‘After the game I had a baby named after me’ - Sky Sports pundit on East Anglian derby high stakes
- Credit: PA
Respected Sky Sports pundit Danny Higginbotham insists cool heads will decide Sunday’s East Anglian Championship derby between Ipswich Town and Norwich City.
Higginbotham will be at Portman Road for the televised clash and knows what is at stake, after a playing career that took in ferocious derby tussles for Sunderland, Southampton and Derby.
“The atmosphere is completely different,” he said. “I remember when I was at Sunderland and we played Newcastle United and we drew 1-1 and I scored. After the game the physio said to me he had just had a call from a mate who said he had named his newborn child after me; obviously the Danny, not the Higginbotham. That is just how intense it is.
“My time at Sunderland I enjoyed but I could have done better, but people look on me very fondly up there because I scored against Newcastle and against Middlesbrough. A player can make a real name for themselves and put themselves down in history. It is that important.
“The one thing you do find, and I have found it in games I played in, that derbies are quite often decided by a mistake from an individual that you wouldn’t expect to see.
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“It is all about the mentality on the pitch. Some players can get too embroiled in the occasion and go out with the wrong mentality. I hate using clichés but you have to play the game not the occasion.
“Norwich is unbeaten in the last eight meetings, Ipswich have lost six of the last eight this season but I don’t think that matters going into a derby. It is all about how much you can treat it as a normal game.”
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Higginbotham insists Sunday’s high noon showdown will test Daniel Farke and Mick McCarthy, along with their players.
“The one thing I found in these type of games is the manager’s biggest role is to try and calm lads down, because there will be some who get over-excited and that can lead to an early red card or a mistake,” he said, “There is no getting away from it 100pc but you try to take that element away. Don’t try to be overly-physical or clever.
“This season I have covered the Sheffield derby, Sheffield Wednesday versus Leeds, Derby versus Forest, and each manager I have spoken to before the game to ask if they had done anything different, they all replied, ‘No. We know the magnitude of the game, how much it means to the supporters and the passion, we don’t need to explain that.’
“With the two clubs only 40 miles apart the rivalry is huge.
“I know a few in this industry who I work with are supporters and they rave about it. They can’t wait for the game.
“I played in that Newcastle derby but one of my very last games as a footballer was Chester versus Wrexham and the feeling was just as intense.”