We spend far too much time worrying about what’s happening down the other end of the A140. We’re all guilty of it. I’m probably one of the worst offenders.
A post-match ritual of mine is that if we haven’t been to a City match, my dad and I will speak on the phone afterwards. Always, without fail. And also, without fail, we’ll as a force of habit make reference to ‘that lot’ (other less complimentary terms are also available) and their result.
If they’ve won and we haven’t it will hurt; vice-versa and we’ll both have a warm glow, but where it especially counts is if City have lost but so too have Town. The blow is softened. Two wins and I’m almost embarrassed to say an edge has been taken off the joy of victory.
And it’s ridiculous. It really is. A 53-year-old and an 83-year-old in conversation should really know better. Especially as the 83-year-old has spent his whole life guiding the 53-year-old through the virtues of judging people gently, being kind and to love rather than hate.
As ever, football finds itself outside the conventions of what most consider normal, everyday life. All of the above is played out in every footballing household in the world. I don’t think it’s just a Gowers thing.
Where the Norwich/Ipswich rivalry differs from many is that we’re 45 miles apart. It’s probably fair to say the majority of fans don’t have to mingle with the opposition on a daily basis, unlike those who form part of the rivalries the tabloids (and Sky) consider important.
Of course, there’s that fuzzy area where the borders collide where intermingling is unavoidable and having spent almost all of my life in either Halesworth or Lowestoft I’ve lived it. I played football for Wenhaston and Halesworth and had team-mates aplenty who were of a blue persuasion.
I had to talk to them, pass to them, socialise with them, discuss football with them. This was the 80s and 90s remember, and so to watch the results come through on the BBC vidiprinter as we supped post-match beers was a generally unpleasant experience.
(I didn’t realise it at the time, but Dad taking me to watch my first away derby in 1978 and forcing me to stand with him in the home section while Ipswich walloped us 4-0 was all part of the toughening up process for eventualities such as above).
So while some share similar cross-border experiences, there are probably more whose ‘banter’ is confined to social media and the twice-a-season meeting of the tribes. Quite whether that entrenches the rivalry or dilutes it I’m not 100% sure, but it’d be difficult to think of any way it could be ratcheted up further.
As Andy Bowles captured beautifully in his tweet, there’s now even a hard border for god’s sake – although quite how stringently those border patrols will be enforced will only become apparent on September 2.
— Andy Bowles (@andypbowles) August 6, 2018
In fairness, derby day is the day when it really should matter and it’s quite normal for the toing and froing in the week leading up to the game to build to a crescendo as the minutes tick away. That’s how it should be, but it’s the constant ‘we have history’, ‘we have crowds’, ‘we’re one place higher than you on goal difference’, ‘your kit is $hit’ stuff that irks.
I’m sure it’s an age thing, and in the unlikely event of a teenager reading this piece ( 😉 ), all of the above will be considered fair game and, in fact, the bread and butter of Norwich/Ipswich rivalry – but for me now it all just gets a little bit tiring. There are only so many ‘we’re better than you because…’ lines that can be spun before it gets a tiny bit repetitive and boring.
It’s a shame we can’t just agree that…
- Ipswich have won more trophies in Norwich in their history
- Norwich currently get bigger crowds than Ipswich
- Ipswich have a rich owner but are not a wealthy club
- Norwich don’t have wealthy owners and are self-funding
- Whoever finishes higher after 46 games is the better side
It’s futile of course and some live for the ‘banter’; the irony being is there probably isn’t a club in the country which is more like us than Ipswich, and that applies to almost any barometer you care to use.
And as much as it pains me to say it, I happen to think Ipswich will do okay this season. Lots of City fans have gone big on the bookies’ and pundits’ view that they’re destined for a season of struggle but free of the limitations of McCarthy-ball and with a young, forward-thinking manager, I have a horrible feeling they will surprise a few.
The ‘Lambert route’ took us all the way and I’m not sure anything of that ilk will happen again anytime soon – the Championship landscape has changed so dramatically over the last few seasons – but my view is a squad of some quality loanees and good players from League One can more than hold its own in the Championship if it’s well managed.
My biggest reservation would be that they still have a midfield that includes Cole Skuse, but what do I know.
I haven’t the foggiest idea who is going to emerge the Pride of Anglia (a term I despise almost as much as the Old Farm Derby) and I’m all out of bravado, but am acutely aware that a derby win is long overdue south of the border.
And if, or when, it happens we’ll suck it up, take in on the chin and watch from afar as the ‘junior’ Blues and ‘teenage’ Canaries take chunks out of each other.
PS I do see the irony in the header and opening line and then me dedicating 900+ words to them. I’m an idiot 🙂