Ipswich Town v Norwich City: a brief history
Ahead of tonight’s crunch East Anglian derby at Portman Road, Ipswich Town fan Nate Saunders reflects on the nature of the fierce rivalry between his side and Norwich City.
The last time Norwich came to Portman Road in April 2009, they left effectively relegated by their Suffolk rivals, as Ipswich came from behind to win 3-2. They were mercilessly taunted by Ipswich fans who wished them a pleasant and long stay in the lower leagues. Fittingly, it was Jim Magilton’s final game in charge of the club, and he left a squad that looked capable of challenging for promotion the following season.
Smug delight soon turned to ecstasy when another local team, Colchester United, trounced Norwich 7-1 at Carrow Road in the Canaries opening game of the following season. The future looked rosy. Ipswich Town had installed Roy Keane as manager, seemingly making the most of the cash injections of Chairman Marcus Evans in a mini-spending spree in the summer. The only way was up for Ipswich, while Norwich were in disarray.
But that day now seems almost as long ago as Alun Armstrong’s towering leap above the Inter Milan defence in 2001, such is the magnitude of how things have changed. Keane’s tenure at Ipswich very quickly became an expensive flop, while the very same Paul Lambert who orchestrated that thumping 7-1 victory has since moved to Norwich and taken them to the cusp of the Premiership. Paul Jewell has since steadied the ship but is now the Canaries who are the most talked about team in East Anglia.
With a crunching 4-1 victory over Town in front of a boisterous Carrow Road fresh in the memory from earlier this season, City will want to be the ones doing the taunting when they leave Portman Road this time around. That victory was the beginning of the end for Keane, who only survived at the helm for another five matches. A win tonight for Norwich would see them jump back into the automatic promotion places, though they have not won at Portman Road in the last five meetings. Town are resurgent under Paul Jewell, and while the play-offs are highly unlikely they will be the goal until they are mathematically unobtainable. Most Ipswich fans would happily just take another bonus; denting City’s promotion bid.
Such are the fortunes of the two major East Anglian clubs. Traditionally, when one club does well, the other struggles. Yet both teams have enjoyed not only seasons in the Premier League but brief and short-lived trips to Europe with a pair of high-profile scalps.
I have been to see Ipswich Town on many occasions in my life, going from the eyesore at Milton Keynes, to the majestic white brick old Wembley and even to the breathtaking Giuseppe Meazza in Milan. I have even been to watch England at Twickenham, and Ashes tests at Lords and in Perth. To me, none of these occasions have come close to the East Anglian derbies I have seen. You may think this a ridiculous notion, perhaps it is, but such is the magnitude of this game for Ipswich and Norwich fans. There is something about the noise that can only be found in a derby game, the buzz of excitement, the contrast of the blue surrounding Portman Road, and the sickly green and yellow in the corner. I would challenge any club to dare say they have fans as passionate as these two tribes on the day of an East Anglian derby.
Bragging rights are everything in this encounter. The fact that the game has not been played in the top flight for well over a decade does not take away from the magnitude of the occasion. In fact, an online survey run by the Evening Standard in 2008 saw the East Anglian derby voted the second most fierce rivalry in the country, behind that of West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Fans of Premiership sides may scoff at such primitive rivalries being considered fierce, but such is lack of any other relatively large club in East Anglia the fans tend to be divided between allegiance to Suffolk or Norfolk- represented by one club each.
Statistically, since the first derby game in 1905, Ipswich have a slightly better win record, amassing 45 victories to Norwich’s 41.
Before the thumping at Carrow Road earlier this season, Norwich had only beaten Ipswich twice in ten previous attempts. One of those, however, was arguably the most memorable of any derby in recent years for a City supporter. It is December 2003, and debutant Leon McKenzie’s two goals sink Ipswich at Portman Road, sending the Canaries top of the division. The taunting chants of “top of league at Portman Road” echoed around the stadium, and would leave a bitter taste in the mouth as Norwich went on to win automatic promotion that year, while Ipswich would fall short in the play-off semi finals.
Norwich have other fond memories, such as the 1985 League Cup semi-final second leg. Trailing 1-0 from the tie at Portman Road, a last minute Steve Bruce header gave Norwich a 2-0 victory, sending them to a Wembley final against Southampton (which they won, apparently…). Incidentally Steve’s son, Alex, would play for Ipswich twenty years later. The pair are the first family members to have won on opposing sides of the East Anglian derby in the 105-year history of the fixture.
Ipswich fans can point to a memorable 5-0 home victory in 1998, the first East Anglian derby I ever saw live, as Alex Mathie’s first-half hat-trick had Town fans in dreamland. As an eight-year old boy in the crowd I remember the noise and the jubilation at such a thumping result, even if I probably wasn’t entirely sure exactly what was going on.
Another memorable game was the 2-0 victory away at Carrow Road in 2003, the first derby game since Ipswich Town’s brief fling with the Premiership had ended the year before in 2002. A young Darren Ambrose impressed on the left wing, setting up a rare Fabian Wilnis rocket from the edge of the area to secure a 2-0 victory.
Recently, the derby day heroics of Danny Haynes have become stuff of Ipswich-folklore, so much so that the former Town striker earn himself the nickname “Canary Crusher”, scoring three winning goals in just five derby appearances. In fact, one of these was audaciously guided in to the net by the Hand of Haynes in 2007, endearing him to Suffolk and vilifying him in Norfolk.
While Haynes may be long gone, Ipswich will be hoping for another star to be made in this years edition of the derby.