Canary favourite Darren Huckerby knows just what to expect on the day he celebrates his 200th appearance in a Canary shirt – and it won't be a standing ovation from the Portman Road faithful.
The fact that the 32-year-old was sent off in the first meeting between the two old rivals this season merely confirmed the impression that Huckerby is never too far from the centre of the stage when the two, East Anglian tribes go to war and he doesn't expect anything different this weekend.
“It's funny how it falls,” said Huckerby this morning, as he prepares to rack up a major Canary milestone in the blue heart of Suffolk.
“It could be any old game, but it's Ipswich away so we'll see what happens. We're going to be going for the win; they need the win as well so it's going to be interesting.”
In fairness, the last few derbies have been quite eventful. The 2-2 draw in which Huckerby saw red was, of course, Glenn Roeder's first game in charge and hadn't exactly been short of incident before the City winger got first dibs at the soap.
Likewise Luke Chadwick will remember last season's trip to Portman Road for all the wrong reasons – and that was all after scoring the game's first goal on his City debut.
One thing is, however, nigh-on guaranteed. The Suffolk faithful will not be rolling out the red carpet for D Huckerby.
“It's not just there – it's everywhere,” laughed the two-time City Player of the Year. “I think teams see me as someone who can do damage to them, so they can boo all they want – it doesn't really bother me. I actually quite enjoy it, to be honest. And if they're boo-ing me it means that I've got in their head a little bit.
“And I hope that they do boo me. And then if I get the winner I can…” Celebrate with a certain smile, as he edges ever closer to that second target – 50 goals in a City shirt.
He currently stands just three goals short of that mark and at least this year, Huckerby's twinkling feet will not be forced to pick their way through a cabbage patch as the did in last year's 3-1 defeat of Peter Grant's charges.
“The last time was the worst pitch I have ever played on in 15 years,” he said, with no hint of reservation as four-inch deep divots littered the usually pristine, Portman Road surface.
“It was by far the worst – and that's including non-league grounds and having played at every level of English football. And on that day it is possibly the worst pitch I have every played on. And it was verging on dangerous. So, hopefully, it's better than it was then. It was atrocious last time.”
It is, by all accounts. Which should – in theory – enable Huckerby to reach for his party pieces on what could be a very special day for him.
“I think it's a big achievement,” he said, quizzed as to what that 200-game milestone means. “I've played a lot of games and it's only been earlier this season where I've had little injuries, so I've been very lucky.”
A niggling hip-stroke-groin problem limited the Canary star through much of the autumn. Two injections later and he appears to be firmly back in his stride – witnessed by last weekend's man of the match efforts in the comfortable 2-0 home win over Burnley.
“I feel like I'm getting stronger with each game,” he said. “It's nice to just be feeling free when I run. Earlier in the season I wasn't feeling at all like myself and obviously we did things to make that better.”
Whether the hip issue is now wholly history remains to be seen. It could, after all, be someone else's problem once the latest crossroads in Huckerby's professional career arrives this summer.
“I don't know whether it's [gone] once and for all, but it's going well – touch wood,” he said. “And it's not like I'm 20, 21 and have got to carry it for another 15 years. I can do what I need to.”
For the players, is it just another game? Do they 'get' what it is all about? “I think the atmosphere makes it a special occasion,” said Huckerby. “At the end of the day, it's only three points but it always nice to beat your rivals.”
In the meantime Town chairman David Sheepshanks has spoken of the “miraculous escape” he and Jim Magilton had after the pair were involved in an accident on the A12 last night.
Sheepshanks and Magilton were traveling back from London with advisor Charlie Woods and staff member Wolfe Powell when the Landcruiser they were in was hit from behind.
The road was closed while Essex ambulance and fire rescue services were called and all four were taken to hospital as a precaution, but the quartet were discharged late last night.
“We had virtually come to a standstill in the traffic when we were hit at speed from behind,” explained Sheepshanks. “I can remember being shoved against the pillar by the windscreen and we've all got bumps, bruises and some whiplash.
“The car we were driving is a 4 x 4 and is a write off and that shows you the impact. We were lucky we were in a big car like that or things could have been much worse.”
Sheepshanks reserved special praise for the emergency services and the actions of another driver who helped pull a man out of the burning fiesta that hit the club vehicle.
“The car that hit us burst into flames and the real hero of the day was a young guy driving a van who pulled the driver out of the car. He possibly saved the driver's life.
“The Essex emergency services were fantastic and could not have been more attentive. We were taken to hospital to be checked over and fortunately everyone's OK.
“The guy in the car that hit us suffered a broken leg, but it could have been so much worse. “
Sheepshanks said he is keen to now put the whole episode behind him and has called on everyone at the Suffolk club to give their full attention to Sunday's East Anglian derby.
“It was a miraculous escape really for all, but we are all OK and now the focus is on Norwich and Sunday.”
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