Players who crossed the greatest divide

David Cuffley Bryan Gunn's signing of Crystal Palace striker Alan Lee on loan for the rest of the season brought the inevitable questions about whether a player with an Ipswich Town past can ever be fully accepted by Norwich City fans.

David Cuffley

Bryan Gunn's signing of Crystal Palace striker Alan Lee on loan for the rest of the season brought the inevitable questions about whether a player with an Ipswich Town past can ever be fully accepted by Norwich City fans.

The logical, dispassionate answer has to be yes - the key thing is not his career history, but whether the man in question can deliver the goods.

Both player and manager dismissed any suggestion that the move was likely to meet with resistance north of the county border.

Certainly Gunn was quick to reject the idea that there may be a cool reception for 30-year-old Lee, who scored for Town at Carrow Road in last season's 2-2 draw.

“His Ipswich connection doesn't bother me at all and I can't see why it would bother anyone else,” said Gunn, after Lee had signed his loan papers on Thursday morning.

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“He's a Crystal Palace player at the moment. He's had his time at Portman Road. I watched him a lot in my previous role and I was impressed every time I saw him play so I think he's going to give us a different dimension.

“I've got no qualms about him being an ex-Ipswich player. The fact that he chose to come here over another Championship club in a better position shows me that he wants to come here and make a difference. That will do for me.”

Lee, a quietly-spoken Irishman who scored 34 times for Ipswich in 109 appearances after joining them from Cardiff in 2006, said: “I knew I was going to have to face a lot of questions, but I'm sure if I score the goals and work hard the Norwich fans won't mind.

“I know Norwich and Ipswich have got to play and I will be looking forward to it.”

The East Anglian derby at Portman Road on April 19 could give Lee, City's 16th loan signing of the season, the opportunity to put one over his old club, and he said he would not shrink from celebrating if he scored against Town.

“I'll celebrate any goal I score in football, for any team so long as it counts to helping us win the game. That's what I am paid to do, that's what I love doing, so of course,” he said.

With City's Championship fate being decided over a mere seven matches, starting with today's trip to Birmingham, and with Palace boss Neil Warnock insisting �600,000 capture Lee may still have a future at Selhurst Park next season, there is little time for the Galway-born forward to win friends and influence results.

But Gunn's description of Lee as an “awkward customer” fits with what we've seen in derby matches over the past three seasons and, given the right service, he could give City a valuable alternative to the more mobile, livewire approach of the new striking combination of two more loan players, Alan Gow and David Mooney.

While ex-Canaries playing for Town have had mixed fortunes over the years - goalkeeper Clive Baker was perhaps one of the most successful, and certainly more so than Andy Marshall - a small band of Ipswich exports have become key players in successful City teams and won over the supporters, even if it took time.

Midfielder Peter Morris played in John Bond's promotion team of 1974-75 and helped City to Wembley in the League Cup final the same season before making a valuable contribution in Division One the following season, when he scored a stunning goal in the famous 3-2 home win over Queens Park Rangers that effectively denied the London club the Football League title.

Winger John Miller had a less happy time with the Canaries in the same two seasons, but had one night to remember soon after leaving Town, scoring both goals against them in City's 2-1 League Cup quarter-final replay win at Portman Road.

Another winger, Town's FA Cup winner Clive Woods, was Norwich-born and a Norwich fan, but seldom reproduced his Ipswich form during 18 months under Bond and Ken Brown at Carrow Road.

Striker Keith Bertschin, given his Football League debut by Bobby Robson as a teenager and scoring with his first touch, was arguably the most popular ex-Ipswich player to appear for City, not least because of his contribution to the promotion campaign of 1981-82.

It was his misfortune that he moved on to Stoke just four months before the Canaries' 1985 Milk Cup victory over Sunderland at Wembley, a day out that would have been fitting reward for some of his memorable cup-tie performances, including the goal that knocked Town out of the FA Cup in a fifth round tie at Norwich in 1983. Bertschin scored 38 times in 138 outings for Brown's team.

One player who did take a while to win over City fans was midfielder Trevor Putney, who arrived in 1986 in the swap deal that took striker John Deehan to Portman Road.

Scoring the equaliser for the Canaries in a memorable 2-1 home win over Liverpool, towards the end of his first season with the club, was probably the moment that turned the tide in Putney's favour.

In the end, he played 100 senior games for City, scoring 10 goals, working like a Trojan in a left midfield role as he helped them to fourth place in Division One and an FA Cup semi-final under Dave Stringer in 1988-89. That was the last of his three seasons with City before a move to Middlesbrough.

Lee, by contrast, has relatively little time in which to make an impact, but after the season City fans have endured, if he were to score the goals - or even goal - to secure their Championship survival, no one will care if he once played for Ipswich, Inverness Caledonian Thistle or Inter Milan.