“To book end that with the start of my career at St James’ Park against Kevin Keegan was a great way to finish.
“The game ebbed and flowed. We were pretty fluent, we did pretty well in the heat. We got our noses in front and then went 3-1 up, and then I gave a penalty away, probably due to fatigue. I got caught chasing a striker into the box, he checked and I put my arm up and he went over.
“At 3-2, wow we were under pressure. We were defending our box and the greatest relief was when we managed to break away and Martijn Reuser ran through and finished the game 4-2. The rush of relief when that went in, knowing that we’d done it. It was just a great day.
“It was great for the people of Ipswich. That was our fourth consecutive year in the play-offs and we eventually did it. And for me personally, a brilliant way to finish my career at Wembley, scoring a goal and helping the club get to the Premier League.
“I was coaching by that time and it was the start really of a journey for me, which continues today. It’s a day I’ll always remember and proud to say I was part of the Ipswich Town team that won the play-off final in 2000.”