Town must win - and they will
JOHN Wark knows a thing or two about East Anglian derbies.More than any other player, in fact, since he holds a twin record that might never be broken.
By Mel Henderson
JOHN Wark knows a thing or two about East Anglian derbies.
More than any other player, in fact, since he holds a twin record that might never be broken.
The 49-year-old Ipswich legend has played in more derby games - and scored more goals in them - than anyone else.
Wark also belongs to a fairly exclusive club, comprising just three Town players to have picked up red cards in games against Norwich.
It hardly seems fair, however, to bracket one of the all-time greats alongside Drissa Diallo and Sito, who were also dismissed in derby games, although it is only right to point out that in the Spaniard's case the red card was later rescinded.
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So what does ex-Scotland star Wark, whose nine-goal derby tally includes a hat-trick against the Canaries at Portman Road in 1980, make of the current batch?
Now a match-day host in the club's Galleria Restaurant, he has seen all Town's home matches this season and is hoping that pal Jim Magilton's team get it right at the weekend.
But Wark warned: “They have to win this game for it to be a good result. A draw won't be good enough in my opinion and a defeat - well, that doesn't really bear thinking about.
“I want Town to win, move up the table and start looking towards the play-off places. If they lose I will be more concerned about them slipping a bit too close for comfort to the relegation zone.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they can win it, but they will have to recapture the form that saw Luton thrashed 5-0 last month rather than play the way they did against Sheffield Wednesday last week, for example.”
Wark was recruited by Magilton - the pair first met when they were on the Liverpool staff in the mid-80s - last summer to assist in a part-time coaching role.
The idea was for Wark, who netted 179 goals in his 679 appearances for the club, to work with the Town players on the art of finishing.
But he explained: “I haven't had a chance to do anything yet. I've had a series of niggling injuries and just haven't been able to get out on the training ground with them.”
Turning his attention to Sunday's live-on-Sky clash, Wark will feel far happier about Town's chances if 18-year-old Billy Clarke is passed fit to play.
Wark added: “Billy can add so much to the side. He has the ability and the pace to really stretch defences, as we have seen on more than one occasion this season.
“Norwich have just won two games against Sunderland and West Brom, and kept a clean sheet in both of them, so they will be coming here full of confidence.
“They have big Dion Dublin playing at the back and from all accounts he has been in excellent form. But he's older than me isn't he?
“Seriously, though, if teams just pump high balls into the Norwich box he will stand there all day and head them clear. I'd like to see him given a bit more to worry about.
“Ask any defender and they will tell you they don't enjoy facing up to smaller, nippier forwards like Billy. Town have another player with electric pace in Danny Haynes and I'd be keen to see how Dublin & Co would cope with guys like that running at them.
“Norwich's form typifies this league. They were down in the dumps recently when they got knocked out of the Carling Cup at Port Vale, then they were battered 5-0 at Stoke and could only draw at home with Colchester.
“But the wins over Sunderland and West Brom seem to have made a world of difference. All of a sudden their fans are talking about the play-offs.
“It can happen like that for Town as well. They shouldn't be scared of Norwich, that's for sure, and as long as the players are up for it we could get the win we need.
“It has been a stop-start season so far and we need more in the way of consistency. The players must rise to the occasion on Sunday and if they do it could finally kick-start their season.”