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Daniel Brigham

How to cope on Saturday (latest blog)

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Sport is at its best when it matters more. So embrace the nerves, says Daniel BrighamIt’s

been a difficult week. Across the East Anglian divide people have been

discovering that their bowels are capable of noises and lurches no one

would believe possible. Nerves have been twisted into the sort of knots

only scout leaders could undo. In order to cope with The Biggest Derby For 30 Years, it’s been useful to pretend that football doesn''t matter.After

all, it''s just a silly game invented by people who wanted to kick

things through town centres and across muddy fields because they didn''t

have gramophones, wireless sets, televisions or iPads to preoccupy them.

Back then – then being a long time ago – there was nothing else

to do other than competitive vegetable tossing, incest and dancing

around a maypole in ridiculous coloured clothing (a little like many

football kits, actually). So, to stave off the relentless boredom, and

with little else to take their minds off not having a fully-functioning

sewage system or electricity or PlayStations, people started kicking

things around.So, no, football doesn''t really matter. Not at all. Just a bit of fun, isn’t it. Just something to pass the time. The

ruse doesn’t last long though. The mind jolts to 12.15pm on Saturday

and it becomes blindingly obvious that football does matter, and

precisely because it doesn''t matter. It is a distraction from the norm,

the regular, the everyday. It is a world away from the work meetings,

the doctor appointments, the receding hairline, the guy in the office

who eats all of the team biscuits but never provides his own. Football,

and all sport, is as deeply human as breathing, sleeping and drawing

things on walls. The importance of it has stayed with us from the dawn

of humanity, when hairy men with beards went hunting for sport as much

as for survival, and its importance will still be there tomorrow, when

hairy Bradley Johnsons with beards go hunting. Sometimes it

matters so much that you need a distraction to distract yourself from

the distraction. This Saturday, for example, sport matters more. Like

the best sport, it matters more because of what is at stake. Think back

to the great moments of British sporting triumph since the turn of the

century, and there was always a subplot that made them mean so much more

than just the winning: the country was gripped by the rowing at the

2000 Olympics because of Steve Redgrave’s quest for a super-human fifth

Gold medal; the 2003 Rugby World Cup gave England a first World Cup win

in any major sport since 1966; the 2005 Ashes turned a nation of

cricket-shruggers into devotees because of the possibility of a first

win against the Australians for 18 years; Andy Murray’s Wimbledon

triumph in 2013 had 77 years of history depending on it as he became the

first British male to win the title since 1936. The play-off

semi-final has plenty of subplots to lift the two matches above most

football games, certainly across East Anglia and, judging by national

newspaper country, also across the country. The simple, old-school

reason of geographical rivalry (a city of cathedral and churches against

a town of Costcutters and Co-ops) will ensure it entices the neutral

and traumatises the biased. There’s also a subplot in the dug-out and on

the pitch, with a cool, popular new kid pitted against everyone’s

favourite grumpy uncle, and a team of pressers and passers verses a team

of pragmatism and punts. Then there’s the Big One: a win would

be a step closer to the prize of Premier League football (or, to give

the prize its full title, Struggling Not To Be Relegated From The

Premier League). They say your best chance of getting to the Premier

League is the first season you’re out of it, which adds extra drama for

Norwich fans. For Ipswich, well, the last time they were in the top

flight Britain was getting all worried about Mad Cow Disease and

excited/horrified by Gareth Gates and Will Young (there’s probably a

link there). So this matters to Ipswich. Like, really matters. When

sport matters this much, the only way to cope is to fully embrace it.

Sporting moments of truly high drama, intrigue and meaning come along

rarely. So relish the nerves, relish the sweaty palms and relish those

weird things your stomach is doing, and just be grateful for that

fully-functioning sewage system.  Daniel Brigham is a sports writer and editor. He tweets at @dan_brigham

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Hmmm - in some ways this derby is easier to prepare for and less nerve-wracking, for me at least, than a normal one. Simply because it''s a massive game anyway, being in the play-off semi-finals, having it against our biggest rivals just piles on some more importance. So it''s all-important and you don''t need to worry about whether you''re getting it out of proportion. Defeat over the 2 legs would be a crushing blow, no getting away from it, while a win will be fantastic. So I agree completely with AN when he says this is what football is all about - your team competing in a massive game - why else do we bother watching? Bring it on !

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This match isn''t about Ipswich.  It''s about Norwich and a quest to get promotion.  Ipswich just happen to be the team that need to be beaten for that to happen.  It is neither more nor less important because it is them.  The focus is on beating a team over legs, the fact that it is Ipswich gives it a little spice, but nothing more. The main issue is getting through the tie, whoever it is.

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DB - "the guy in the office who eats all the team biscuits but never provides his own" - I may be wrong, but I reckon ''that guy'' is one you once knew, or currently know, and completely despise!!

This is all pure amateur psychology conjecture on my part of course, but I agree, ''cos I know his twin and I hate him too...

Joking aside, good blog though. I''m both looking forward to the semi finals, and dreading them too. OTBC.

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Totally ,,,, completely ,,,, 100% wrong long distance Canary ,,, as usual !

Of course it makes a huge difference that ,,, our most important game in years is against our hated enemy !!!

Oh , I remember ,,, you don''t believe that animosity exists do you ?

You probably have trouble feeling the atmosphere from where you are .

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[quote user="Barclay seats 4849 the 3rd"]Totally ,,,, completely ,,,, 100% wrong long distance Canary ,,, as usual !

Of course it makes a huge difference that ,,, our most important game in years is against our hated enemy !!! [/quote] 

Fine if you see it like that. I don''t. I don''t deny it adds a bit of spice, but what is the more important issue to the club - the fact that is Ipswich or the fact that it is two matches to the play off final?   It doesn''t matter who it is - we have to beat them.  They are just a hurdle to the next round.

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