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North Stander: Who really is the bigger club - Ipswich Town or Norwich City?

PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 May 2020 | UPDATED: 09:26 06 May 2020

Which club is bigger - IpswichTown or Norwich City? Terry Hunt and David Lees disagree - as you'd expect! Picture: ARCHANT

Which club is bigger - IpswichTown or Norwich City? Terry Hunt and David Lees disagree - as you'd expect! Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Former Norwich City favourite Nelson Oliveira was up to his old tricks again last week, suggesting that the Canaries ‘will always be a bigger club’ than Ipswich. But is he right? North Stander Terry Hunt and Norwich fan David Lees debate the long-standing argument...

Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills, left, and Roger Osborne, who scored the winning goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley, hold aloft the trophy as they arrive at Ipswich Town Hall. They are attending a civic reception in honour of their victory over Arsenal in May 1978Ipswich Town captain Mick Mills, left, and Roger Osborne, who scored the winning goal against Arsenal in the FA Cup final at Wembley, hold aloft the trophy as they arrive at Ipswich Town Hall. They are attending a civic reception in honour of their victory over Arsenal in May 1978

Oliveira, who previously said Norwich were a ‘better club’ with ‘better players’ before a derby in 2017, made the latest comments in an interview with Reading fan site The Tilehurst End.

He scored for the Royals at Portman Road while on loan with Reading in the Championship last season, and promptly celebrated in front of Town fans.

The Portugal international said: “I never had an easy relationship with Ipswich fans. One time playing for Norwich I said that we should win the derby because Norwich is a bigger club. Maybe I didn’t look at the stories of both clubs, as I know Ipswich is also a god club.

“But I still think Norwich is bigger. I have love for the people of Norwich and for the fans.

Ipswich players celebrate their famous FA Cup win back in 1978Ipswich players celebrate their famous FA Cup win back in 1978

“In my opinion, Norwich will always be a much bigger club than Ipswich. So when I scored that goal, my yellow and green heart came through.”

So, who is bigger?

Ipswich, says Terry Hunt, former EADT and Star editor, and a Town fan for more than 50 years

Mick Mills and Frans Thijssen celebrate winning the UEFA Cup with Ipswich Town in 1981Mick Mills and Frans Thijssen celebrate winning the UEFA Cup with Ipswich Town in 1981

I see our old friend Nelson Oliveira has again been stirring up the debate about which is the bigger club - Ipswich or Norwich.

Last time the ex-Canary did this, I resisted the temptation to wade into the argument, but on this occasion I can’t leave it alone.

Oliveira says his former employers Norwich “will always be the bigger club” when it comes to comparisons between the two East Anglian rivals.

That’s a big, sweeping statement. What does “bigger” mean? Well, if it’s all about who is more successful at the moment, then there’s no contest. After all, Norwich are two divisions above Ipswich.

Bobby Robson with the UEFA Cup. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FCBobby Robson with the UEFA Cup. Picture: IPSWICH TOWN FC

If it’s about recent history, then the Canaries again win the argument hands down. It’s now 11 sorry seasons since Ipswich last tasted victory against Norwich.

Currently, Norwich attract bigger home crowds, and their finances are healthier than ours - although the current crisis will have a big impact on them.

So, if we just restrict the argument to the present day and the last decade or so, then there is absolutely no doubt that Norwich have been far more successful.

But surely the question about which is the “bigger club” involves so much more than that? I would argue that the debate also has to encompass the comparative histories of each club. Because what a club has achieved in the past has a big part to play in how it is regarded in the footballing world.

Fabian Wilnis celebrates his goal in the draw with Manchester United in 2000 - Town finished fifth in the Premier League after winning promotionFabian Wilnis celebrates his goal in the draw with Manchester United in 2000 - Town finished fifth in the Premier League after winning promotion

Let’s take a comparison which doesn’t involve Ipswich or Norwich. Which would you say is the bigger club - Bournemouth or Leeds?

If it’s all about the present, and the recent past, then it has to be Bournemouth. But surely all football fans would say that’s nonsense - because of Leeds’ rich history. League titles, cup triumphs, European seasons, iconic players. What can Bournemouth offer in comparison?

The same argument applies to Ipswich v Norwich.

What a proud history Town have. A league title, an FA Cup, a European title. England’s two greatest managers in the soccer knights Sir Alf and Sir Bobby.

Norwich celebrate with the Milk Cup in 1985Norwich celebrate with the Milk Cup in 1985

No fewer than 12 seasons of European football, a glorious unbeaten home record in European competition, incredibly stretching to 31 games, including mighty opponents such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Inter Milan.

Ipswich can also boast a plethora of international stars, and an England World Cup captain in Mick Mills.

What have Norwich done in comparison? I always have a giggle at the “honours board” in their match day programme which, without wishing to be cruel, is just embarrassing.

They proudly include the fact that they took part in the UEFA Cup in 1993-94 as, wait for it, “participants.” Equally embarrassingly, they actually celebrated the 25th anniversary of their UEFA Cup victory over Bayern Munich. Yes, it was a very good result - but to be celebrating it a quarter of a century later? Ipswich would have an anniversary most months!

Ruel Fox (right) pursues Jeremy Goss, after the Wales international scored his memorable volley at Bayern Munich in the 1993-94 UEFA Cup.Ruel Fox (right) pursues Jeremy Goss, after the Wales international scored his memorable volley at Bayern Munich in the 1993-94 UEFA Cup.

So, what exactly have our friends from the north won? Well, it amounts to a grand total of two League Cups. The first came in 1962 when the competition was even more of a Mickey Mouse tournament than it is now. They beat mighty Rochdale, at a time when most big clubs didn’t even bother entering.

The second triumph came against Sunderland in 1985, when the competition was glamorously entitled the Milk Cup. Their victory came courtesy of an own goal from Gordon Chisholm.

Errr...that’s about it. What Norwich so painfully lack - and Ipswich have tons of - is pedigree. The Canaries didn’t play their first season in the top flight until the early 1970s, by which time Town had been there, done that, and won the league title.

Ipswich will be forever associated with two of the greatest football managers of all time, in Sir Alf and Sir Bobby. Their statues stand proudly at the ground.

Norwich celebrate promotion to the Premier League - they have dominated the Anglian derby in the last decade Picture: PA SPORTNorwich celebrate promotion to the Premier League - they have dominated the Anglian derby in the last decade Picture: PA SPORT

Whenever I visit far-flung corners of Europe, and mention that I come from Ipswich, a flash of recognition is followed by: “Ipswich? Bobby Robson?” I wouldn’t mind betting a mention of Norwich City doesn’t produce the same response.

Sadly, and painfully, over the last decade or two, Norwich have been far more successful. They are a well-run club and they have done well. Ipswich could learn many lessons.

But that doesn’t make Norwich a “bigger club.” That accolade belongs firmly to Ipswich Town - the club with a rich, glorious history. The club of Ramsey, and Robson, the League Championship in 1962, the FA Cup in 1978, and the UEFA Cup in 1981.

Sorry, Mr. Oliveira - until your old club can equal that kind of glorious history, they will never be able to consider themselves a “bigger”” club than Ipswich.

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Norwich, says David Lees, a Canaries fan who used to live in Suffolk but is now based in Oxfordshire

Nelson Oliviera’s comment that Norwich will always be a bigger club than Ipswich, struck a real chord. Not surprising perhaps, as a lifelong City fan living in the Thames Valley, whose nearest league club is Reading, another of Oliveira’s old clubs. Oliveira is 29 this year, and over his lifetime, there can be no argument with his summary.

I do not decry the proud history of ITFC, with League, Cup and European triumphs. Along with Burnley in the 60’s and 70’s, Ipswich represented the archetypal small town team made good. Terry describes it as a ‘glorious history’, but it is just that – history!

In 1986, the clubs swapped divisions, with Norwich promoted to the top tier as Ipswich were relegated. Consider their relative achievements since then, a little matter of 34 seasons.

Ipswich spent five of those in the top division, with a peak of 16th excluding their remarkable fifth place in 2001. In the same period, Norwich have dined at the top table for 15 seasons.

The peak was obviously finishing third in the first season of the Premier League in 1993, which led to their beating Bayern Munich in the UEFA Cup the following year. Nor was that an isolated success, as Norwich finished in the top five on two other occasions, being excluded from Europe by the Heysel ban.

In terms of Cup competitions, Ipswich can point to just a League Cup semi-final, and then what? Oh yes, a quarter-final of the Anglo Italian Cup in 1995! Norwich have twice reached the semi-final of the FA Cup, and who knows, this season could be a third, if we ever get back to playing football.

Terry writes: “If we restrict the argument to the last decade or so, there is no doubt Norwich have been far more successful.”

True, not just for one decade, but for 35 years. That’s longer than many of your readers have been alive! You can hardly criticise Mr. Oliveira for his views, when he’s nowhere near old enough to remember when Ipswich were a good side...


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