David Freezer: Mocking the Tractor Boys just hasn't been fun for City fans this season
© Copyright Stephen Waller
An approaching derby day usually prompts a personal sideshow of bickering with an Ipswich supporting friend. This season I just haven’t had the heart to tease him though.
You may remember my previous admission that I spent two years living with a Town fan during my university days. Ironically, the Norfolk-Suffolk rivalry brought us closer together and provided plenty of entertainment for the rest of our mates.
Merciless and unrelenting wind-ups would usually begin a good week before the game and linger well beyond the final whistle, usually with the losing side starting to get pretty ratty.
I’m sure you’ve all got a friend, colleague or member of your extended family that you enjoy a bit of derby banter with, it’s all part of the local rivalry in these parts.
Ahead of the game at Portman Road earlier this season my mate sent me a photo of his newborn twins, kitted out in Blues baby clothes, with a piece of paper above their head simply saying: “We hate Dave!”
Those fun and games – although indulged in rather more aggressively by some others, sadly – are what derby day has always been about for me.
I’ve never seen it as a hatred, more of a brotherly love. There was no-one I hated losing to more than my brother when I was growing up, but once you’d both given it your best shot, had a bit of an argument about it and someone had stomped off in a huff – we were straight back out playing against each other at some sport the next morning.
That’s how I see derby day. No holds barred, give it everything you’ve got and whoever gets those bragging rights will rub it in as much as possible until the next time they’re on the line, knowing it might not last for long.
So after years of having the higher ground over my own Tractor Boy; the 9-2 season, the play-offs, the Maddison goal, the Klose header – I just couldn’t bring myself to mock him this season, the guns were holstered.
It’s not much of a rivalry when the other team is rock bottom and looking like they were heading for League One within a couple of months of the season. You don’t kick a man when he’s already down.
It’s why I’d rather Town weren’t relegated. However, given that City have got a great chance of going up, it might not actually matter that much this year.
In an ideal world the East Anglian derby would again be played out on the biggest stage, with Norwich competing at the top end of the Premier League and Ipswich just scraping out of trouble every year, of course.
Superman just isn’t the same without Lex Luthor, Batman without the Joker, Daniel Farke without Paul Lambert.
It’s why all rational sense of who should win at Carrow Road tomorrow goes out the window. The Canaries have three times as many points as their nearest and not-so-dearest, scored more than double the amount of goals and Town have won just one of their last eight games to sit eight points adrift of safety.
Yet, still those nerves have been there for months. This game has been looming on the horizon, leaving many supporters looking forward to getting all the fuss out of the way.
If it was Bolton, Reading or Rotherham coming to Carrow Road tomorrow, there’s no way City fans would have this same nagging feeling that all the ingredients are there for an upset.
Particularly after the style and resilience which saw Leeds swept away so superbly last weekend, reclaiming top spot in front of a watching TV audience of millions, who had to be impressed with the way Farke’s team went about their business.
It could not have been better timed. Those nerves about derby day which have been whispered for months have subsided this week, after this Canaries squad proved it has another gear to use in the promotion race.
There is also no suggestion that City are starting to believe any hype. The players know full well they are punching above their weight, Farke has repeatedly said that throughout the campaign, so I cannot see them taking Ipswich at all lightly.
We all know that Lambert will have his team ready to fly out of the traps, he has to. This could well be their last chance to spark a push for survival. They will come all guns blazing.
Yet when you follow a team that can lead Leeds 3-0 at Elland Road, grind out 1-1 draws at West Brom or fight back from 3-2 down to beat Milwall in injury-time, you can be safe in the knowledge that an early setback would not faze this group. Play to their full capabilities and that will not be a worry for the Canaries this time though.
• AWARD CONFUSION
There was a well deserved nod of recognition for Mario Vrancic when he won the PFA Fans’ Championship Player of the Month award for January – only to then not be included in the EFL equivalent.
City’s in-form midfielder claimed 45pc of the vote, ahead of Hull forward Jarrod Bowen, Villa’s on-loan Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, Blackburn keeper David Raya and Brentford duo Rico Henry and Said Benrahma.
Yet when the Championship Player of the Month nods were announced only Abraham was included, alongside Hull winger Kamil Grosicki and Swansea striker Oli McBurnie, with Blackburn forward Adam Armstrong the winner on Friday.
The PFA list certainly appears to have had more thought put into it than just who has scored goals, when Vrancic doesn’t even make the divisional shortlist.
Anyway, I digress, Vrancic deserves his recognition and with Mo Leitner closing on fitness Daniel Farke now has a lovely selection headache ahead of him, at an ideal time.
• UNDER PRESSURE...
I got a taste of the derby day pressure on Friday when I was invited onto BBC Radio Suffolk to take part in their quiz pitting competitors from either side of the border against each other.
The subject was general knowledge from 2009, the last year Ipswich beat Norwich, and I entered the fray with Suffolk 1-0 up after Captain Canary had been beaten by someone from TWTD.co.uk.
Matt Plummer from the Colchester Gazette, a Blues fan, was my opponent and would have won if I’d got my third answer wrong. Thankfully I took the option to pass a tough one and he couldn’t answer either – taking us into extra-time.
The deciding question, who opened the scoring the last time Ipswich beat Norwich, in April 2009? Fortunately, it was fresh in my mind and I beat Matt to the punch, blurting out “David Mooney” in time.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, that bodes well, only for Radio Norfolk’s Nick Conrad to be cheated out of the win in a Danny Haynes style in the deciding round!
You can listen back to my contribution by clicking here, from 1.28 hours in, with the decider following from 1.49 hours into the show