Lee Payne: Why I love and hate the derby in equal measure
PUBLISHED: 18:00 12 February 2018 | UPDATED: 18:06 12 February 2018
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2010
It's a chilly Sunday evening in November 2010.
I’m 18 years old and driving my little red car around the streets of East London.
I have no idea where I’m going, and in the eight months since passing my test this is the first time I’ve been behind the wheel in the capital. Usually I’d be a nervous wreck in a situation like this, but on this occasion I can’t stop smiling. Why? Because earlier that day, Norwich City had beaten Ipswich Town.
Not just beaten them, thrashed them in fact. Live on BBC TV, a moustachioed Grant Holt scored the hat-trick that would for the first time indicate the legend that he was to become at Carrow Road. Wes Hoolahan added a fourth to put the icing on the cake.
The thrill of seeing my team beat its fiercest rivals so comprehensively stayed with me throughout what should have been the two-hour journey to Harlow in Essex, where I was at university.
In the event, I sailed past the turn off for Harlow and ended up in the outskirts of London.
Whenever another East Anglian Derby appears on the horizon, I think back to that night.
I both love and hate this game in equal measure.
I love the opportunity to put the blue team from Suffolk in their place, but I hate the thought of them sneaking a victory and having to see their fans indulging in a rare moment of joy.
In the build up, I just want it over with. If we have won, I’ll happily enjoy the aftermath for weeks.
The first time I ever saw the Norwich first team in the flesh was against Ipswich in March 2003. It was a 2-0 defeat. And for the first few years of supporting City, it was a period of Suffolk dominance – which makes the superiority we have enjoyed since 2010 all the sweeter.
Back then, the manner of the victory in the derby got me thinking about whether a second successive promotion was possible.
It was a sign that something special was happening. The comfortable 2-0 win at Carrow Road in March 2015 also had me believing that the top flight was within reach. That’s because local derbies are the biggest matches of the season for the fans, and as a result the most pressurised matches of the season for the players.
Coming out of those occasions so well was a signal that they were capable of doing it when it mattered.
I find it quite amusing how much of our time is consumed by an opposition that we dislike so much.
To those fans who say they would ‘love it’ if the Tractor Boys were to get relegated, I say they would miss derby day immensely.
Many of us check the score in their game first. We retweet their attendance figures. We share the photos of their glum-looking new signings. Whether or not we like to admit it, we need Ipswich as much as they need Norwich.
Down on the south coast, I bet Southampton fans miss having their derby with Portsmouth, and vice versa. While I wish City were a Premier League club, at least we get the Old Farm derby while we’re in the Championship.
This Sunday, I find myself in the unusual situation of heading into an East Anglian derby expecting to win. We may be level on points in the table, but looking at both squads it is clear that Norwich’s is stronger.
Ipswich have no one like James Maddison. And our club is more harmonious too – at Portman Road, they seem to be finally fed up of Mick McCarthy, while recent performances from the Canaries has got the majority of the fans right behind Daniel Farke.
It’s all in our favour, which is why I’m nervous. I have everything crossed that we still have the bragging rights come Monday.