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Opinion: Is the greatest Ipswich legend a Norwich player? Liz Nice relives derby day dramas ahead of Saturday’s clash between two East Anglian teams

11:08 19 August 2014

Norwich City goalkeeper Bryan Gunn distraught after Robert Ullathorne

Norwich City goalkeeper Bryan Gunn distraught after Robert Ullathorne's back pass bobbled over his foot and into the net against Ipswich in April 1996

In the first of our articles in the build-up to this weekend’s first Anglian derby game since 2011, Liz Nice looks back at her derby day memories - and one legendary air-kick.

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Last week, one of my sons (neither of whom supports Ipswich I am ashamed to say) received a new T-shirt from a (clearly deluded) well wisher.

It was yellow. With green edging.

They might as well have bought him Delia’s latest cookbook.

Delia, well, she’s a terribly nice woman, I’m sure, but a visceral reaction occurred within me.

I disliked the shirt on sight, perhaps even more so because it is the derby game on Saturday – note to outsiders, it’s the derby or the Norwich game.

It’s got nothing to do with an Old Farm and anyone who calls me a Tractor Girl could expect a pile of manure on their head if I only knew where to get some, which, coming from a Suffolk town, rather than a farm, I don’t.

I’m not quite as rabid about the derbies these days. I’m a sensible, middle-aged mother who even openly admits to loving Norwich (for shopping).

But if you’re a Town fan, Saturday’s game has a tasty whiff of possible revenge about it (after our previous two stuffings, I mean, slight defeats) and let’s face it, however grown up I become, on match day, the rivalry with our East Anglian cousins will never entirely go away.

I wouldn’t say it was a particularly friendly rivalry either.

I remember my first away match at Carrow Road on December 21st, 1992, when a journalist friend of mine, who supports the Sc…sorry, Norwich, thought it would be a good idea if we sat together.

In the home end.

“It will be like Liverpool and Everton,” he assured me. “You can even wear your scarf.”

Oh, the naivety of youth!

Let’s just say I celebrated our first goal in our 2-0 win. I did not even risk a tiny air punch for our second – and my scarf was hastily and very surreptitiously hidden in my bag.

By the way, I’ve since been to Anfield for the Mersey derby. I’ve been to friendlier exit interviews.

On another occasion, also at Norwich, my car was defaced (fortunately not permanently) by hilarious Norwich fans writing 1-0 all over it after our defeat the following year. I no longer have Ipswich Town stickers all over my car.

Just in case.

Apparently we have played each other 93 times, winning 40, drawing 17 and losing 36 but I genuinely don’t remember many defeats – naturally I have erased the 5-1 and the 4-1 of our last two meetings from my mind entirely. (Apart from when I mentioned them earlier, obviously).

I admit I do occasionally have nightmares of Craig Bellamy scoring into Churchman’s during a rare 1-0 triumph for them in 1998.

This was moments before my other half had identified Bellamy as their ‘key man’.

We discovered over several years that as soon as this expression was used by him to describe an opposition player, they would always score.

Fortunately, he has now stopped this irritating habit and thus remains my other half.

Sometimes, when I look back on our 20 year relationship, I realise that one of the biggest things that binds us together (our children aside, naturally) is our shared experience of Norwich derbies.

To us, Gary Megson has legendary status, thanks to his last minute own goal in our 2-1 triumph in 1993.

In times of trial, we only have to look at each other and say the word ‘Alex Mathie’ and all is calm again as blissful memories of his hat trick in our 5-0 demolition in 1998 spring joyously to mind.

Fabian Wilnis is another favourite of ours, partly because he came and sat in the crowd with us at Burnley, partly because of that goal against Manchester United, but especially because he’s a blue, he’s a blue and he hates… Well, I’m sure he doesn’t really, but it was a very good song.

And of course the very best derby moment is the one I am sure will flash before my eyes on my deathbed, for never have I laughed so much in my entire life, nor enjoyed myself more.

It should have been a simple back pass in the 86th minute at 1-1 and I’m sure that is what Robert Ullathorne has told himself a hundred thousand times since.

But he really shouldn’t beat himself up for he has given Town fans more pleasure than a considerable number of our own players, perhaps up there even with Jim Magilton when he scored the last minute equaliser against Bolton in the play off semi final which finally helped to get us to Wembley in the Millennium year.

So, with hindsight, perhaps I shall let my son wear his new yellow and green T-shirt after all.

Maybe he should even wear it on Saturday?

Because whenever I look at it, I will remember an air kick, a hopeless expression and the extraordinarily satisfying combination of hysterical laughter and cheering that engulfed Portman Road one glorious April day in 1996.

Whatever the result on Saturday, may the T-shirt be a lasting reminder of the Ipswich legend that is, indeed, Bryan Gunn.

What are your best derby day memories? Email us and let us know

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13 comments

  • Fair point, John. I'm not a fan of the drums myself. Especially if it means true fans like yourself are put off going to the match at all.

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    Liz Nice

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