The Wiches: What is the dark magic of Norwich City v Ipswich Town?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 04 February 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 04 February 2019
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If you have children or grandchildren under the age of 16, turn off all devices, dim the lights, gather them round and tell them a story.
“Once upon a time, so long ago, a blue-and-white horde did join battle with their green-and-yellow foes at Portman Road.
“And lo, Ipswich didst defeatest Norwich.”
Your offspring will be spellbound, amazed and a little unsettled by this revelation about the overturning of the natural order.
For a generation of Norwich City fans has grown up through the best part of 10 years of Canaries dropping corrosive guano on the Ipswich tractors.
Ipswich wins in the East Anglian Derby are ancient history, even myth, to them.
It’s fantastic, isn’t it? I love thinking about how their fans must be dissolving in their own bile, desperately clinging to an FA Cup win that happened when I was at Meadow Playgroup and Jim Callaghan was Britain’s prime minister.
But it does make it tricky to raise our youngsters with the correct level of loathing for Ipswich.
There is a danger that they will just pity them, and get caught up in the fake rivalry with Leeds or Wolves.
So thank goodness for Paul Lambert.
In 2009 (the year when Ipswich last beat Norwich, incidentally), Lambert rode in to rescue the Canaries from the foot of League One, carrying them to the middle of the Premier League.
During that time, he presided over two of City’s greatest ever wins over the Blues.
In 2018, he has pitched up at Portman Road: not to rescue Town, as his Midas touch is only producing manure, but to revive the derby.
At midday on Sunday February 10, when he brings the Tractor Boys to Carrow Road, the atmosphere will be visceral, crackling with anticipation, trepidation and barely-suppressed loathing.
I’m nervous already - but why do we get so worked up about matches against a team 40 miles down the road?
Other derbies make more sense: Man Utd v Man City; Newcastle v Sunderland; AC Milan v Internationale; Spurs v Arsenal; Birmingham v Villa.
Yet somehow the East Anglian Derby is among the most bitter of all rivalries.
I even hate writing their name properly, preferring Ips***h, 1p5wich or some other derogatory alternative.
I cannot stand looking out of the window when the train goes through Ipswich, and if it stops at the station for too long, it makes me tetchy. I really don’t understand why Greater Anglia even has to include it on the timetable. Trains should go straight through, leaving the locals standing and staring.
If I see someone wearing an Ipswich top in Norwich, I have to stop myself from putting them in the stocks on Gentleman’s Walk.
And no Saturday of football is complete until an Ipswich defeat flashes up to follow a Norwich win (that’s a lot of complete Saturdays this season).
When they were young, my children referred to Ipswich as “the little people”, having been raised to be respectful to everybody - except them.
I believe that I have brought them up correctly.
For there’s a yin and yang to football: the positive passion of following a team has to be balanced by the negative passion of despising another team.
As the Blues Brothers nearly sang: Everybody Needs Somebody to Loathe.
The rivalry between Norwich and Ipswich adds frisson to every season – even when the teams are in different leagues.
It also enables us to have that most delicious of experiences: schadenfreude. So when we beat Ipswich, our happiness is enhanced by delighting in their misery.
That’s why one of my favourite memories from derbies of old is not a City goal or victory, it’s when Ipswich manager George Burley went on camera after Norwich beat them 2-1 at Carrow Road in November 1995.
The match had ended in controversy, when Kevin Lynch (who should be in the Norwich City Hall of Fame) gave a penalty to Ipswich, then consulted the lino and changed his mind.
Burley was furious. When interviewed, all he could do was repeat: “He’s give it, he’s give it, he’s give it.” It was magnificent – schadenfreude par excellence.
None of this gives a full explanation of City’s and Town’s bitter rivalry - I’ll have to leave that to the academics.
But read on below for plenty of reasons to be on the Farke Side.
Five reasons why Norwich are better than Ipswich:
1 - Attendances: City home crowds have topped 25,000 for years, even when times were tough. Town crowds are pitiful, down to below 14,000 recently. If you want peace and quiet, try Portman Road on a match day.
2 - Excitement: Town are in their 17th successive season in the Championship. The thrill levels during that time can be measured by the fact that Mick McCarthy was their manager for six of those seasons, Roy Keane for one-and-half. City have been promoted or relegated eight times in that period. Supporting Norwich is fun: supporting Ipswich is a wearying trudge, like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.
3 - Colours: Green and yellow may not be aesthetically pleasing, but everyone knows who Norwich are - unless they support Nantes or Zimbabwe. Blue and white is just so unimaginative. Are you Everton, Birmingham, Carlisle, Chesterfield, Gillingham, Leicester, Millwall, Oldham, Southend in disguise? Yawn.
4 - Owners: Delia Smith and Michael Wynn Jones are legends. They’ve bailed City out time and again, are high-profile, hands-dirty owners, and have a strong connection with the fans. Ipswich are owned by Marcus Evans. Can you picture him? What does he do? Who is he?
5 - Progressive: Daniel Farke has brought continental ideas to Carrow Road, ensuring that City are in step with the style of coaching and playing that the best teams in Europe are employing. Ipswich shook off the McCarthy death grip, but brought in a manager who remains a one-hit wonder.
Five reasons why Norwich (the city) is better than Ipswich:
1 - It is a city. Ipswich is a town - despite the (very) odd application to become a city. Ipswich City? Laughable.
2 - Buildings: Norwich has a cathedral (hence city status), a castle, countless medieval buildings and the oldest continuously-trading market in Europe.
3 - University: Ipswich only has a uni because it was born from a union between UEA and the University of Essex. So UEA is the daddy.
4 - Alan Partridge: The funniest ever comedy character came from Norwich - funnier even than Mick McCarthy.
5 - Pubs: We no longer boast a pub for every day of the year, but Norwich is recognised as a Mecca for beer lovers.
Five great derby moments:
1 - Steve Bruce, Milk Cup semi-final, Carrow Road, 1985: The ultimate thumping header, that delivered the knockout blow to Ipswich and sent Norwich to Wembley. It also turned Eric Gates into a mash-up of Spit the Dog and Tasmanian Devil.
2 - Cameron Jerome, play-off semi final second leg, Carrow Road, 2015: The final goal in a 3-1 win on the way to the Premier League, it wasn’t spectacular, but it was the moment we could relax and gloat.
3 - Grant Holt hat-trick, Carrow Road, 2010: As if winning 4-1 wasn’t enough, the Town fans’ hate figure Holt scored three. I love that man.
4 - 1p5wich 1 Norwich 5, Portman Road, 2011: Bludgeoning the Blues in front of their horrified and embarrassed fans - it’s what dreams are made of. They fancied stopping our promotion bandwagon, but instead gave it a push.
5 - Timm Klose, Carrow Road, February 2018: This late, late equaliser was all about keeping the unbeaten run against Town going. They got so close, but we got Klose. Ha ha!
For the sake of balance (yeah, right) I was going to come up with five of the worst derby moments. But I can only think of three - Megson oggie, Gunn air kick, Mathie hat-trick. Look them up if you must, but note that they are all from more than 20 years ago.
That sums it all up - Norwich are now, Ipswich are not now.