Derby classic in making – Fleck
Former Norwich City striker Robert Fleck believes both clubs’ hunger for victory could make Sunday’s East Anglian derby into a classic encounter.
Ipswich Town arrive at Carrow Road (1.15pm) on the back of three straight Championship defeats while the Canaries, despite being involved in some thrilling matches and producing some excellent football, have won just once in eight games.
Fleck, who played in seven derbies for City in the 1990s, scored twice and was on the winning side four times, is backing his old club to come out on top in the sell-out match, which he is delighted to see back on the fixture schedule.
“I think it’s absolutely fantastic for both sets of supporters that we are back in the same league,” said the ex-Scotland international.
“Supporters look at the fixture list, players look at the fixture list – it’s a great game, a great atmosphere, and to have the bragging rights for a few months is fantastic.
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“From today right through until Sunday it’s all anyone will be talking about.”
Paul Lambert’s men appear to be in the better shape of the two sides after a November that has brought good performances in four exciting draws and they currently sit in eighth spot, five places and three points above Roy Keane’s Town – but the gap is negligible at this stage of the season.
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“The form book goes out of the window with a derby game in any case, but both teams need a win,” said Fleck. “Ipswich have lost three in a row and Norwich need to win because they have drawn a few games.
“It’s probably more even than it’s been for many years. It’s almost too close to call but I have a feeling it will be Norwich’s day.
“That’s what I hope for. I don’t know whether they will have one or two coming back from injury but I’ll say 2-0.”
The live TV game will be the first East Anglian derby for managers Lambert and Keane but that won’t unsettle either of them.
“It’s the first time the two managers have been involved but they have both played at the highest level, both won European competitions, captained their countries and been to major championships and played in the biggest derbies – Rangers against Celtic, the Manchester derby in Roy’s case and big German derbies in Paul’s,” said Fleck.
“They will prepare in the same way as usual and won’t get caught up in it all.”
Keane admitted after Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Hull that the pressure was building, but Fleck said victory on Sunday could do him the power of good.
“He will take a bit of pressure because of the amount of money he has spent but it takes time for some players to settle in and it’s only November. They are only three points behind Norwich and if they win on Sunday they will be level,” he said.
“If they beat Norwich the past three games will be forgotten and winning the game will do him a massive favour. But if they lose, Norwich are six points ahead of them, and he might be under a little bit of pressure.”
Fleck, 45, who scored 84 goals in 299 games for City, maintains a connection with the club by scouting for them, which means his opportunities to see them live are limited.
“I haven’t seen them for a while, but Grant Holt is doing a magnificent job leading from the front, by example, and by all accounts the two centre-halves are working fantastically well together, which is something Norwich haven’t really had for years,” he said.
All but one of Fleck’s City meetings with Town came in his second spell with the club, and he scored in the 2-1 victory at Carrow Road
15 years ago this month – a game with an unusual twist in stoppage time, courtesy of Knaresborough official Kevin Lynch.
“They’re all fond memories but I suppose the most comical moment was when we were 2-1 up and the referee gave Ipswich a penalty and, just as John Wark was about to take it, the linesman signalled and the ref changed his mind,” recalled Fleck.
“I know John quite well so I have a laugh about that.”