East Anglian derby is up there with best: Lambert

Paul Lambert has played in the biggest derby matches in Scotland and Germany – but reckons the East Anglian battle between Norwich City and Ipswich Town means just as much.

Lambert revelled in the Old Firm rivalry in eight years as a Celtic player and before that he experienced the Ruhr derby, the biggest in the Bundesliga, during his time with Borussia Dortmund.

Now he prepares for his first taste of City against Town fully aware of the significance of the fixture.

“I’ve seen most things in football but the Norwich-Ipswich game is every bit as important as Rangers-Celtic or Dortmund-Schalke because I know how important it is to the fans,” he said.

“It should never be under-estimated. It doesn’t matter what derby you play in. I was fortunate enough to play in the Glasgow one, and then the German one which is the same. It’s vital to the people in Germany, vital to the people in Glasgow and vital to the people here.

“The main focal point is the fans and the players. Derby games, no matter how you want to look at them, are vital to the city and it is vital for us as a club to try to win it. It doesn’t matter what form people go into derby games with. It’s a cracking game for us to play.”

Lambert knows that the tension of the occasion can produce the unexpected even from experienced players.

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“People will do things on the pitch that they wouldn’t normally do. Players will do things where you will think ‘Why did he do that?’ Even supporters will do things they don’t normally do,” he said.

“The atmosphere and adrenalin take you up another notch.

“Long after we’re gone, Norwich-Ipswich will always be a huge, huge game, from now to the year dot. It doesn’t matter who’s in charge or who’s playing in it.

“If you win them, it gives you breathing space and I’m pretty sure this one will be no different. I’m under no illusions about how hard it’s going to be, or how vital it is to the fans to get one over them.”

City had their biggest home gate for 21 years against Leeds last Saturday – an all-seater record for Carrow Road of 26,315 - and today’s crowd is set to top that figure by reaching 26,450, the biggest since 1984.

“It was a brilliant atmosphere against Leeds and I’m sure this one will raise it another level,” said Lambert, who will nevertheless have to sample that atmosphere from the directors’ box after picking up a two-match touchline ban and a �2,500 fine from an FA regulatory commission on Thursday.

“I think I might go into that Barclay end – just to see what it’s like,” joked Lambert.

Assistant manager Ian Culverhouse will direct operations from the touchline but Lambert can still deliver the pre-match and half-time talks.

“I probably need to keep my emotions intact a little bit better than I normally do,” he said.

“Ideally I’d like to be in the technical area but the rule is I can’t. The game will take care of itself.

“The players won’t need me to stand there to know how important it is. Ian has played in a right few derbies. He’ll know how vital they are.

“Ian is vital to me and he knows exactly what we think and what we do.”

Lambert first encountered Ipswich boss Roy Keane, two years his junior, as a player in a Champions League semi-final between Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United back in 1997.

“He played in the first leg in Dortmund and we also played in the Tommy Burns match at Celtic,” said Lambert.

“He’s a brilliant footballer and a really good lad and I look forward to seeing him on Sunday.”