Former Ipswich Town hero John McGreal Pictures: ITFC

THE spotlight will inevitably fall on Ipswich Town favourite James Norwood ahead of Saturday's clash with Tranmere Rovers.

The striker is an obvious connection between the clubs, having joined from the Merseysiders in June.

It was a fanfare arrival, with great excitement surrounding the 28-year-old's signature at Portman Road.

Rightly so.

Town fans craved a goalscoring hero last season, whereas Norwood notched 93 in 180 games for Rovers.

He helped Tranmere secure promotion to League One via the play-offs, finishing as the EFL’s top scorer with 32 goals.

However, there's another very obvious connection between the clubs - and he's still a big name in this part of the world.

I'm talking about John McGreal, of course.

A Tranmere and Ipswich hero and man-of-the-moment as Colchester United boss, following this week's extraordinary Carabao Cup success against Spurs.

Liverpool-born McGreal progressed through the youth team to become a first-team regular at Prenton Park, making over 200 appearances in nine years before joining Town in 1999.

And he proved an instant hit at Portman Road (overlooking an early red card against Portsmouth!), helping the club to play-off success and promotion to the Premier League.


McGreal made over 150 appearances in five years before joining Burnley in 2004.

On a personal note, I have many memories of watching him play and interviewing him after games.

On both counts, though, the highlight was almost 19 years to this day - his goal at Everton in Town's fifth Premier League fixture (September 30, 2000).

It came in a sparkling 3-0 victory and, afterwards, one esteemed national reporter wrote: "Simply by playing simple, orderly football bereft of pretension, Ipswich Town shredded first Everton's midfield, then their defence and finally their confidence."

McGreal's goal was a real collector's item and his first for the club, heading home Jim Magilton's free-kick after 19 minutes.

What made it such a story was the fact McGreal is a dyed-in-the-wool Liverpool supporter.

Afterwards he described it as "one of the best feelings ever", not least because he had an army of friends and family behind that goal at the Gwladys Street end.

There were many other highlights during his time at Portman Road and McGreal became a defensive linchpin of George Burley's side.

There was another memorable goal against Spurs and another in European action against Avenir Beggen.

However, that Everton match will always live in my memory, partly because it came so early in the Premier League adventure and my own personal journey covering Town.

It was a long but exceptional, almost surreal, day. For me, Town and most certainly McGreal.