This one is special says derby veteran Fleming
Craig Fleming has been there, seen it got the T-shirt – but he admits that nothing can prepare a player for the red-hot atmosphere and the great expectations of an East Anglian derby.
Fleming suffered extreme highs and devastating lows in ten derby appearances in the Canaries' back four, and says the experience is like no other – no matter how much players try to keep to their usual routine.
'It's a one-off game, but it won't be treated differently,' he said. 'The players won't, the coaching staff won't, the management won't – they will prepare and do the things they do for any other game. But there's no getting away from it – it is a different game to the rest.
'There is more on it for the fans and the players will be aware of that. Everybody will be aware of what it means to the club and the fans, even if it is treated just like any other game.'
Of the current City squad, only four players – Adam Drury, Wes Hoolahan, Chris Martin and Simon Lappin – have experienced the special derby day atmosphere, when one mistake can last for ever.
'I think we've seen players in the past who haven't necessarily crumbled, but have struggled with the atmosphere, while other ones have stood up and it has made them,' said Fleming, now part of the Lowestoft Town management team. 'But they are good games to play in. Every footballer wants to play in games with great atmospheres and play at the highest level where the atmosphere is incredible, and you have to be able to deal with it. There is a certain amount of bravery needed, in both senses of the word. There is the usual sort of bravery of getting stuck in and putting a marker down, and there is also the kind of bravery that when there is that kind of atmosphere you are just able to treat it like every other game and be confident when you get the ball.'
The day does, essentially, belong to the fans, who go through the ringer on such occasions. City's 5-0 defeat at Portman Road in February, 1998, was Fleming's darkest derby moment by some distance, alleviated by the 2-0 win in Suffolk in December, 2003, that sent City to the top of the old First Division for keeps.
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'When the fans are behind you, the old adage of the 12th man – as somebody who has played – is true,' he said. 'I look at games where, for whatever reason, the fans really get on it and it raises you, it's just human nature.
'I think about the Middlesbrough game when we were in the Premiership and we came back from 4-1 down with 10 minutes to go. They just exploded when we got back to 4-2 and at 4-3 it was just unbelievable, so it does help.
'You make a tackle in a normal game and you would normally get a cheer. You tackle an Ipswich Town player and you get a roar – and it makes you feel better.'
City go into Sunday's game at Carrow Road in better health than their rivals – manager Paul Lambert's popularity remains high, while Roy Keane is under pressure.
'I think it's that expectancy in football,' said Fleming. 'Norwich have come from the division below. The brutal reality is that not many people expected them to be as high up as they are, probably apart from the lads up there and Paul Lambert himself. But I think the general feeling around the city from speaking to Norwich fans who have been going for years, is that we will build for the future.
'So the expectancy wasn't necessarily there – whereas when Roy Keane got the job with a big money guy behind them they were expected to go and win games.'