East Anglian derby is one for the fans, says Ian Culverhouse
PUBLISHED: 17:43 05 February 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 06 February 2019
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Ian Culverhouse has derby day experience as a City player and coach - but insists it is all about the fans, as he explained to CHRIS LAKEY
If any of Norwich City’s cosmopolitan group of players aren’t fully aware of the importance of the East Anglian derby, then a walk around the city this week should sum it up.
City are a very different club from the days when Ian Culverhouse made the right back position his own but one thing never changes - the fans.
“This one is for the crowd,” says Culverhouse. “You sense it means a lot for the city, it really does, to get one over your local rivals.
“I came up from Tottenham as a few of the boys did and we didn’t really know how big it actually was. But to talk to the fans and be around them and being in the city, you knew that it was a big one.
“It means a lot for the fans – if you can go through a season and beat your rivals.”
This weekend, City’s likely starting line-up is scattered with various nationalities, predominantly German, but Culverhouse believes they, like the north London contingent of the early 1990s, will be left in no doubt about the importance of Sunday’s fixture.
“Being in the city and around the crowd and talking to the fans they will grasp how big it is,” said the 54-year-old, now managing along the A47 at King’s Lynn Town.
“Once they get in the stadium they will see it and the rivalry between the two sets of fans – I think they will grasp it pretty quickly.”
And while the intensity of any derby game can tip the form book out of kilter, Culverhouse believes City will extend their long unbeaten run against the old enemy in a game with added spice, thanks to the presence of former City boss Paul Lambert in the Town dugout.
“I am hoping for a home win, definitely, if they play the way they are doing,” said Culverhouse, who was assistant manager to Lambert during the glory years of 2009-2012. “I know form goes out of the window but on the day I think they might have just a bit too much, hopefully.”
Culverhouse faced Town four times as a player, losing three games and winning one, but was involved in the sensational games in the 2010-11 Championship promotion campaign. And he knows it is how you handle the result that is vitally important.
“If you lose, you feel the atmosphere around the place that you haven’t beaten your rivals and they have got one up on you and it does affect you, it really does,” he said. “My record against them wasn’t that good I am afraid. But I remember when I was coaching to beat them twice meant a hell of a lot – and the run we went on and the buoyancy around the place afterwards ... I remember in the changing rooms there was real excitement.”
However, Culverhouse isn’t convinced that defeat will be devastating to the team.
“They have a very good manager in there and the atmosphere around the place is them focusing on what they want to do.
“But I think they will realise how big a game it is for the fans if they come off on the wrong side of the result – which could galvanise the other side as well. If they go to Carrow Road and pick a win up there that could kick-start them.”
The 4-1 and 5-1 wins in 2010-11 hold a special place for Culverhouse.
“They were fantastic,” he said. “I remember the home game because Lambert was actually suspended for that game and I was actually taking it from the side, which was brilliant.
“I think it was in November because Holty (Grant Holt) had a moustache, and we had the likes of Henri Lansbury and Dani Pacheco, players like that. They added quality to us, they really did, and to have a win there was magnificent.
“The away game was towards the end of the season and it was unbelievable to put a performance in like that in their back yard. And probably, on the day, Jimmy Bullard scored the best goal of the game for them – and no one said a word about it.”