Crook warns striker what he can expect

IAN Crook has warned Alan Lee what to expect at Portman Road in tomorrow's East Anglian derby (kick-off 12.45pm).

Elvin King

IAN Crook has warned Alan Lee what to expect at Portman Road in tomorrow's East Anglian derby (kick-off 12.45pm).

In the summer of 1996, Norwich City's current first-team coach almost joined Ipswich Town after being told he could leave Carrow Road after 10 years as a player.

He came to Portman Road to complete the deal, but the move backfired at the 11th hour.

“The next time I went back to Ipswich I was captain so mine was the first yellow shirt the crowd saw,” said Crook.

“As you can imagine, I got dog's abuse.”

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Lee will be a vital player for the Canaries tomorrow having been man of the match in Monday's home 2-0 win over Watford. He is on loan from Crystal Palace having left Town reluctantly last autumn.

Reflecting on his near miss with Ipswich, Crook said: “Along with my wife I decided to stay living in Norfolk.

“Although there were a few clubs interested I only talked to two - Ipswich and Peterborough.

“I think it was something to do with the paperwork in the end. Norwich wouldn't release my registration at the time and then Mike Walker came back to the Canaries and offered me the chance to stay.

“I certainly never wanted to leave Carrow Road and it's all water under the bridge now.”

Crook says that he would love to lace on the boots one final time tomorrow.

He relished his cross-border battles during an 11-year City playing career but admits the club's latest Portman Road date with destiny has assumed epic proportions.

“I know come 12.45pm tomorrow I'll wish I could strap them on again and play,” he said. “It's just the training before and after games I could do without nowadays.

“I always looked forward to these games as a player because it means so much to everyone. Supporters make local derbies. Maybe outside of Norfolk people don't think this is a big game but if you took it to Wembley it would fill it.”

Crook insists Bryan Gunn's squad are braced for an Ipswich onslaught as the Tractor Boys bid to push City a step closer to League One.

“I'm absolutely certain they will want to win 100%,” he said. “They might have nothing to play for in terms of where they are in the league but no player goes out just to go through the motions.

“Realistically, at this stage of the season if you're in mid-table then maybe just a little part of you can switch off - but not this game.”

And talking of Lee, Crook said: “He has been different class.

“I can't speak highly enough of him. Whatever he has I would like to bottle some of it. He just goes out every game and gives his all. It's something inside that makes him want to perform to his very maximum.

“You look at the likes of him and Gary Doherty and they're the ones you expect to stand up and lead from the front. Docs' has been like that ever since I came here. I'm sure Ipswich will also have their leaders but we have to match that and try to play the game, not the occasion.”

When Crook was living in Australia after his City playing days were over he used to watch the East Anglian derbies on TV.

“There's been a few positive and a few negative ones and I can remember a couple of years ago the 3-1 defeat at Ipswich when the lad Danny Haynes came off the bench to settle it.”