East Anglian Derby hostilities resume on Sunday with the clubs separated by a single point in the embryonic Championship standings. Andrew Lawn chats to Turnstile Blues' Gavin Barber about Japanese trains, frozen cheesecakes and some Suffolk sniffiness at a our new 'Continental' approach.
Andrew – So how do you think the season has started? As outsiders looking in, many predicted a possible relegation scrap for you this season, but you started like a train.
Gavin - We started like a Japanese bullet train but have since slowed to the more familiar pace of a Greater Anglia rail replacement bus. New strikers have meant we’re more of a goal threat than we have been in previous recent seasons, but shortcomings in midfield and defence remain apparent. It’d be great to be so swashbuckling that we could concede a few goals in the confidence that we’d score more (which seemed to be the case when we won 4-3 at Millwall in August) but we’re not good enough to do that against the better teams in the division
That Millwall game seemed to sum up your start, as you took every chance that came your way, but equally never looked secure. Alongside the 3-2 defeat at Leeds and 5-2 home win over Sunderland, entertainment hasn't been in short supply, so what's happened to the old Mick McCarthy solidity?
I think we’ve been entertaining in spite of Mick rather than because of him. That’s not meant as a criticism (although some Town fans would mean it negatively).
The simple fact is that we haven’t had the resources to be solid. Full-back has been a problem area for years: we’ve got some willing runners but not the most solid. We’ve missed Adam Webster in the centre of defence too.
Moving on to Sunday, is full-back where we should be looking to get at you? We have a penchant this season for not using much width and preferring to pick holes with patient triangles just outside the 18-yard box. Deny us any time there and we struggle.
It partly depends on whether Mick plays 3 at the back. If he does then it’s likely to leave some holes in wide areas which Norwich could exploit.
We’re not short of midfielders who can break up play on the edge of our own penalty area, so if that’s the approach that Norwich take it could lead to (yet another) stalemate on Sunday.
I would have to agree, I think 0-0 or 1-1 seems most likely, although since that shellacking at Millwall we've won 3 on the bounce away from home, all by the odd goal. It's almost role-reversal from last season, in that we're now the dogged pragmatic side, and you're the entertainers. What's been the perception of City and our new approach south of the border?
There’s been some sniffiness at Norwich going all fancy and continental in their new coaching set-up: including from Ipswich’s Chief Executive, which was always going to be an ill-advised move. As my friend Steve pointed out at the time, this can be translated as “the owner gets his advice from people who know how football worked in the 1980s” (Marcus Evans is chums with Harry Redknapp).
Most Ipswich fans are probably surprised that Norwich haven’t done better since relegation, given the players you’ve got and the parachute money available.
Most Norwich fans are surprised too, there was (maybe still is in places) a feeling, not unlike entitlement, that we should be top 2 by default. The board have pleaded for patience with the new approach and that was already beginning to wear thin after Millwall and Villa, but those aforementioned 3 away wins, coupled with Saturday's last gasp (albeit deserved) leveller, has seen a semblance of feel-good-factor return.
How about the atmosphere there, did your start re-ignite slumbering passions, or does Portman Road remain a place where passions have been chilled to the level of a frozen cheesecake?
A few flying cheesecakes on matchday would certainly liven things up.
There was a celebratory feel at the Sunderland game, but the cumulative effect of stagnation under Marcus Evans really bit this summer when it came to season ticket renewals. Last season was particularly turgid, and that, combined with some disastrous decisions about season ticket pricing was the final straw for many, and attendances are down.
There will be some excitement and edge at the start of Sunday’s game, but if things go badly it could go toxic quite quickly.
Fingers crossed we start fast then and then resume our recent away knack of pissing everybody off with some Grade A shithousing. A Mick McCarthy version of the Chris Wilder bus driver rant would be most enjoyable for those of a yellow and green persuasion.
Finally, how do you see it going? I'd take a point right now and move on, you?
I would definitely take a point. I think fear has taken over the last few derbies hence the proliferation of draws. 1-1 feels about right to me. Again. I don’t think you’ll get any rants out of Mick by the way. His pragmatism extends to post-match - a source of frustration to some Town fans. But Mick is the symptom of our problems, not the cause.
What is the cause? Marcus Evans? Your future seems very up in the air, what happens next and to quote every job interview ever, where do you see yourselves in 5 years’ time?
We’ve been in this division for 15 years, and Marcus Evans has been in charge for 10 of them, racking up debt throughout that time. Nobody can really work out what his plan is. It would help if he was more visible and would engage with supporters directly. Even if he’s telling us what we might not want to hear, it would be more reassuring to hear it from the owner rather than his minions, or from articles in the programme.
In 5 years’ time, I see us being owned by someone who’s driven a merciless deal with Evans to take on the debt, and one can only speculate about what that person’s aims for the club might be…
While you're here...
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