It’s the last of my Norwich City ‘We Meet Again’ series and It’s the big one. It’s time to talk Norfolk v Suffolk, Canaries v Tractors, Norwich City v Ipswich Town.
Fresh from the own goal that was the AGM, the Eastern Anglian derby now looms ominously on the horizon as City lurch from one crisis to another. All the signs, in both camps, point to there being only one conclusion on December 16 but let’s not dwell on that!
So, time to get this article published before the winning run comes crashing down, and what a run it was – 12 games, 7 wins, 14 years, and a run in which Town never scored more than one goal in a game.
There were five 1-1 draws in that unbeaten spell and that was the score in our first-ever meeting coming just before the outbreak of World War II.
One-all was also the score on our last trip to Portman Road in September 2018, when Max Aarons and Emi Buendia made their league debuts and Mo Leitner’s equaliser kickstarted City’s rise to the Championship title and Town’s slide into League One. Never had the gap been so big.
While we have held the recent bragging rights, those in blue and white prefer to look further back into time. A league title in the early ’60s (followed by a brief sortie into the European Cup) and the glory days of Bobby Robson in the ’70s and early ’80s. So good were they then, it was a miracle that this youngster from the Waveney Valley chose yellow and green over blue.
My first experience of a derby was also my first experience of Monday Night Football and all the razzmatazz that came with the Sky circus. Town came to Carrow Road in December of 1992 with City top of the league (!) and inflicted a 2-0 defeat on the Canaries. Town did the double on City that season, winning the reverse fixture 3-1.
But redemption soon came and an adrenaline-filled night in the Portman Road away end in September 1994 saw Rob Newman and Carl Bradshaw as the unlikely scorers as City secured a 2-1 win, albeit in a season that ended in relegation for both.
What followed was a period of peak rivalry for me as glorious Carrow Road wins on Friday nights were followed by despair in Suffolk, which included poor Gunny’s air shot. There was the green-haired Cureton’s equaliser, and Ian Crook’s photo in the Ipswich top – controversy was never far away in these fixtures.
Looking back at the East Anglian archives shows that there have been some huge games and significant moments in Norwich’s history.
Our first-ever top-flight win came at Portman Road. A 2-1 victory on 15th August 1972 in the first derby at that level. Town’s scorer that day was ex-City manager, Bryan Hamilton.
Late in 1981, City Hall of Famer Justin Fashanu scored the only goal in what was a massive defeat for the title-chasing Blues. Then, two years later, there was another 1-0 Norwich win; this one in front of a rare Carrow Road sell-out, which took the Canaries through to the quarter-finals of the FA Cup.
There have, of course, been two semi-final clashes between the two rivals with City reaching Wembley on both occasions, The 2015 Play-Off semi is still fresh in the memory – the handball, the red card, and Wes’s cool spot-kick was the catalyst for a 3-1 triumph after a tighter 1-1 at Portman Road one week earlier.
For me though the Milk Cup semi-final of 1985 was the best ever Norwich v Ipswich meeting. It had everything.
A backs-to-the-wall display in enemy territory gave Norwich hope of overturning a one-goal deficit in front of a packed Carrow Road. The second leg was nervy and edgy, and City needed a slice of luck as John Deehan’s deflected strike leveled the tie 1-1.
How it played out is part of Norwich folklore we can all picture Steve Bruce’s perfect header hitting the net. Last minute, decisive goal, against Ipswich, at the Barclay end, and under the Carrow Road floodlights – surely it can’t get better than that.
John Deehan would later join Ipswich (with Trevor Putney coming the other way) while the scorer in that FA Cup win, Keith Bertschin, had also played for Town. Canary legends Ruel Fox, Louie Donowa, and Dale Gordon all had Ipswich connections but only one transfer caused real animosity between both sets of fans.
Andy Marshall’s transfer in the summer of 2001 hurt more than any because of several factors. Firstly, he had just won the Player of the Season award, secondly, he was seen as ‘one of our own’, and finally, he went there on a Bosman. Football-wise with Ipswich finishing high in the Premier League it was a no-brainer but it still hurt. Despite a clean sheet on his return to Carrow Road, the move did not work out for Marshall, while Norwich fans quickly moved on thanks to a new academy hero – Robert Green.
‘Top of the league at Portman Road’, Bradley’s rocket, Klose at the death, big games, big moments seem ingrained in this clash of old foes.
Will Saturday produce another story? With three wins out of four maybe the narrative is beginning to shift. It’s clutching at straws but that’s the beauty of a derby, they are not quite like any other game.
Please check out our Podcast ‘Al and Val’s Norwich City Football Club We Meet Again’ where myself and upper Barclay-ender Val reminisce about everything Norwich City and Ipswich Town.