Former Norwich City frontman Jamie Cureton is feeling green with envy about derby play-off clashes

The hair colour that still creates headlines today. Picture: EADT

The hair colour that still creates headlines today. Picture: EADT

Watching Saturday's East Anglian derby made Jamie Cureton wish he'd have been a part of it, as Gavin Caney discovers.

Jamie Cureton celebrates finding the net for the Canaries against Burnley. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Jamie Cureton celebrates finding the net for the Canaries against Burnley. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC

An iconic figure from the Norwich City and Ipswich Town rivalry slipped into, and out of, Portman Road almost unnoticed.

Perhaps that's no surprise given Jamie Cureton made the wise decision to leave his hair spray at home this time. The press box was the much-travelled striker's stage on Saturday as he shared his sought-after views on the day's massive East Anglian derby.

And what better man to seek insight from seeing as he earned cult status for his part in a 1996 incident that is still fondly remembered today – depending upon which side of the divide you come from. Cureton sprayed his hair green and revelled in the hatred spewing out of the stands as he netted a goal at the home of City's fiercest rivals.

Yet far from revelling in his 'low profile' as a pundit, the Dagenham & Redbridge frontman – still scoring Football League goals as he approaches his 40th birthday – admits he couldn't help feeling envious at not being the main show in town this time around.

Jamie Cureton celebrates his special goal for Reading. Picture: NICK POTTS

Jamie Cureton celebrates his special goal for Reading. Picture: NICK POTTS - Credit: PA

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Cureton said: 'I sat there during the warm-up and as the fans were coming in the atmosphere started to build. When the boys came out the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I wished it was something I could have been a part of.

'When I did it (dying hair) I didn't think it was a huge thing at all. I was young, naive and cocky I guess. It ended up being a really big deal that people still talk about now. We spoke in the build-up about doing the same thing again but I was working so I had to be professional. I did say live on air that I would die my hair again if they (Norwich) got to Wembley so I hope I get the chance to do that and have a bit of fun.

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'Carrow Road will be rocking on Saturday and Norwich fans live for these sort of occasions. I'm sure the boys will be relishing it all as I certainly used to. These are the type of games you want to be involved in. The prize at the end is huge and if you can knock your rivals out on the way then that makes it even better.'

The Bristolian aims to take in the second leg as a supporter and hopes to cheer one of his 13 former clubs all the way to a Premier League return. While he thought a draw was a fair result in the opener, the former Canary still fancies the bragging rights to be heading Norfolk's way once the second leg is over.

'Ipswich are always going to play the same way. That's what's got them success this season and you can't knock them for it,' said the man who was working for BBC Radio Norfolk at the weekend.

'They didn't just sit on the edge of their box but they'll have to end up attacking more which will allow people like Wes (Hoolahan), (Nathan) Redmond and (Cameron) Jerome space.

'Norwich have got that little bit more for me. If they deal with the threats that Ipswich have, especially (Daryl) Murphy who was very good, and deal with the aerial bombardment then I think they'll go on to win it.'

Will Gary Hooper be Canaries' super-sub?

Patience has had to become key for Jamie Cureton to be able to quench his insatiable thirst for goals.

The Football League legend, now on his 14th club with Dagenham & Redbridge, hasn't always been a first-team regular during his long and distinguished career. Many times – including his first senior strike for Norwich City against Chelsea in December 1994 – the marksman has had to make do with a watching brief before being given the chance to find the net.

So he knows just what Gary Hooper will be thinking if the frontman is utilised as a substitute again in Saturday's decisive play-off semi-final second leg against Ipswich Town.

'Perhaps my most important goal was at Reading (2002) when I came off the bench to score and send us up,' said the 39-year-old, who has got his name on the scoresheet 278 times in the English game.

'A whole squad is important and has a part to play. Hooper is a proven goalscorer and I really like him. I'm sure he's champing at the bit to start on Saturday. If he doesn't I'm sure he'll be disappointed, but he will be keen to come on and produce the goods.

'I know that if he doesn't start he'll be thinking; 'Get me on so I can score that goal that gets us to Wembley'. If he did that it would put him, or whoever may be used as a sub, right in the frame to play at Wembley. It's disappointing to not make the 11 but it can sometimes give you an even better opportunity to come on and be the hero.'

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