Ipswich Town. The Tractor Boys. The pride of Suffolk. Former Division One title winners (1961-62), FA Cup winners, and most famously UEFA Cup winners in the 80’s. Formerly managed by such famous footballing personalities as Sir Bobby Robson and World Cup winning England manager Sir Alf Ramsey. The stadium, Portman Road, can play host to 30, 000 people and has even previously hosted an England international.
In more recent years, the club were promoted to the Premier League via the playoffs in 2000 and astonished everybody by finishing 5th in the league the following season. Last season they reached the Carling Cup semi-finals and even recorded a first leg victory at home to Arsenal.
Today, managed by Paul Jewell, the club have been earmarked by many to be Championship promotion candidates after a string of good business in the summer months. At the time of writing they’ve only contested three Championship games, and despite losing two of them (a Hull City side with a brilliant away record and a scarily in-from Southampton side), they still look like they’ll at least push for the top six this coming season. With Michael Chopra leading the line up front as a proven source of goals, Town definitely shouldn’t be overlooked. I, for one, would be delighted to see them regain their status as a Premiership club.
And, I’m a Norwich City fan.
Fear not, for a switcheroo to the darkside isn’t on the cards here. There’s no danger of a shift in loyalties. I don’t have any family ties with Ipswich. I wouldn’t ever visit the Suffolk capital unless I absolutely had to (I.e, an East Anglian derby) and I much, much prefer our colourful and vibrant yellow and green to their blue and white.
But I still want to see them promoted. Why in the bluest of blue hells would a devoted Norwich fan ask for such an occurrence?
It’s really quite simple. The East Anglian derby. The Old Farm derby. I want to see Norwich City vs Ipswich Town do battle again, and I want to see it where it belongs: The best league in the world. Arsenal vs Tottenham, Liverpool vs Everton, Manchester City vs Manchester United, Newcastle vs Sunderland, Wigan Athletic vs Bolton Wanderers.
Apart from that last fixture, included just to make sure you’re paying attention, those derbies are all fixtures on the footballing calender that the public look forward to, whether they root for those particular teams or not. The atmospheres are more fiery with the supporters pride at stake, the coverage heightened as well as tempers, great rivalries coming together and giving us plenty of talking points about the beautiful game and lots of good banter to boot.
But in this glorious part of the world, there’s only one derby that matters above all others – Norwich vs Ipswich.
The last time the fixtures at Carrow Road and Portman Road were contested was last season, with Norwich running out 4-1 and 5-1 winners respectively, as we’re all to quick to remind our neighbours across the A140. But the last time this fixture was contested in the Premiership dates back to the 1994/95 campaign, a horrid season for both clubs which saw them both relegated. On that day, Norwich were the victors in the Fine City (Trademark Stephen Fry), besting their old foes 3-0 with goals coming from Jamie Cureton, Ashley Ward and Darren Eadie.
While we Canaries will make the obvious jokes about bagging an easy 6 points against them should they rejoin us in the top flight, the Tractor Boys will be all too keen to gain some revenge after the scorelines they suffered last season in the Championship. Chances are likely that even if Norwich stay up this season and Town do gain promotion, the games could become crucial bottom of the table clashes. Truth is, there may not be enough room for both to stay in the division at all. One may go as far as to lift the rivalry to new heights be sending the other back to the Championship.
While the ‘old farm’ name often crops up, and our derbies don’t nearly have the stadia to facilitate some of the other attendances Premiership derbies can muster, I can assure you it means just as much to us as it would mean to say, a Rangers or Celtic fan when the two biggest clubs in Scotland go toe to toe. It’s a fierce rivalry and we do share a real hatred for one another.
All the same, I’ll miss playing them this season, just as I did two seasons ago in League One. But if Town do get promoted it’ll be good for the East Anglia area and good for football in general, giving them another good derby game to look forward to. It deserves to be a Premier League derby and I hope that in the not to distant future, it will become so.
After all, we’ll need the six extra points!
By Nick Sellers – Norwich City fan – @Nick_Sellers