Fleming: City will relish atmosphere

Chris Lakey Ex-Canaries defender Craig Fleming says City will thrive in the blue hot atmosphere of Portman Road on Sunday. Ipswich are expected to give the Canaries their usual reception in the 89th East Anglian derby.

Chris Lakey

Ex-Canaries defender Craig Fleming says City will thrive in the blue hot atmosphere of Portman Road on Sunday.

Ipswich are expected to give the Canaries their usual reception in the 89th East Anglian derby.

But Fleming says that will only serve as an incentive to the Norwich players as they bid to put the final nail in the coffin that holds Ipswich's play-off aspirations.

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“I think in a way it all goes to help them,” said Fleming. “Once the game gets started all the nerves and anxiety disappear and then it just becomes a game with a good atmosphere and that's all you look for as a player. That's what gets you going. If their fans have a go at you and stuff like that it is still good to play in.

“They are very different games. There is a real sense of the importance of them to the fans. The general feeling is that there is a nervous kind of anxiety that you don't want to let people down. You look forward to them, they are great games and there is a buzz all week, but there is a feeling “don't let them down”.

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“Most games you want to do it for you, your team-mates and your club, but more for you - each individual wants to play well for themselves and impress the manager to get on in their careers and if you get 11 people doing that you're doing well. You're playing for each other as well, but derby days are the ones when you know it means more to other people. There is a sense of it. They turn up in their droves for Norwich City and you don't want to let them down.”

Darren Huckerby is expected to make his 200th appearance for the Canaries and, as usual, is expected to be public enemy number one as far as the home fans are concerned.

Fleming played alongside City's flying winger for almost four years but says Huckerby and his fellow senior professionals won't be affected by local loyalties.

“It definitely won't worry him,” said Fleming. “He is one of the players you look to. I said before the last game when you need a result he's who you look to, and players like Dion Dublin and Darel Russell, and to be fair to them they are the ones, from the games that I have seen, who have stood up and done it when it really matters.

“I thought last weekend against Burnley all three of them were outstanding.”

Ipswich's need for points is arguably greater than City's - defeat for the Tractor Boys could end their play-off hopes while City are all but clear of relegation worries.

And Fleming believes that City are playing well enough to suggest the money should be on an away win.

“I think the pressure is on both sides equally, but I think out of the two, Norwich go in there with better form, from what I have seen,” said Fleming, who will be at Portman Road as part of his duties as a summariser for BBC Radio Norfolk.

“They played very well Saturday, and from what I have seen I agree with the manager really - I can't fault them. They look tight at the back, they're creating chances. It's just they are not probably taking them when they should be doing.

“They have been playing well, they have got on top in games and got their noses in front but then haven't really gone on and got two and three - then that makes life easy. It has stayed at 1-0 and that makes life edgy then - that's the only criticism I could put to them, that perhaps when they get on top they have to take their chances.

“I don't think you can ever really forecast derbies, but if I was going o put a fiver on it I would probably, as biased as I am, stick it on Norwich because I think they're going in with better form.”

Fleming is a veteran of nine derby games which have produced a half-decent record of five wins, two draws and two defeats - and some mixed memories.

“One game sticks out when we got an absolute thumping early on in my City career- the 5-0 game in 1998,” recalled Fleming, 36.

“Matt Jackson, to be fair, didn't do too badly, but I had the worst game, not just for Norwich but in my career, I was bloody hopeless that day. It was my first derby away as well and people must have thought what the hell have we got here, but after that I don't think we had a bad record at all. I think we won more than we lost.

“I remember my first home debut; I was playing right back and we won 2-1 and Jockey (Darren Eadie) scored and I put him in for the goal.

“Obviously the promotion season stands out because that was when we went top of the league and stayed there, but for pure 'out of the blue' it was probably when Bryan Hamilton took over and we won 2-0, because we were pretty poor in those days and we stuffed them to be honest with you.”

Not all memories are good ones.

“There was one (in 2003) when I snapped a tendon in my foot,” he said. “I was going down the wing with Dean Bowditch and I was running and I had to step over this balloon. I thought at first somebody had thrown something at me from the crowd because it was that painful and I'd snapped a tendon in my foot. And they scored from it as well, which made it even worse.”

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