Michael Bailey: What has the new broom pushed under Town’s carpet?
PUBLISHED: 09:11 31 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:11 31 August 2018
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In his weekly column, Norwich City correspondent and PinkUn Show host Michael Bailey looks ahead to THAT match... the East Anglian derby
They were worried, even then. No more than a handful of days before a crucial Wembley play-off final and you could tell they expected the worst.
On the flip side, it felt like only a slightly surreal potential irony that I was busily asking questions about Ben Godfrey and Carlton Morris, to the man that would soon become the new Ipswich Town boss.
It’s notable that for a lot of summer fall-out, both the Blues and Shrewsbury Town in League One remain winless since.
There has been a remarkable excitement from a lot of fans down south at the arrival of Paul Hurst – or perhaps that should just be, the arrival of someone who wasn’t a tall Yorkshireman.
Chris Sutton will know exactly how that feels. He was busy fielding a call at the weekend on BBC 5 Live, from an Ipswich fan that was willing to take a relegation campaign under their new manager – simply for the want of more entertaining football and a new face in charge.
In any case, that is a remarkable desire to admit. And yes, I’m assuming he wasn’t a Norwich City fan playing a prank.
The argument that Town fans should have been careful what they wished for still sits on tricky ground, given Mick McCarthy’s time had been up long before he told his own fans to go forth and multiply at Carrow Road – once his side took a late lead last season, no less.
And yet, Norwich fans shouldn’t expect to come up against a side too much removed from Mick’s sizeable shadow.
Only Bolton and Birmingham have won more aerial duels.
Only Birmingham, Millwall and Rotherham have a worse pass completion rate.
Only Blackburn (88 per game) have hit more long balls this season, while Leeds, Brentford and Derby are those to top City’s 388 short passes per match.
And Norwich have scored twice as many goals in their opening five games – as both sides try to work out how to make progress after selling all of last season’s scoring talent.
There’s no denying the new era that comes with this first East Anglian derby of the season. There is now a generation of Ipswich fans that has never tasted success over their arch enemy – and that still feels so alien to write, given there were too many times when ‘I feel good’ worked its way on to the Portman Road PA and the Ipswich fans behind each goal managed to get on the pitch in forbidden celebration.
It always perplexed me how the stewards just sat and watched – probably as much as 6am licences being awarded for a Sunday lunchtime kick-off, pencilled in so early to avoid any trouble and excessive drinking.
There’s no doubting it is a new era at Ipswich Town – nor that City fans enjoyed the old one so much, they don’t want it to change for anything else.
Indeed, the last game before the first international break in the last two years has not been an easy ride.
Two years ago, City’s 3-0 defeat at Birmingham was the first key hint Alex Neil’s Championship return was not going to be plain sailing – while last year’s Millwall hammering was a reference point for the entire campaign.
Both games provided a long two weeks of deep reflection.
This time around, it’s questionable whether those City fans that suffered a painful wound from home defeat to in-form Leeds United will have the stomach for a defeat at Portman Road – and two weeks to stew on it.
And yet, these are conflicted times – as eloquently put by Along Come Norwich’s Tom Parsley on this week’s PinkUn Show. Because for every gulp at just four wins in 20 games is a perceived willingness for it to work.
For all the rightful acclaim at Marcelo Bielsa turning the same Leeds team that underachieved so badly last season into genuine title contenders this term – should follow the fact he’s been spared the need to gel a whole new squad.
Just four of Norwich’s starters in Wes Hoolahan’s final game last season started on Saturday.
Leeds had seven – plus one on the bench, and in Liam Cooper, a ninth who missed out only through a midweek injury.
City’s performance in Cardiff offered genuine energy – the sort that should permeate the rest of the squad ahead of Sunday’s Suffolk kick-off.
Likewise, their defeat to Leeds will have hurt. The chats were long, honest and deep following such a futile collapse.
But while the fear of a run ending will probably rest on most fans’ shoulders, it could yet be the opportunity to prove a point and some people wrong that provides the strongest driver on Sunday.
And as is always the case, there is never a better opportunity than against your nearest and dearest.
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