“Love thy neighbour as yourself” – Matthew (22:37)
Last night was wonderful… glorious defeat (if there is such a thing) but with Derby now looming it’s our league form that will ultimately define our season. And with that in mind permit me one final look back to those hard-earned three points south of the border…….
In the heat of battle in Suffolk, these neighbours battled, fought and, in Norwich’s case, became victorious. There was no love shared, with a hurricane more threatening than Brian teeing up a piquant East Anglican Derby on social media.
A lot of vile and a lot of unneeded irrelevance was spouted surrounding who is bigger in stature but winning European Trophies in the 1980s, as glorious an achievement as it was, was simply devoid of all meaning at 12PM in IP1.
The ghosts of Wark, Mariner and Mills are still being used to construe arguments of supremacy; in reality they are completely meaningless in a more contemporary setting.
To quote Chris Goreham, all talk of supremacy is like ‘two bald men fighting over a comb’. It resembles playground antics played out between toddlers who should know better.
But it happened again.
The partisan Ipswich fans sensed their best chance of a derby victory for the first time in nine years, yet the closest they came to achieving was a smashing of the post following fumbling by Ivo Pinto.
The Blues huffed and puffed during the game, but antics prior to the kick off grabbed headlines. Banners, chants and a ‘wall of blue’ were all evident but all were about as intimidating as a small, yappy dog.
Portman Road resembled a battleground. A nervy opponent taking several punches in the first round, with the more dominant performer struggling to land a killer blow. Despite all the metaphors, one thing was prominent in the first half; Ipswich tasted blood, and Norwich was keen to keep their noisy neighbours at bay.
A seismic shift in the game occurred upon a new name being carved into Norwich folklore.
As the ball smite against the back of the net, James Maddison’s name was placed on the illustrious name on derby day winners. He is a technically superior player who will continue to be branded with the sobriquet of ‘wonder boy’, should he continue to conjure up these magic moments.
Craig Bellamy was the last to don yellow and green with such arrogance and technique. Speaking to Stuart Hodge in the summer, I raised an eyebrow as he predicted Maddison will become Norwich’s first £20m+ departure – but he was absolutely bang on.
Maddison sent a pocket of Portman Road into pure euphoria resulting in the frenetic removal of shirts, jubilant dancing and gesturing on the tin roof of Portman Road. It was pure carnage, and something which was shared across Nelson’s County as the bragging rights seemed certain to be returning to their rightful position in Norwich.
Adjacent to the visiting supporters, Ipswich fans continued to fight upon themselves as Norwich ground down the Tractor Boys’ hopes and dreams. Mick McCarthy has not beaten a Norwich side in ten years, an astounding and damning indictment to a manager who is about as gracious in defeat as a knife is smooth cutting through a rock.
To be fair to them, Ipswich have a potent offence. Garner caused Timm Klose an abundance of difficulty in the opening period, what was more impressive was the latter’s recovery as he, with his partner in crime Zimmermann, nullified Ipswich’s shining hope.
The defensive shape has improved immensely. The dismal days at Villa Park and The New Den seem merely a memory. Daniel Farke, through hard work, humility and honesty has stumbled upon a formula that the players have bought into.
Tom Trybull will quite rightly get plaudits following his, again, wonderful display in Suffolk (and at the Emirates) but it’s worth highlighting Harrison Reed’s contribution to the victory.
His energy and athleticism was infectious.
Loanees are often subject to bouts of scepticism, particularly in the backdrop of a derby match. However, with his heart of his sleeve and ice in his head, Reed was a classy operator. He impressed, particularly in the second half as he tormented every blue shirt, covering every blade of grass in the process, and often he was leading the press from the yellow shirts.
I approached Reed’s naming on the team sheet with caution. Norwich visibly lacked Alex Tettey’s presence and vigour against Hull City, and did in patches during the first period in Ipswich, but young Reed picked up the gauntlet and took it to the Blues. He was fundamental, like his counterpart, to the victory.
Finally, a tip of the hat must be directed to Cameron Jerome.
At 31 years of age, he is still running tirelessly and despite an avalanche of scape-goating and unneeded criticism, continues to give his all for this club. He is a top operator in this division. Maybe Norwich supporters take him for granted and whilst I accept his finishing isn’t as cutthroat or clean as his colleague, he still has the tools to be a real handful.
This is a man who learnt he was playing on the morning prior to the kick off and still approached the game with professionalism and integrity. A ‘defensive’ forward, Jerome will always be a bugbear for opponents. His intensity and pace, although he’s lost some, is tough to compete against.
Whilst I could spend the entirety of my columns dimensions raving about all that was pleasing on the turf of Portman Road, iconic scenes in the aftermath of the final whistle will be remembered. A team united under the Farke regime; scenes that were repeated in defeat at the Emirates.
A club dreaming, believing and flying together, as one. With supporters witnessing a team where feelings of pride and hard work resonate with those in the terraces, change was needed and this change is rather impressive. And we haven’t even found top gear.
The division of the last season is now history; this is the new Norwich City, led by a conscientious coach.
And surely, that deserves a star?