Anglian derby England's second greatest rivalry

SLEEPY Suffolk it may be, nod-off Norfolk possibly, but put the two together on match day and you have one of the most explosive derby matches in English football, and that is official, as football writer Derek Davis discovers.

Derek Davis

SLEEPY Suffolk it may be, nod-off Norfolk possibly, but put the two together on match day and you have one of the most explosive derby matches in English football, and that is official, as football writer Derek Davis discovers.

IT will come as no surprise to supporters of both Ipswich and Norwich supporters that their derby games are considered among the most intense in football.

Inter-city or inner city clashes are often considered the most volatile. Newcastle - Sunderland, Arsenal-Tottenham, Liverpool and Everton spring to mind but anyone experience the build up and coming together of two of the seemingly most genteel clubs in the country will tell you that the rivalry is as bitter as you will find anywhere.

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The Football Rivalries Report 2008 commissioned by the new football Pools, ranks the 'Old Farm' derby second behind West Brom and Wolves as the most fierce rivalry in the country.

Almost 6,000 fans were questioned in a census among the 92 clubs to identify who they thought were the biggest footballing rivalry and why.

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According to the survey it is the most reciprocated rivalry in the game with 99 per cent of fans from both clubs naming it.

To outsiders East Anglia is not seen as a hot-bed of football so why should the twice yearly meetings provoke such heartfelt emotion.

The report points to factors such as the amount of times they have met competitively, and Ipswich have played Norwich more times than any other team since first playing them just a day before the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939.

Over the past 16 seasons they have been in the same division for 13 of them and of the 25 games Ipswich have won nine and Norwich 11 although in all, Town have triumphed 38 times compared to City's 34.

Ipswich also have the bragging rights when it comes to the respective trophy cabinets. A Football League championship under Sir Alf Ramsey, an FA Cup and UEFA Cup compared to a pair of League Cup successes.

Added to that of course, and these things do matter, is Ipswich beat Norwich in the final of the Texaco Cup to take that prize.

The animosity probably stretches back to pre-Roman days when the Iceni tribes from the north (northern folk) battled against the southern folk.

At times the hostility has gone beyond banter and turned violent. In 1998 in what was dubbed the 'Battle of Burrell Road' Town fans tried to fight City supporters at the railway station after a Tuesday night game, forcing police to call for riot gear and then baton charge Ipswich supporters.

Since then most games have been played at lunch-time Sunday's with fear of fans clashing given as the reason by police.

Players switching from one club to another rarely do so successfully.

Andy Marshall, the most recent, was never truly accepted by Town fans, and Trevor Putney, the golden boy of Portman Road in the mid-80s was given a rough time at Carrow Road by sections of the crowd.

Joe Royle's spell as a player at Norwich went against him by some when he came to Ipswich as manager and even the Scouser, who has experienced derbies in Liverpool and Bristol, was amazed at the depth of hatred between two places 40 miles apart.

Doing well in a derby encounter can afford legend status as Fabian Wilnis has found after he famously, and accurately, predicted Norwich's downfall after a particularly eventful City win at Carrow Road on their way to promotion.

Alex Mathie would probably be able to walk into any Ipswich pub today and be bought a beer after scoring a hat-trick ten year's ago, a feat John Wark had managed 18 years earlier.

Although, Colchester is much nearer, few Town fans have any animosity towards The U's.

Colchester United against Southend came in at 29th, which is a little surprising as many U's fans consider Wycombe Wanderers as their most fierce rivals stemming from their time in the Conference together. A point made by Martin O'Neill when he was the Celtic boss and asked about the Old Firm derby.

For Ipswich and Norwich the rivalry will be renewed on April 13 at Portman Road in what could be crucial in terms of promotion points, and even more so for pride.

Top ten rivalries

1 West Bromwich Albion v Wolves

2 Ipswich v Norwich

3 Liverpool v Manchester United

4 Portsmouth v Southampton

5 Cardiff v Swansea

6 Aston Villa v Birmingham

7 Sheffield Utd v Sheffield Wed

8 Bristol City v Bristol Rovers

9 Newcastle v Sunderland

10 Brighton v Crystal Palace

Source: Football Rivalries Report 2008

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