It’s been four days since the 116th East Anglian derby ended in the most controversial 2-2 draw known to Man. Still it rumbles on.
Social media spats still to and fro to the sound of ‘you hint never wun nuffing’ and ‘yeah, but you lot hint got no class’ etc, and shows no real sign of abating.
I guess the arrival of the Festivities, the New Year, and one of us having a chance of a serious crack at promotion may curtail the so-called banter for a short time but it’s only ever bubbling just below the surface.
It would not surprise me if there is an Ipswich fan out there somewhere who would happily forsake automatic promotion if it meant them beating us in the return leg in April, such is their desperation to end the 13-game hoodoo.
(For what it’s worth, I’m sticking with 13 games rather than 15 years for obvious reasons. To take the ‘years’ argument through to its logical conclusion, Notts County fans can argue they haven’t been beaten by Nottingham Forest in a league derby for 20 years.)
Anyway… the point I was trying to get to is that the four years between derbies was long enough to have slightly dulled the memory of the anxiety and stress triggered by an upcoming clash with our oldest foes but in the week leading up to the fateful day it started to resurface. Big time.
While those south of the border, and those north of it young enough to have not properly suffered the pain of derby day defeat, were positively bristling with excitement, for us grizzled old veterans there was only nervousness and dread.
And it built as the days passed.
Even with league games still to be played before the big day – they at Watford, us at home to Sheffield Wednesday – talk of the East Anglian derby was dominating the airwaves and webpages; every word uttered adding to the stresses and strains of what was about to unfold.
Despite there being talk of it being a free hit for City because Town were such red-hot favourites and expected to win at a canter, my gut was telling me the exact opposite.
For me, that bloody unbeaten run was actually a curse and, turned on its head, any suggestion that we could take a free swing at them and ‘whatever will be will be’ was pure nonsense. My own skewed logic told me that it was they, not us, who had nothing to lose. Remember… 19th April 2009.
But as the day grew closer, logical thinking went out of the window. Was impossible. I oscillated wildly between nothing-to-lose, whatever-will-be-will-be, we-are-gonna-get-humped, and everything in between.
In a rare moment of calm on Saturday morning, I tweeted something sensible:
Yet within minutes of posting it, I was back in the realms of fear and hurt as my mind’s eye took me back to 1998 and Alex Mathie’s big moment (Google it, kids). The pain that day was tangible and I could seriously do without a repeat even though logic and the bookies were telling us it was perfectly within the realms of reason.
The thought of a raucous, intimidating Portman Road was another unedifying prospect, and this time the mind took me back to 1996 and Bryan Gunn day.
Memories of that cabbage patch pitch and Robert Ullathorne’s back pass bobbling over Gunny’s boot came flooding back; so too the sight and sound of the whooping, gurning, and adrenaline-pumped locals as they invaded the pitch at the end and made a bee-line for us in the away corner.
I was reminded too of the 1993 derby at Portman Road when Gary Megson planted that last-minute header past poor old Gunny to give Town a 2-1 win, and how I viewed it with three other City-supporting friends in what I think was then called the Pioneer Stand, surrounded obviously by hyped-up locals.
So to avoid as much Portman Road hype and excitement as possible, I left it until 12:25 to switch over to the game, only to be greeted by the teams emerging and that orchestrated blue wall in the North Stand, appropriately adorned by what looked like blue and white bin liners.
And then, even before a ball had been kicked in anger, the sweaty palms. They never left me until Josh Smith’s final whistle 97 minutes later.
In between minutes 1 and 97, the agony was undiluted but was interspersed with a couple of moments of joy. Agony when Town finally, after a litany of chances, took one; ecstasy when Jonny Rowe turned 0-1 into 2-1; and then agony as they again equalised and had lots of the ball in our half of the pitch.
As ever, the level of pain for the bad moments outweighed the level of joy for the good moments – such is the life of the football fan.
Luckily for me, it ended there… on 97 minutes.
I no longer have the energy to engage in the post-match debate which, for a derby, goes to a completely different level, and aside from putting my thoughts into 1000 words on Sunday morning, I was content to leave the squabbling over the rights and wrongs to others – and there plenty on both sides up for the metaphorical fight.
Still it goes on.
But for now at least, in terms of the actual football – remember that? – there is nothing left to discuss until we re-engage in April.
I don’t think for one second that Carrow Road will await it in quite the way Portman Road did at the weekend.
I can’t imagine we’ll be lining the streets to welcome our gladiatorial heroes and, in turn, hurl a few objects at Ipswich Town’s owners and dignitaries. I’m not expecting there to be the ‘Welcome to Hell’ type atmosphere awaiting as their players enter the arena. And I can’t see us creating the cauldron that so energised and thrilled Sky’s commentators on Saturday.
It’s possible I suppose, but I’m just not sure we have it in us right now given the state of flux at our club, albeit woes and worries do get pushed to one side when the old enemy is in town.
But let’s not worry about the sort of welcome we are (or are not) going to give them on what will possibly be their lap of honour to promotion. That’s for another day.
For now, let’s just be thankful it’s over. And that we didn’t lose.