What’s the best way for Norwich City to silence Ipswich Town fans? Score goals!
- Credit: ECN 2000
We haven't had to wait long for the first East Anglian derby of the new season have we, with the short trip down the A140 facing the lads and a couple of thousand Norwich fans on Sunday.
With the Canaries in the Premier League last season we all missed the two games against the old enemy – although I'm sure Ipswich Town fans didn't, having lost five of their last six games against Norwich which has seen City score 16 goals in those six games.
Not every player relishes playing in a derby. Some let the build-up and the pressure get to them; they fail to perform to their usual standard and the game passes them by. But I have to say I used to love them – and everything that came with them.
I don't know why but derbies brought the best out of me and my goal scoring record in them was quite good. I scored four for Leicester against Derby in the 1993-94 season, scored another four in the Black Country derby for Wolves against West Brom in 1996-97 season and of course bagged myself a brace for Norwich down at Portman Road in the 1999-2000 season.
But my first ever derby was the west Yorkshire version, between Huddersfield and Bradford, and it was probably one of, if not the, most important game I'd played for Huddersfield. My first season for Huddersfield had been disappointing – a bit like my first for Norwich – but we played Bradford at Valley Parade in about March time. We were losing the game 2-0 at half-time and got hammered by our own supporters as we left the field – and rightly so. We came out in the second half a different team and ended up drawing the game 2-2, with yours truly grabbing both goals, which won over a lot of doubting Town fans. From that moment on I never looked back – I scored 34 goals the next season and went from zero to hero overnight. That's what scoring in a derby can do to you.
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I think I was involved in eight East Anglian derbies and tasted defeat just the once – at Carrow Road back in March 2003.
I didn't play in either game in my first season at the club as I was injured. And, yes, I'm glad to say I wasn't at Portman Road when they beat us 5-0!
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My first taste of victory came in October 1998 when, after missing a sitter from a Darren Eadie cross in the first half, a young Craig Bellamy scored a superb second-half header to save my blushes and win us the game.
The journey to Portman Road is like no other for us really as we went the day of the game as it's just over an hour away. On the journey to other games there's a lot of joking and mickey taking and some players play cards. But there was none of that on those journeys down to Suffolk. You could hear a pin drop because players were fully focused on the task in hand. We knew it wasn't just another game; yes, it was just another three points we were playing for, but we knew how important the games were to City supporters.
I used to get slaughtered down there – and believe me, they didn't hold back. I used to think the stick I got when I went back to The Hawthorns was bad, but those Ipswich fans made them seem like angels. You're quite close to the fans at Portman Road and you can hear everything. I would never let my twin daughters travel to Ipswich as they were a bit too young, but there was no stopping my son Ben going, even though he was only four years older than his sisters. The first thing he always said was 'boy they gave you some abuse today, dad'.
I remember after scoring my two goals back in 2000 I was having a chat with (reporter) Chris Lakey outside the stadium when a group of Ipswich fans walked past and started with the 'toothless ginger' shouts and 'you Welsh so and so'. They weren't kids – they were grown men and really should have known better. I quickly stopped my interview with Chris, turned to face them with a big smile on my face (teeth in obviously) and just made to scoreline 2-0 with my hands.
I didn't need to swap insults. That simple gesture sent them home with their tails between their legs.
To be fair my two goals probably should have done that, but some Ipswich fans will never learn.