The weight of derby history should not burden Norwich City’s latest trip down south

Jonny Howson (centre) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Cameron Jerome (left) and Bradley Joh

Jonny Howson (centre) celebrates scoring the opening goal with Cameron Jerome (left) and Bradley Johnson in their Championship play-off semi-final, first leg in 2015. - Credit: PA

It has always stuck in my mind – a first TV appearance (that I'm aware of) at Portman Road. It came on ITV Anglia's Derby Day highlights show.

I was in my lucky – also ridiculous – yellow and green flat cap, stood next to my best friend and fellow Lower Barclay season ticket holder, and we looked broken.

It was February 1998, far too close to my birthday and James Brown's 'I feel good' had just played over the PA for a fifth time. And boy they did feel good. Ipswich were 5-0 up and partying like it was 1999.

To put it in context – City were listless in the second division at the time, Town were strong play-off contenders and that thumping victory was their eighth in nine home derbies.

The words Alex and Mathie still take me back to that game in the blink of an eye – he was a hat-trick hero that day. Me and my friend would both leave Suffolk wondering if we'd ever see our beloved yellow and green win in enemy territory.


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And you know what? Just eight months later, we did.

I'm sure you are all aware of the fact City haven't lost to Ipswich in seven years, or failed to score against them since 2003.

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Yet remarkably since that 5-0 smashing City fans witnessed, the 11 East Anglian derbies at Portman Road have seen six City wins, just three defeats and two draws – one of which was the play-off semi-final first leg in 2015, which you could argue felt closer to a victory. I'm sure most City fans would.

It's been a remarkable power shift – and one stat that brings it home.

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For all the clinging to history and previous superiority complex, City can actually make it 40-40 on the post-war all competitions head-to-head between the two clubs – if they take all three points on Saturday.

And if you wanted to get really ahead of yourself, City could actually lead the 70-year record by the time this season is done.

To put that into context as well, the last time City led the head-to-head record was when they made it 7-6 with a 1-0 win in Division Three South – that was back in the autumn of 1952. That all feels like a pretty good incentive to me.

There is only one senior first-team player at City who was also on the senior books when the Canaries last lost to Town – that was late in the 2008-09 season and that player was Wes Hoolahan, albeit he didn't feature due to injury. As for everyone else – including current stand-in skipper Jonny Howson – they have only known City derby success.

'I'm sure they will remember two years ago, but our team and their team has changed – it's a couple of years ago now and it's in the past,' Howson told me following Norwich's win over Bristol City on Tuesday night – and we all know how unhealthy it is to live in the past.

'Everyone is aware of the derby and the rivalry, but we're playing for three points like any other game. So as players we've got to stay focused and not get carried away too much.'

Meanwhile, Christophe Berra – he of Carrow Road play-off handball fame – said: 'I'd say Norwich are (favourites for the title)…If (they're) not (up there), it'll be a massive failure for them. The pressure will be on them to go back up.

'But it's a derby game and anything can happen…Hopefully on the day we'll get that bit of luck and maybe we might outplay them, but it's going to be a difficult game.'

Past performance has never been a guide to future results – and yet there is a little bit of derby history on the line this season.

It would be great to think it will be Ipswich fans looking broken after Sunday's game – and not for the first time in recent derby memory.

• JUST SAYING…

It's like the calm before the storm at the moment, in terms of transfer business. With 12 days to go until the 11pm deadline, the top of the pyramid is playing a waiting game – and probably lulling a lot of people into a false sense of security.

For me, it's all about the next two Premier League weekends. After that, those teams struggling more than they had hoped will suddenly feel £20m looks like a more reasonable outlay, when contemplating the loss of five-times that sum in May. From there, the money filters down the divisions and the dominoes fall.

During Thursday's pre-Ipswich press conference Alex Neil (inset)sounded like a man who has at least sorted out which are his ducks – now it's about getting the chance to put them in a row.

• Follow Michael Bailey on Twitter @michaeljbailey and Facebook @mbjourno

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