David Hannant: It's all a matter of time when it comes to Derby Day
PUBLISHED: 17:30 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:07 24 January 2019
Archant © 2009
Those of you who dare to venture beyond the sports pages will (hopefully) know that in my day job, I'm a local democracy reporter.
This means a vast amount of my time is spent either in council chambers, committee meetings or flitting between various halls.
However, very occasionally my day job and the ‘bit on the side’ that is this column tend to mix.
That happened in this past week when, while sifting through papers for a Norwich City Council licensing sub-committee, I spotted a case which I have since dubbed ‘Fat Cat and no Canaries’.
I’ll go on record here of saying the trio of pubs in the Fat Cat family are among my favourite watering holes in the city – a surefire way for a pub to win me over is to serve more than just a former sponsor of our club.
So I, for one, felt for the one-time Mustard Pot when it was told it could not open up ahead of the much-anticipated contest with Agent Lambert and his band of merry muggle-wumps.
However, at the same time I can understand why City Hall and the police want to err on the side of caution in this case. It’s a toughie.
That, though, is not the issue I’m going to spend the next dozen or so paragraphs talking to you about - that debate has already more than been had by now.
The story did, however, get me thinking about another issue that has become synonymous with the East Anglian Derby, and, for that matter, any other local rivalry. And that’s a matter of time.
And no, I’m not talking about it being just a matter of time before they beat us...
It’s the time that has become traditional for these matches to kick off: 12pm.
High noon, if you like.
When exploring the Fat Cat issue I looked up the exact date of the last time a clash between Norwich and Ipswich kicked off at 3pm on a Saturday. For those wondering, it was February 21, 1998. I forget the result... that is to say I choose to forget it!
Now, I know there is more than just the policing and safety factor in this; television plays a role too, but it is a shame to see awkward noon kick-offs every time.
I also accept that treating the derby like any other day would also be fairly naive - clearly it is not like any other game.
Of course additional policing is needed, of course extra measures are necessary. However, surely this can still be achieved at a time less awkward for supporters.
As part of researching this issue, I thought I’d take a look at some of the other derbies across the land, most of which come with a bit more fire than ours.
None of them was religiously bound to high noon. In fact, the Manchester Derbies were almost exclusively late afternoon affairs.
For me, one of the big joys of football is the preamble – taking in a bite to eat and maybe a drink while running through what the team could be. Being around your fellow fan and soaking up the anticipation for the game.
While I probably wouldn’t say I feel as strongly about this as some, one feeling I got from talking to fellow fans, reading comments, scouring forums, is that there is a demand for the 12pm kick-off to be relaxed, if not totally scrapped.
Safety is, of course, paramount, but as was pointed out to me last week, the very small minority will still rock up whether the game kicks off at 12pm, 3pm, 7.26am or five past two in the morning.
What’s most key is whether correct safety measures are in place regardless of kick-off time and judging by the number of incidents of major disruption I can recall involving Norwich City matches, generally they are. And that includes before 12pm starts.
Another point made to me while unravelling the Fat Cat story were calls for fan representation on the safety advisory group that sets kick-off times for these days. What a great idea.
I’m no expert in policing, but I really see no harm in giving a slightly later kick-off time a go. Even if it’s only pushing it to 2pm.
However, as far as this derby goes, I actually don’t think 12pm is early enough. And I say this purely from a selfish perspective.
As I’ve mentioned on these pages before, I’m missing this trip in favour of a trip Down Under to visit my partner’s family..
So 12pm for anyone up Carra will be 10pm for me. Imagine having to bottle those Derby Day nerves until 10 at night!
A 5am kick-off would have been nice – or 3pm as I would look at it.
All joking aside, though, I do wonder whether it’s time to rethink those 12pm kick-offs for the Old Farm Derby. If people are determined to cause trouble, they will do so whatever the time is.
Then again, given the respective positions of each side we may never play them again anyway, rendering the debate, this column and your time spent reading it completely and utterly moot.
Super Mario has been a revelation
One of my favourite things about this City team is the strength in depth we clearly now have in our ranks.
On more than one occasion this season I’ve dreaded news of an injury to a big player.
However, there’s a real emerging trend of these situations unearthing the talents of another – rather than ruing the loss.
Grant Hanley’s injury saw Christoph Zimmermann re-emerge as a big part.
Mo Leitner’s injury was another that filled me with dread, seeing how good the German has been this term.
However, the past few weeks Mario Vrancic has evolved into a real revelation in the role left by Leitner.
He’s spraying the ball just as much as Mo, he’s chipping in with important goals and is making the cogs turn in the exact same way City’s number 10 had been before his knock.
Once Mo is fit and ready, I’d love to see how fluid the football could be with both men in the fold - assuming they don’t suffer from an unfortunate case of Gerrard and Lampard syndrome.
My cameo on The Scrimmage last week got me thinking about Soccer Sixes - something until seven days ago I was totally unaware of.
The very notion of current players going off on a jolly and playing in a six-a-side tournament sounds amazing.
In fact, having watched clips I can honestly say I would trade the very existence of the League Cup for a revival.
One of the things I got thinking about is just how good our current crop would be at it – so much of it relies on intricate ball movement; pass and move, pass and move.
The way Daniel Farke has got the boys playing would lend itself tremendously to the six-a-side game, with so many technically gifted players in the fold now.
So the question I’m posing to you all is this: were Soccer Sixes to be revived, what would your starting VI be?
For me, it would be Krul, Lewis, Aarons, Leitner, Buendia and Pukki.
I’d love to hear yours.
And before I go, one more time, thank you to Rob and Chris for having me!