And Another Thing
Four football fans in a round-(pub-)table discussion
For the March 2007 issue of FourFourTwo, we gathered fans of Norwich, Ipswich, Colchester and Southend. Make your own joke about the vehicles they left in the pub car park...
Are Colchester East Anglia’s best club?
Ipswich There’s still a long way to go, but fair play to them for what they’ve achieved. Ipswich fans see them as a little brother – you support them on sports day, give their hair a ruffle...
Southend I spent three years at university there, so I know they haven’t really got six fingers and two heads, but it’s not nice to see them doing well. Having won League Two ahead of them last season, I thought it’d be us doing OK and them struggling. Layer Road helps them: it’s a shock for big clubs to go to that dump – when they move they’ll struggle.
Colchester I’ve been supporting the U’s since relegation to the Conference; to be above Norwich and Ipswich was beyond our wildest dreams. But we’re not counting chickens; the main thing is to stay up. The media like to make out we batter teams at home, turn off the hot water, things like that, but teams are blown away by our good football. Jamie Cureton, for instance, isn’t physical – he’s simply a better player than others.
Norwich Why did we ever let Cureton go? He was the only decent player to come out of our youth team at the time and he’s scored wherever he’s been. It does stick in the throat to see him and Colchester doing well, but I think Norwich’s problem is that we’re still living in this post-Premiership glow. It’s time to get back to reality.
Seriously, which club is biggest?
Norwich On wealth and crowds, it’s got to be us. Ipswich go on about having a bigger stadium, but any team can build a 30,000-seater and go £30m in debt. We haven't; we’re gradually building up. We could do with another 5,000 seats but we’re doing things the right way and trying to stay debt-free.
Ipswich Well that was all bollocks. What have Norwich ever won? I was on a train with a Rangers fan and he wanted to know why we have a rivalry with them because they’re so irrelevant. Even the Scots know that Norwich have done nothing. We’ve had Alf Ramsey, Bobby Robson, won the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, the old First Division... even this season’s derby game. The game’s locked at 1-1 and who do Norwich bring on? Dion Dublin! We bring on Danny Haynes and he turns the game. He’s just another in a long line of players we’ve brought through, including Darren Bent and Kieron Dyer.
Norwich You’re being a little harsh on Dion, but it does beg the question ‘what is a big club?’ Trophies are irrelevant: it’s about potential, the catchment area and the size of crowds. We’ve consistently had bigger crowds.
Colchester They’re like a couple of washed-up former heavyweights who are so weak that they can’t even land a punch on each other!
So who’s the best lightweight?
Colchester We’re pretty much the same. They get bigger home gates, but you don’t know what a new stadium could do for us. We certainly haven’t got a superiority complex – although we’ve been above them more often than not during my lifetime, so I would say we edge it.
Southend How can you say that? You dropped into the Conference! As the only Essex clubs, there should be more needle between us, but we’ve only played each other regularly for the past three seasons. Saying that, we did win the League One title ahead of them...
Colchester The rivalry is growing, definitely. Since Southend cheated us out of an LDV Final appearance three years ago, there’s been a burning hatred towards them. Games are growing more intense and the more we play at the same level, the better for the area.
Do you irrationally hate any other club?
Norwich It’s definitely Wolves for us. There’s history since Kevin Muscat’s shocking tackle on Craig Bellamy in 1998 broke his leg. It turned into a bit of a free-for-all, with Muscat the main target. Then the play-off games escalated it. Molineux is one of those nasty places that no one likes to visit.
Colchester Wycombe. It dates back to when we were both 30 points clear in the Conference. We went up on goal difference, partly because our goalkeeper scored direct from a goal-kick against Wycombe, and it’s remained a needle game ever since. They’re bitter and jealous of us; I was one of the few who wanted to see them get hammered against Chelsea.
Southend Over the last two years, Yeovil. We had a big title fight with them a couple of years back and they won it at Roots Hall thanks to a Phil Jevons goal. We’ve also been beaten 3-0 and 4-0 down there, so it was sweet to beat them 4-1 and win the league.
Ipswich Sheffield United kept beating us in the play-offs; there was one game where Mauricio Taricco had a fight in the tunnel with Jan Aage Fjortoft. Then there’s Bolton; Sam Allardyce made a cock of himself when we beat them in the play-offs, saying the referee had already cost them that season, when it was proved he was getting mixed up with another official. Saying that, I’m pleased to see them trying to break the top four monopoly.
How do you think your club is perceived by the rest of the country?
Norwich People see us as this lovely little family club in the arse-end of nowhere, with Delia coming on the pitch half-cut, which hasn’t enhanced our reputation. I don’t think we’ve got any enemies, but sometimes that ‘nice’ tag doesn’t do us any favours.
Colchester Plucky underdogs battling against the odds. Some see us as a brute of a side but we’re probably admired for what we’re doing.
Southend I don’t think anyone knew we existed until we beat Manchester United in the Carling Cup! Freddy Eastwood put us on the map; he scored against United and grabbed the headlines, even though other players have performed just as well.
Ipswich We were everyone’s second favourite team in the Premiership and finishing fifth in our first season captured the imagination. There’s also the Tractor Boy thing. It started when Birmingham were beating us and sang ‘No noise from the Tractor Boys’ and it stuck.
Norwich We’re called the Budgies by Ipswich fans. I was quite surprised when the Tractor Boys thing started because if anything, we have more tractors up our way. When you think of farms, you think of Norwich.
Colchester And when you think of caravans, you think of Freddy Eastwood!
Would there be any point going up?
Colchester This time last year it would have been absurd to even think about it, but we’ve held our own, so of course it would be worth trying to go up again. We’re a prudent club, so wouldn’t over-extend ourselves and just enjoy the ride. It may be a one-season ride but ask any Watford fan and I bet they’re loving trips to Liverpool and Man United this season.
Norwich We were the last team to get relegated from the Premiership but in hindsight, we made it difficult for ourselves. Sheffield United and Reading have been far more positive than us; there were games when Nigel Worthington would rather settle for a point instead of taking a gamble and going for all three. But if you’re not striving to get back, then there’s no point in taking part at all.
Ipswich We broke the conception that if you go up, you’re coming straight back down. It’s all about team spirit and being coy in the transfer market. The following year, the turning point was selling James Scowcroft and bringing in Matteo Sereni, the keeper, for £6m! We signed Finidi George and team spirit was broken. A lot of fans wished David Sheepshanks had gone when the club went into administration but hopefully lessons have been learned.
Southend If you look where Wigan, Reading and Fulham have come from, they’re no bigger than Southend. You’ve got to have that dream. We’re happy to get in the Championship but now we’re here, we want to stay. We’ve got the right management team on and off the pitch, so with a new stadium hopefully going through, we’ll be able to kick on from there.
What’s the worst of the long away trips?
Ipswich Sunderland. In the Prem we lost 4-1 there on New Year’s Day – so you can imagine the trip back from that one! We have a really loud following away from home but at Portman Road it can be deckchair time. Everyone here would agree that Ipswich fans are fickle; even back to Sir Bobby’s time, when he would ask the crowd to get behind the team more.
Norwich Apart from the derbies, we don’t have an away trip shorter than two-and-a-half hours – thank God Tranmere aren’t in our league any more. Saying that, the worst two grounds I’ve ever been to are Luton and Southend. In defence of Roots Hall, it provides one of the best atmospheres but Luton is a shocking place.
Colchester Hartlepool and Blackpool are like trips to the end of the world, while Scunthorpe’s ground is the most horrible place on earth. However, U’s supporters who made the trip to Bedlington Terriers, when we lost there in the FA Cup in 1998, would no doubt say differently. They’re based north of Newcastle and having been seven or eight leagues above them, I can only imagine the long trip home.
Southend I’d agree Scunthorpe is a poor ground in a poor area, and Northampton is similar. I used to like Swansea’s Vetch Field – a tin shed ground, where you could stand up and there would always be a great atmosphere – even if the journey was a nightmare. When you see the new grounds like Leicester, Derby, Southampton, they’re all the same. Boring.
If you could sign one player from your rivals, who would it be?
Ipswich Dion Dublin! No, it would be Rob Earnshaw. I just can’t believe he’s still at Norwich. He’s a great goalscorer and didn’t really get a fair crack of the whip at West Brom in the Premiership. He’d be great for the young strikers we’ve got coming through – Billy Clarke could certainly learn a lot from him.
Norwich I’d lean towards the Colchester players because they’re better schooled. Jamie Cureton and Chris Iwelumo are a handful and have proved their worth at this level. If they didn’t fancy it, then it would have to be Freddy Eastwood – and there’s plenty of room for his caravan up in Norfolk!
Colchester I would have said Eastwood, but I’d prefer someone who can score at Championship level! We don’t need a replacement in central midfield at the moment but if we did then I’d go for Owen Garvan at Ipswich. He’s a class act and the fact he’s been injured for most of this season is the reason why Town are struggling.
Southend I’ll get lynched for this but I’d say Jamie Cureton. If we keep hold of Freddy Eastwood then it would make all the difference to have someone experienced alongside him. We had Shaun Goater last year, and the pair bounced off each other really well. I know Steve Tilson is a Cureton fan because he tried to sign him last season.
Do you any of your teams have celebrity fans of note?
Norwich Obviously there’s Delia! When she made that speech on the pitch it was embarrassing at the time, but it worked in our favour as we had T-shirts made and there’s even a chant. No-one will have a bad word to say about her because she puts her money where her mouth is. It’s not millions but she has helped out at key moments.
Ipswich That chant is pathetic and she is an embarrassment. She used to support Ipswich – have you not seen the photo of her at the 1978 FA Cup Final? We’ve got more rounded individuals like Bill Oddie and Griff Rhys Jones. Apparently...
Colchester If other clubs had someone as passionate as Delia on their board, they’d be doing much better. I think the criticism of her is part sexist, part jealousy. We get great publicity from having Steve Lamacq as our celeb fan. He played our Wembley track on his evening show, but apart from him the only celebrities we have at Layer Road are the other managers coming to watch our players.
Southend The comedian and ‘goalkeeper’ Terry Alderton. We once had a goalkeeping crisis where Darryl Flahavan was suspended and our reserve keeper was injured, so we ‘signed’ Terry – which was a great publicity coup as Sky turned up! Of course he was never going to play – we got Ryan Clarke in from Bristol Rovers – but to be fair to Terry he always mentions Southend in interviews and attends the fans’ days.
Finally, your optimism rating out of 10?
Southend Over the next five years it’s got to be a seven or eight. If we stay up we have that foundation and in Steve Tilson and Paul Brush we have a great management duo. A new ground would also be a massive fillip for the town. I think the 22,000 capacity that has been mentioned is a tad optimistic for us but with away crowds at this level, we won’t be another Darlington with an empty ground.
Colchester I’d give us a nine. We’re the best team in East Anglia, with an excellent board and a chairman who has performed miracles over the years. We also have a new backer, a manager who knows what he wants, a cracking youth set-up and a new stadium in a year’s time that will be fantastic. In 10 years we might be back in League Two but at the moment we’re loving the ride.
Ipswich An optimistic 10 out of 10. Southend are going to be relegated, the other two sides will start drifting, and in Jim Magilton and Bryan Klug we are building a team that will be back in the Premiership within three years.
Norwich I’d have to go for a very positive four. Earnshaw, Dublin and Darren Huckerby aside, this is one of the worst teams in living memory. Our entire back four is the quietest I’ve ever seen and in midfielders Andy Hughes and Paul Robinson we have two of the worst players ever seen at the club. This is not Peter Grant’s team, so the summer is going to be a crucial period for us.
Thanks to Ali and Tina Voy at Colchester ‘away pub’ The Maypole.
Interviews: March 2007
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