Town showed City meaning of word team'

RICK WAGHORN There was a very telling moment in an interview with Zesh Rehman after Sunday's east Anglian derby. Don't get me wrong - this is no slur on Rehman. He looked a class act - particularly given that his last competitive first-team outing for Fulham was at the end of October.


There was a very telling moment in an interview with Zesh Rehman after Sunday's east Anglian derby. Don't get me wrong - this is no slur on Rehman.

He looked a class act - particularly given that his last competitive first-team outing for Fulham was at the end of October.

In between time, presumably, he'd been doing the rounds of the Barclays Premiership Reserve League, with the chance to hone his match skills against the kids from Easton College as City's wretched injury record ripped reserve team boss Keith Webb's playing resources to pieces.

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“At the end of the day, it's about the three points,” was his response to a gentle question about how well his City debut had gone.

Again, I'm not having a pop at Rehman. Given the fact that he's been at the club less than a week, it is hard - if not impossible - for him to actually assimilate all what a Norwich-Ipswich derby means to every football punter north and south of the border in the space of six or seven days.

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I might be wrong, but I doubt there's anyone at Colney whose job it is to sit down with this great derby scrapbook and run through Steve Bruce's header, Keith Bertschin's winner or Jamie Cureton's green hair day with either Rehman, Jonatan Johansson or Rob Earnshaw.

For that's one of the biggest charges laid against the players' door - that they weren't up for it. It was passionless. This is Ipswich, for goodness sake. Get into them!

It was interesting that the two people who did show the kind of passion that people expect on derby day were those who have been in this neck of the woods the longest. They realised what beating Ipswich really means.

Robert Green turned in, arguably, one of his best performances of the season in among the shambles. But he did more than that. He flattened Danny Haynes without too much ceremony and gave the visiting Ipswich fans a spot of baiting - even if they enjoyed the last laugh.

Likewise, club skipper Craig Fleming managed to earn himself a yellow card for any number of indiscretions, including a kind of karate kick on one of the Town youngsters.

The point is that in the world where players tend to change clubs as often as they do their cars, understanding what a derby actually means is becoming increasingly rare. And, in a way, that's not the players' fault. Why should they? It's just another three points . . .

For the kids who were in opposition, they knew exactly what Sunday's game meant. After all, they'd been locking horns with the old enemy since they were nine years old as they progressed up Town's Academy ladder and twice a season pitted their wits against the old enemy up the road. Whether that be David Williams' Under-14s, Keith Webb's reserves or now Nigel Worthington's first team, the excellent Owen Garvan and friends know, exactly, what a derby means - hence Danny Haynes' wild celebrations at the end.

And that, in many ways, brings us to the second big point to emerge out of Sunday's shambles - the fact that virtually from first minute to last there was only ever one team in it.

Ipswich ping, ping, pinged the ball about all morning because that's what Brian Klug has had them doing since they first arrived at his Academy door.

Garvan, Haynes and Scott Barron have been playing triangles together for fun for years. It's called a team. There's a set pattern of play that - given the scant resources at his disposal - Town boss Joe Royle has little choice but to use.

The biggest problem now facing Nigel Worthington as the hordes head back towards his door is that he now has an almost overwhelming array of choices in front of him; from systems, to players, to philosophies - the City chief is almost overwhelmed by possibilities.

Arguabaly, the biggest challenge of his managerial career awaits as he and his coaching team try to bolt together a winning formula from the options available and - and this is the crucial bit - keep the dressing room onside as you tinker here and tamper there, trying to decide what your City first team is actually going to look like in August, 2006, and the start of next season.

The really, really tricky part is working out whose name you put on that teamsheet first now that Rob Earnshaw is in town. With a £2.75 million price tag and the wages to match, the Welsh international has to start. And we all know that if you put the ball on his foot in the penalty area, he'll score. Put the ball a yard behind the centre-half and, granted a clean run on goal, he'll more than likely score.

All of which means that the front two-thirds of the team has to be built around that aim. When it comes to setting up the next Norwich team, that has to be your starting point. If you take a flat back four as read, how do build your front line and midfield around Earnshaw? With all the bodies and all the styles now available - and you may yet have Leon McKenzie back before Easter - how do you get a system that both serves Earnshaw and keeps the dressing room intact if, for example, there's no room at the inn for Johnny X or Billy Y under “Plan Earnie”?

That's the fascinating bit. That's the gauntlet that now lies at Worthington's feet. You've found the players - now find the team.

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