|Looking Forward to the East Anglian Derby?|
Written by TimS on Wednesday, 11th Feb 2015 11:03
Do you look forward to the East Anglian derby? I used to enjoy these matches and I have been to a few down the years at Portman Road and Carrow Road.
I used to believe that you could not become a ‘true’ Ipswich Town fan unless you had been to an East Anglian derby match, and I used to really enjoy the moment when Town handsomely beat Norwich, to an unreasonably personal extent.
My battles against Norwich continued off the pitch. Glaring at Darren Huckerby in Norwich’s St Stephen’s Street to the point that he disappeared into a nearby shop for cover was a personal highlight of my campaign. Darren Huckerby summed up everything that I despised about Norwich City Football Club, but looking back, I accept that I was being irrational at the time.
I would be lying if I suggested that Town have won every single derby match that I have seen down the years. There was a time when derby matches took place on Friday evenings. You would park at the Norfolk County Council offices near to Trowse and walk down to Carrow Road and a buzzing atmosphere.
When Norwich won the game, you would troop back to the car with a strong sense of disappointment. The A140 can be a dull road but struggling back through the Long Stratton queues after a derby defeat made this frustrating highway even worse. It may have been Canary green but the sight of the neon Asda sign at Goddard Road in Ipswich never felt more welcoming.
These Friday evening showdowns took place before the East Anglian derby became the ‘Old Farm Derby’, one of the most patronising titles in English football. The local media desperately bill these matches at the same level as the Old Firm derby, Man Utd v Man City, Arsenal v Tottenham or the Merseyside derby.
I was in East Anglia during the last derby when one Town caller to the local radio phone-in wailed about his nervous breakdown over his pre-match breakfast. It was a call that was straight out of the Alan Partridge school of local radio broadcasting. On the other side of the coin, the local police and local authorities have started to treat the derby match as the East Anglian version of the film Zulu.
Over the years, I have been to derby matches where Portman Road is lined with police offices and their extremely angry dogs. I accept that the dogs did not want to be there, preferring to be in front of a fire, but they could have been more welcoming. After leaving one derby match around 10 years ago, I saw a young Town fan of around five or six years old leave the Portman Stand with his dad and he was confronted with a police Alsatian. Frightened to the core by the snarling dog, the boy hid behind his dad’s legs. I wonder whether he ever returned to another football game.
At the start of another derby Sunday at Norwich station, the Norfolk Constabulary were uncompromising in their attitude that all football fans had to leave Norwich Station via the side entrance. On that particular day, I was heading into Norwich to watch the game with a friend of mine in a Norwich pub. Trying to get past the police and their dogs into the city, felt as if I was trying to cross the Berlin Wall from East into West Germany. I felt like a criminal for wanting to watch a football match. My enthusiasm for East Anglian derby matches began to dim. Life as a football fan had to be easier than this.
We can all reminisce about the derby games of our youth. There was a time when East Anglian derby matches took place on a Boxing Day or Easter Monday and the video of those matches shows Portman Road or Carrow Road crammed to the rafters.
However, we need to look forward to the next derby match on Sunday 1st March and good luck to the Town fans who are travelling to Norfolk. Once you have paid your £40 for one of only 2,000 tickets, you will be escorted by police outriders into Norfolk, if you decide to go via coach.
There are no designated away fans’ pubs in Norwich. You have got the real prospect of spending two hours in the away end of the stadium before the game. The supporters train leaves Norwich for Ipswich 20 minutes after the game. You have to hope that there is not too much stoppage time at the end of the second half.
I appreciate that the police and the local authorities have a difficult job to do on derby day. After the Easter 2011 derby, there appeared to be some arrests, but I turned 35 at the start of last month, and since 1980, I have yet to hear of anarchy on the streets of East Anglia either before, or after a derby match.
What I do hear is of Town fans wondering whether it is worth the aggravation and the hassle of bothering to attend a game, which is an experience whether good of bad. It is a sad state of affairs. The matchday experience is a big thing these days. I wish that some clubs would care more about the experience of fans.
The first game that I ever saw as a Town fan was a particularly memorable derby game in the 1990s, and I have not stopped watching football since. How many potential young Town fans will get into football as a result of going to an East Anglian Derby match? In this time when the Premier League is dominating people’s footballing minds and the Man United, Chelsea and Man City shirts are being worn on the school playing fields, it is important for Town to use the key games of the season to attract supporters.
A little bit of magic from East Anglian football is being lost as this match is turned into a test of patience and endurance, rather than a chance to cheer for merely local bragging rights.
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