When Gary gave me the nod to do the Ipswich preview, there was only one person I was prepared to speak to; my long-term and long-suffering friend, Rob.
After all, he’s the only Ipswich fan I know.
He’s a man who has a pair of ‘lucky’ red Y-fronts (don’t ask).
A man who once suffered an attack of gout as a direct result of my actions (again, don’t ask).
A man who I normally refer to as “3Bs” (you know the drill).
In order to make him feel welcome, I thought I’d kick off with every Ipswich fans’ favourite subject – the past.
SC: Ipswich last beat Norwich on Sunday 19th April 2009. As we speak, that’s 4,638,582 minutes ago which by my calculations is enough time for you to have had ‘intimate relations’ with Mrs 3Bs on 4,638,582 occasions. How have the last 4,638,582 minutes treated you and your fellow Ipswich fans?
3Bs: Better for my wife than it has been for me! Remember that text I sent you after the last derby? That sums it up for me.
[I check my phone and here is that text in all its glory]
Pardon my language but what is the f****** point of any sporting derbies if there is no f****** competition between the teams. 8 and a 1/2 f****** years since we last beat you….it destroys the whole basis behind the competition between the sides. I am bored sh*tless with my team; I love it to bits but the derby has become a game with no emotion, no equality, no risk, no nervousness etc because it is a bloody given that we will turn up and say, ‘hello, please beat us’. If there is a foregone conclusion about the bloody result, the whole meaning behind the ‘derby’ idea is lost. It is wasted. It is devoid of meaning. I am so bloody fed up. I want to go and see my team entertain me again, play with verve, leave me on the edge of my seat in anticipation. Instead the highlight of my week is sowing bloody garlic in my garden for next year instead of what should be the most important game of the season!
SC: Oh yeah… I thought you had driven to Dundee, and were eating Toblerone in bare feet. Proper Alan Partridge meltdown. By the way, how is the garlic?
3Bs: Better than the football.
SC: There were 28,274 at Portman Road when you last beat us (4,638,591 minutes ago and counting). Last Saturday, for the visit of Burton, the attendance was 13,815. According to my research, that’s a decline in population second only to the Sumatran Tiger. Have Ipswich fans also fallen victim to prolific poaching and deforestation or are there other factors at play?
3Bs: Even when we win, you see the views expressed on TWTD (Those Were The Days – Ipswich fansite), a name which epitomises everything we stand for by the way, and you think if supporters can’t get behind a team that’s won, then there’s something fundamentally wrong.
SC: So, what has gone wrong and what needs to change?
3Bs: I actually blame Sky Sports. Football is more accessible which means you can watch it 24/7 and think ‘I want some of that – I want it and I want it now’. People expect Marcus Evans to plough millions into the club and expect Mick McCarthy to put out a team that plays like Brazil. The style we play certainly doesn’t help. I often come out of Portman Road with neck ache. But the fact is, that a team one place ahead of you in football’s pyramid can be £130 million better off thanks to the gulf that Sky has created, so people chase the dream. And if you’re not seen to be chasing the dream then the fans get disillusioned. Don’t get me wrong, football should be about fairy tales and dreams, like when you beat Birmingham in the play-off final in Cardiff.
SC: We lost in Cardiff.
3Bs: Did you? (*smirks*) Oh right.
SC: So, Ipswich have been trialling ‘safe seating’ at Portman Road for a few seasons now, a ground-breaking initiative in which each spectator is placed within a ‘safe zone’ of surrounding vacant seats. What are your thoughts on the introduction of safe standing areas?
3Bs: It would make a huge difference. I’d go further and allow beer on the terraces too, like we see at cricket and rugby grounds. But football can’t shake the reputation it has from decades ago and the authorities still expect trouble.
SC: Heading into the game, we find ourselves locked in 12th and 13th places on 44 points apiece. The very definition of mid-table mediocrity; too far off 6th to seriously consider the play-offs; too far off 22nd to worry about relegation. It’s arguably the first derby in seasons where the only thing at stake is bragging rights. Is this the future of the East Anglian derby?
3Bs: I’m afraid it might be and it’s a shame because the region deserves at least one top flight team even if that was Norwich. It might just be me, but the derby seems to lack something these days when you compare it to the 80s and 90s when both teams had more character and characters.
SC: An Ipswich win; that’s what’s lacking. How many of the current City team can you name?
3Bs: Gunn, Maddison, Oliveira. Has Bassong left? I know Russell Grant went to Rangers. How many of the Ipswich team can you name?
SC: Russell Grant is an astrologer. He may or may not be in Glasgow. As for the Blues team… Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub. [
I win 6-3!
Both clubs have announced they will issue stadium bans to any supporters posting “grossly offensive, abusive or discriminatory material” on social media ahead of the match. This seems quite unfair to me as it obviously affects twice the number of Norwich fans but more importantly, the only reason I follow you on Twitter is to post “grossly offensive, abusive and discriminatory material”. I’m guessing you’re supportive?
3Bs: People really need to think before they hit the send button. Social media seems impersonal and yet it’s deeply personal and has given a voice to some mindless idiots. It’s good to see the clubs taking a joint stance.
SC: Looking back across the years, who was your most hated Norwich player and is there one you respected or admired? The Town player I loathed was Tom Daley… sorry I mean David Johnson. The one I developed a soft spot for was Gareth MacAuley who scored more goals for Norwich than Ricky Van Wolfswinkel and never cost us a single penny.
3Bs: I hated Robert Fleck as a player. He reminded me of you on the football pitch; all mouthy and annoying. The player I quite liked was Steve Bruce. I would have loved to have him at Ipswich.
SC: Even though he broke your heart in the 85th minute of the Milk Cup Semi?
3Bs: Tin-pot competition! Who wants to win a glass of milk?
SC: Would have meant another star for your badge, though right? OK, so we’re heading into ‘injury time’. Let’s turn up the intensity and go quick-fire.
Arnold Mühren or Frans Thijssen?
Mid-table mediocrity or last day championship survival?
Last day championship survival.
Alan Brazil: Blues legend or obnoxious alcoholic?
Roy Keane or Mick McCarthy?
Mick McCarthy or Mick McCarthy tree?
The tree might have a better personality.
Result on Sunday?
I want to be positive but I think you’ll win 2-1.
Thanks to Rob (a real gent) for taking the time to talk to us and tolerate my petty goading.
So, here’s the serious bit.
Football is just a game.
Twenty-two men chasing a ball about.
In comparison to what life can throw at us, it is truly insignificant as has been shown by recent tragic events.
But it also provides a common bond across the ‘football family’.
Something that was displayed so movingly last time around at Carrow Road against Middlesbrough, when those in yellow and those in red stood together to show solidarity and respect to those who had suffered personal heartbreak.
But of equal significance, were the messages of support received from those in blue – the ones we’ll face on Sunday.
We are all part of the wider football family – same passion, just a different coloured shirt – something all too easily forgotten; especially in the build-up to derby day when those passions run at their highest.
Every Norwich fan would be well served to have a friend like Rob to serve as a reminder.
Now let’s beat the b*******.