History shows it's too close to call

CHRIS WISE The balance of power currently lies with Norwich, but can Ipswich regain local pride in one of English football’s great derby clashes? CHRIS WISE investigates


Norwich City will be aiming to complete an unprecedented 'double double' when they take arch-rivals Ipswich at Carrow Road this Sunday.

This will be the 74th league meeting between the two super-powers of East Anglian football and, as yet, neither side has managed to emerge with a 100pc record over the course of two seasons.

But all that could change this weekend as the Canaries go for a fourth straight victory, after winning both derbies in 2003-4 on their way to the old Division One title and emerging victorious from a tight encounter at Portman Road back in September.

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City's recent supremacy in this most eagerly awaited of fixtures reflects a gradual shifting of power from south to north since the Ipswich glory days of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Canaries have lost only one of their previous nine derbies to move tantalisingly close to overall parity with their Suffolk neighbours, who boast 36 wins to Norwich's 33 in all competitions going into this Sunday's fixture.

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The chance to close the gap still further in the battle for the unofficial 'Pride of Anglia' title provides a fascinating side issue to the big game - and the author of a recently published history on the subject might just have to add a new chapter if Nigel Worthington's men do the business again.

“Norwich haven't recorded too many doubles over the years, and they certainly haven't done it twice in a row,” said Rob Hadgraft, whose book 'The Old Farm' hit the shops just before Christmas. “Ipswich haven't done it either, come to that. So Norwich would be breaking new ground if they managed to win on Sunday.

“If they do it will confirm a switch in the balance in power in recent years. There was a long period, when Bobby Robson was in charge, that Ipswich considered themselves to be top dogs - and with some justification, it has to be said.

“But if you look at the results over the past 10 years or so Norwich have got a better record.

“I don't think there have been too many classic derbies in recent seasons, but Norwich have certainly had the better of it.”

“Overall, it's extremely close. When Norwich won at Portman Road back in September we added everything up for the book and discovered, to our amazement, that they had won one more derby game than Ipswich over the years if you include all the friendlies as well.

“I think most people would have thought that Ipswich would have a big upper hand bearing in mind their dominance in 70s and 80s, but that is not the case.”

It has to be said that both sides have struggled to make an impact this season outside the tight confines of the East Anglian derby and Hadgraft believes two misfiring outfits will cancel each other out on Sunday morning.

“Ipswich haven't had the best of seasons, but I think they have done reasonably well considering all the players they lost in the summer,” he said. “Joe Royle has taken a lot of stick from the fans and I think that's a bit unfair because he has had to make a lot of changes and has had to introduce a lot of young players.

“As for Norwich, well like a lot of people I expected them to do much better with the quality players they had. But it isn't always easy for sides coming down from the Premiership and they have struggled a bit.

“If I had to predict an outcome at the weekend it would be another tight game - and a draw.”

One thing Hadgraft is prepared to predict is a white-hot atmosphere at Carrow Road. Having researched the derby way back to the inaugural fixture just before the outbreak of war in 1939 he knows only too well how emotions are stirred by the sight of yellow and blue going head to head.

“I think the rivalry is as intense as ever,” he said “The derby games still pull in the crowds and coming out on top means a tremendous amount to supporters of both clubs. In some cases victories can all but make a season.

“A couple of players told me they had come from other areas and were surprised just how intense it was. They always say that fans of Everton and Liverpool have a drink together after the Merseyside derby and have a laugh about it all. That certainly doesn't happen too often over here!

“By and large I don't think fans of Norwich and Ipswich tend to do much socializing together.”

t The Old Farm - Ipswich v Norwich, A History is published by Desert Island Books, priced £14.99.


t How many derbies? Norwich and Ipswich have met 140 times in 104 years, in all competitions (including friendlies / testimonials, etc): Norwich have won 58, Ipswich have won 57, drawn games 28. Norwich have the better record in cup games and Ipswich the better in league games.

t Best runs: From February 1946 to January 1947, Ipswich won five in a row (league & cup). From January 1948 to May 1949, Norwich won five in a row (league & cup). From Apr 58 to Dec 60, Ipswich won five in a row (league & cup).

t Worst runs: If Ipswich fail to win this Sunday, they will have won only one derby in the last 10, which would be their worst ever run. Norwich's worst run was between April 1957 and April 1964, when they won only one in 12 (in all competitions).

t Best derby game: “I would suggest it was Boxing Day 1979, when the sides drew 3-3 at Carrow Road. The game was packed with goalmouth action and the atmosphere was superb, with the new River Stand being officially opened that day. Keith Robson equalised for City in the last minute.”

t Best goals: For Norwich: Surely it has to be Steve Bruce's thundering header in the dying seconds at Carrow Road, which clinched a place at Wembley in the 1985 League Cup final. Ipswich, who had led earlier, couldn't believe it, and Terry Butcher left the field in tears of rage, battering down a dressing room door en route. For Ipswich: In a League Cup match at Carrow Road in 1980-1, the two Dutchmen, Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren, combined brilliantly for a sublime goal to put Ipswich ahead in the tie. Thijssen danced round several defenders to set up Muhren, who coolly curled a shot into the corner.

t Players: Most derby games for Ipswich: John Wark 25 (all competitions, including friendlies). Most derby games for Norwich: Kevin Keelan 22 (below). Most derby goals for Ipswich: John Wark 9. Most derby goals for Norwich: Hugh Curran 5

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