I met Aaron Dean in 2014 and in the five years and nine East Anglian derbies since, his team hasn’t earnt him the bragging rights once. I almost feel a bit sorry for our southern neighbours when, before every derby, he dejectedly tells me he harbours no hope of winning.
But maybe things have now come full circle. Paul Lambert, the man who started City’s incredible run over their rivals back in 2010, now sits in the other dugout and, as Aaron rightly points out, ‘all the focus on Lambert gives the Ipswich players the chance to sneak under the radar and nick a result.’ (Let’s not pay him any attention, please!)
Lambert is certainly one of the main talking points here but, while talking through Ipswich’s awful season so far, Big Mick and Marcus Evans, you get a sense for the frustration involved with being a Town fan now. Going through Aaron’s answers, I almost felt bad for his team’s plight. Almost.
Before we address the hulking, great, Scottish elephant in the room, let’s start from the top. What’s gone wrong this season?
Aaron: Well, where to start?! It would be incredibly easy and lazy to blame it all on Paul Hurst, but his ill-fated tenure has certainly contributed massively. His ignorance towards the step up between League 1 and the Championship was astonishing looking back at it – replacing proven, quality Championship players such as Waghorn, Celina, McGoldrick and Webster with a number of League 1 and 2 players and expecting them to make the step up at once was very naive!
Failure to keep our best players, due to them being either loanees or sold as the sharks came circling, meant it was impossible to build a squad. Besides, a failure by both Hurst and Lambert to know their best XI, with numerous changes each week, certainly hasn’t helped the cause!
So, with the benefit of hindsight, if you had to choose between relegation to League One or Big Mick to swoop in and save you in return for a five-year contract, what would you take?
Although I would love Ipswich to be saved from impending doom, I’m so bored of Mick McCarthy chat that I’d have to say go down and rebuild! Big Mick did a great job, I wish he’d got the send-off he deserved, but he was riding on the coattails of the playoff season for far too long. Failure to beat you lot, humiliating exits in the FA Cup to Portsmouth and Lincoln and fracturing the relationship with the fans all took its toll.
I think it would be arrogant to assume League 1 would be a walk in the park. It’s a tough, horrible league with some good teams, and it’d be easy to get stuck in purgatory – again – but with Lambert at the helm and a team ready-made for League 1, I am optimistic!
Okay then, as you brought him up – why do your fans love Paul Lambert so much? His record at Ipswich so far is as bad as Paul Hurst’s! Does anyone care that he used to manage Norwich?
The Norwich connection was soon forgotten! The fans are no longer being called ‘morons’, there’s more talk of ‘us’ and ‘we’, and you could tell he’s desperate to reconnect with the Ipswich fans who became disillusioned towards the end of Big Mick’s reign. Although trivial, his positivity is infectious and you can tell he is fully invested in rebuilding the club from the ground up, and most fans do understand the absolute mess that he has inherited, on and off the pitch.
He inherited comfortably the worst team the Championship has seen for some time, as well as a club stuck ten or so years in the past behind the scenes. He has the backing of the vast majority of Town fans and looks to be a safe pair of hands next season, whether it be in League 1 or the Championship. For the record, I don’t think we would be in this mess had Lambert been Mick’s successor, but hindsight is a wonderful thing!
And yet there is a game of football to be played! What do Ipswich need to do to win?
A footballing miracle! The difference between the two sides are night and day and I fear a pasting is on the cards! First thing’s first, we need a bit of ruthlessness in and around both boxes. Too many times this season we’ve had periods of great play, failed to capitalise and score, then conceded a sloppy goal. We have also laughably lacked consistency over 90 minutes, often producing the good, bad and mostly ugly over the course of a single game.
I’d also be kidding myself if I said we didn’t need Norwich to have an off-day if there’s any chance of us nicking a result. The result and performance against Leeds has me shaking in my boots but I’m hoping the Nodge players may perhaps underestimate Town and we could nick a result!
Is there any belief among Ipswich fans that you can win? Do you think the total lack of expectancy this time might help?
I think it does work in our favour! Only the most deluded Town fans would be expecting us to win but we are all hopeful! I think the lack of expectation will help us, as we seem to perform well with the underdog tag, but it doesn’t take the pressure off in terms of finally getting a Derby win. Even when expectations are so low, Town fans are desperate to finally get that long overdue win, regardless of league position!
And do you think the Lambert factor might work in Ipswich’s favour?
It adds another layer of intrigue to a game neither team can afford to lose. Ultimately though, it’s just something Sky will dramatise for the cameras. At the end of the day its eleven v eleven on the pitch and I don’t think it will have too much impact on the result. However, all the focus on Lambert gives the Ipswich players the chance to sneak under the radar and maybe nick a result!
Okay, so what Ipswich players do we need to look out for then?
Flynn Downes has really come of age this year. He burst onto the scene last year and after a successful loan spell at Luton, winning promotion, I’ve been very impressed. He’s hard in the tackle, composed on the ball and will never shy away when the going gets tough – which has happened a lot this season! Jack Lankester has also seemingly appeared from nowhere. If fit, he could shine on Derby Day. He’s a real bag of tricks and an exciting footballer, I just hope the vultures stay clear in the summer!
Two of the January signings have also been impressive; James Collins has been a colossus and Will Keane, much to my surprise, is a very good footballer. Ellis Harrison is a talent and the only one of Hurst’s signings that has really impressed this year unless Gwion Edwards can replicate his early season form. Ultimately though, this is a team short of confidence, ruthlessness in both boxes and quality, despite the few bright spots.
Okay then, you’ll need to cast your memory way back for this one – to a time when England had a King and dinosaurs possibly walked the earth. What’s your favourite memory of the East Anglian Derby?
I’ve dusted off the cobwebs and racked my brain but I remember a few! Although I’m too young to remember the 5-0 and Mathie hat-trick, or the Bryan Gunn air kick, the last time we beat you was a good one. My dad and I were season ticket holders at the time, and I took a friend with me. Watching Giovani dos Santos was unbelievable! I almost had to pinch myself, what on earth was he doing playing for Ipswich? Poor Gary Doherty – I think the absence of Doherty in any Norwich team since is why we haven’t been able to win!
The hand of Haynes of course springs to mind immediately! He always was good for a goal against Nodge and I’m pretty sure if we called upon him, he would do the business on Sunday! And, despite the ultimate outcome, Paul Anderson’s goal at Portman Road will always rank up there as one of my favourite football moments, Derby or otherwise.
Anything else you want to get off your chest?
Just to finish up, I’d like to comment on the difference between the two clubs on and off the pitch. On the pitch, the difference in quality is vast but off the pitch the two clubs are lightyears apart. Norwich took a big risk in appointing Farke, and for a while it didn’t look like it was going to pay off. But alas, here we are in February and Nodge are sitting pretty at the top of the league!
Ipswich’s fortunes are so different because, in my opinion, the club and Marcus Evans have failed to evolve with football and have been left behind. I can’t think of many clubs who leave so much of the running of the club to the manager. It does not help that Marcus Evans has a minimal understanding of football and neither do any of the businessmen running our club.
Also, there’s so much money in English football that the money he was spending on the likes of Leadbitter – big money at the time – is now peanuts and players often change hands for ten million pounds and more. The money in English football is also the reason Kayden Jackson was more expensive than Onel Hernandez!
My last point is about the Evans dilemma. Most fans, and I’m also very guilty of this, bemoan his lack of investment in the transfer market but he is pumping in millions of pounds a year just to balance the books. Although I do think a change in ownership would benefit both parties, right now Ipswich need stability as we look destined for the third tier.
A new owner could propel us to new heights of course – see Wolves, Leicester, Bournemouth etc. – but with the paper-thin and frankly farcical ‘fit and proper persons test’, what’s stopping a clown taking us over and running us into the ground, like Portsmouth, Bolton, Charlton, Coventry, Bradford… The list is endless.
Very well said – with Delia and her modest finances in charge, that’s something a lot of Norwich fans can relate to as well. To finish, what’s your score prediction?
My head thinks a standard 2-0 away defeat – the story of our season – but my heart says a 1-0 sh*thouse win!
It’s hard to believe Ipswich would have leapfrogged us in the table if they’d beaten us back in August but obviously, a lot has happened since. Back then, one manager looked a little bit vulnerable, the other rock solid, but it was our rock-solid friend who didn’t make it to Christmas, while Mr Vulnerable has been picking up the odd Manager of the Month award. It’s all changed again down south though – at least off the field – and they’ll be more than up for this one. So, what do the team think?
Penney predicts: I’m not always the most optimistic amongst us but I cannot see this one going Pete Tong. It has to be 2-0 City.
Andy assumes: I was spot on with my prediction of how the game would go last week if not quite the score. This week my gut tells me we’ll hammer them. 6-2 Norwich.
Gaz guesses: Despite my in-built scepticism around the ten-year unbeaten run and Mr L’s return, it’d be doing our boys a disservice to predict anything other than a win. It’ll be tighter than many are predicting though. 2-1 City.
Cookie concludes: This City side proved they are capable of handling ‘the occasion’ at Elland Road last week. So whilst I’m ‘bricking it’ ahead of the derby, and full of doubts and concerns, I have to back the boys. City 3-Town 1
Stew suspects: The only thing we failed to do at Leeds was keep a clean sheet. With fingers crossed it’s not tempting fate, I reckon we’ll put that right. City to win 3-0.
The oppo’s opinion: My heart says a 1-0 sh*thouse win (for Ipswich)!
Siri says: City 4 – Ipswich 0