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Ipswich back in the Premier League for first time since 2002

Ipswich Celebrates Ipswich Celebrates - Getty Images

Ipswich will play in the Premier League for the first time since 2002 after securing the second automatic promotion spot from the second-tier Championship on Saturday.

However, there was disappointment for NFL great Tom Brady at the end of his first season as a co-owner of Birmingham, which was relegated to the third tier — a level the team hasn't played since 1995.

On a typically frantic final day of the Championship's regular season, Ipswich beat Huddersfield 2-0 to finish as the runner-up behind champion Leicester and spark a pitch invasion at Portman Road, which saw players hoisted onto the shoulders of jubilant fans.

It is the second straight promotion for the team nicknamed the “Tractor Boys,” who have been revitalized since Kieran McKenna became manager in December 2021 — when Ipswich was 12th in the third tier. Ipswich has American owners in the investment group Gamechanger 20.

Leeds, whose American ownership group includes major-winning golfers Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, was the only team that could have prevented Ipswich from finishing second but needed to make up a three-point deficit on its rival.

Leeds lost 2-1 at home to Southampton.

Since relegation from the top flight in the 2001-02 season, Ipswich has struggled with financial issues and, in 2019, fell to the third tier for the first since 1957.

The recovery has been led by McKenna, a former Northern Ireland youth-team player who retired early because of injuries and preaches expansive, attacking football as a coach.

“What a journey it’s been," McKenna said. “I’m not sure it will happen again in the way that we’ve done it. I know you can say technically it’s been done before but I’m not sure it’s been done like this in a football club like this, how we’ve done it and not sure this will happen for a very long time.”

Leeds joined Southampton, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich in the playoffs for the third promotion spot. Leeds will play Norwich over two legs and Southampton takes on West Brom.

The playoff final is at Wembley Stadium on May 26.

In his much-trumpeted arrival at Birmingham in August for his first foray into the world of soccer, Brady said he wanted to bring a winning mentality to a club from central England that last played in the Premier League in 2011.

However, the team has ultimately struggled in a season that included an unsuccessful stint as manager by former England striker Wayne Rooney, who lasted just three months before getting fired in January.

When Rooney was hired in October as the replacement for John Eustace, Birmingham was in sixth place. Ironically, it was Eustace who helped condemn Birmingham to relegation in his new role as coach of Blackburn, which won Saturday to stay ahead of his former club.

Birmingham beat Norwich 1-0 at St. Andrews stadium but it wasn't enough. After the final whistle, police officers formed a line across the field in case there was an invasion by disgruntled fans. Some got on the field but there was no real trouble.

“Thank you for your support in a tough first year Bluenoses,” Brady wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “We have a long way to go but it’s because of all of you that we’ll achieve great things in the future.”

Brady also holds a position as advisory board chairman at Birmingham.


AP soccer: