Norwich City v Ipswich Town: Rivals meet in East Anglian derby amid backdrop of contrasting fortunes

Felix Keith
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Leeds United v Norwich City - Sky Bet Championship
Norwich are top of the Championship following their 3-1 win over Leeds (Source: Getty)

It’s not often that a derby comes around with two sides in such opposing circumstances as Norwich City and Ipswich Town.

The East Anglian derby arrives on Sunday with Norwich flying high at the top of the Championship, boasting one league defeat in four months. Local rivals Ipswich, meanwhile, are 23 places and 39 points worse off, sitting eight points adrift at the bottom having won just three of their 30 league matches.

Unsurprisingly, the stories of the two rivals’ seasons are just as contrasting.

Having finished an unremarkable 14th last campaign and sold top-scorer James Maddison to Leicester, nobody was expecting Norwich to pull up trees this year.

But despite the mediocre previous season and tight wage budget, the Canaries have set about implementing a clear methodology to climb the table.

The plan comes from the top of the club, where sporting director Stuart Webber operates. When he arrived in April 2017 Webber followed the pattern of success he enjoyed at previous club Huddersfield: he went to the same place he found ex-Terriers boss David Wagner, hiring Daniel Farke from Borussia Dortmund’s second team.

After an acclimatising first season, Farke has now established himself and stamped his style and personality on the Norwich squad.

Big earners were jettisoned, foreign gems unearthed and academy players promoted to create a blend which finds itself top of the pile following a 3-1 win over promotion rivals Leeds on Saturday.

Full-backs Max Aarons and Jamal Lewis and midfielder Todd Cantwell have come through the ranks. Top-scorer Teemu Pukki, a free transfer from Brondby, and creative midfielder Emiliano Buendia, a £1.5m find from Getafe, have genuine Moneyball claims, while Farke has also brought in six little-known players from his home country.

While many recently relegated Premier League sides opt to splash big money in search of a return to the promised land, Farke takes pride in doing things the hard way.

“We know we are a surprise and other clubs are a bigger favourite to be top of the league, but we try to be there with our strengths,” he said last week.

“We know for many we are perhaps over-achieving and that is good. Let’s not go for realistic targets, let’s try to create something extraordinary.”

Extraordinary in the positive sense is something Ipswich are a long way off. It could hardly be going worse for the Tractor Boys, who after 14 consecutive seasons of mid-table comfort and flirting with the play-offs, are sliding inexorably towards the trap door to the third tier.

What makes their plight even more enjoyable for Norwich is that it’s being presided over by former Canaries boss Paul Lambert, who led them to back-to-back promotions from 2009 to 2011.

Lambert took over from Paul Hurst at the end of October, but with 11 defeats from 16 games since he has already seemingly readied himself for what is becoming the inevitable, promising to stay on if they are relegated.

The Scot would surely love to pick up just his third league win for Ipswich at the site of his former glories. But considering Town haven’t beaten their East Anglian rivals since 2009 – a run of 11 games without victory – the prevailing trend looks set to continue at Carrow Road on Sunday.