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Chaplin: Players Can't Focus on Derby Winless Run
Thursday, 4th Apr 2024 19:24

Conor Chaplin is adamant the fact that Town have not beaten Norwich in the clubs’ last 13 meetings going back to 2009 will not be preying on the players’ minds when they contest Saturday’s latest instalment of the long-running East Anglian derby saga.

Chaplin’s first experience of the fixture came in December when the sides drew 2-2 at Portman Road and he said: “It was pretty much what I expected it would be, a brilliant occasion and I really enjoyed it. I love atmospheres like that and it’s what football is all about for me after growing up watching games of that magnitude on television.

“To now be a part of it is incredible and I regard it as an honour to be an Ipswich player on these occasions. It’s probably one that you can’t think too much about in the lead-up and it’s probably one for more reflection when you’ve finished your playing days to be honest.”

Focusing on Town’s lack of a win since 2009, when they beat the Canaries 3-2 in Jim Magilton’s last game in charge, Chaplin added: “The 15-years stat is one for the fans and the journos really.

“I don’t think it can be any of the players’ motivation or focus. I think it sidetracks from what’s really important to us if you start believing or focusing on things like that. We’ll be preparing for the game as we would for any other game – that’s where all our energy is going.”

Asked if scoring his 14th goal of the season at Carrow Road would mean more to him than any of his others for the club, he replied: “It depends if it’s worth three points or not. The more my goals contribute to points, the better they are.

“The one I scored in the 4-3 home defeat by Leeds was only a consolation so not one I particularly think about. It’s more about the goals that make an impact in helping to earn us points.”

It was suggested to Chaplin that it is more important that Town play the game, rather than the occasion, on Saturday and he pointed out: “It’s the same as probably every game. The closer you get to the end of the season, every game is an occasion, or it’s built up that way in the press and with the fans.

“And, as I’ve said before, and rightly so from the fans’ point of view, it’s such an enjoyable moment to be a part of in any season. But for us players it’s our job to treat each game in isolation and to prepare as well as we can.

“The past doesn’t concern us, not at all. It was impossible for me to affect the East Anglian derbies before I came to this football club. I’ve played in one, a draw, and we’ve got another one this weekend. What’s happened before is not anyone’s prerogative here, it’s just focusing on the next one and trying to do the best we can.”

Nor is Chaplin nor any of his colleagues taking their current status as current Championship leaders too seriously. Yes, automatic promotion to the Premier League will be achieved should they win all of their remaining six fixtures, but experience tells him not to count his chickens just yet.

“There are six games left and it’s a lot of points still up for grabs, especially at this stage of the season as well,” he said. “Every single game in the Championship is really, really tough, no matter who you are playing against. There are so many things still going on in terms of fighting for survival in the league, fighting for play-off positions and fighting for automatic promotion.

“There is so much going on in the league and at this stage of every season we see some crazy results. It’s our job to put on as good a performance as we can to get as many points as possible from the remaining six games.

“It has been a massive squad effort this season, not just from the players who have played most of the minutes but also those who have come off the bench to impact the games on numerous occasions.

“I think we’ve had the most successful subs-to-goals ratio and the most impact from the squad in general throughout the leagues.

“I’ll be honest – I don’t think there’s a bigger impact off the bench at any club than we’ve had this season and I think it’s testament to all the boys’ character and mentality as well, which is a big, big thing. It’s also about the culture we have here to be right behind each other.”

With on-loan striker Kieffer Moore at risk of missing Saturday’s clash after being forced off in the first half of Monday’s win, the man who replaced him, former Wimbledon man Ali Al-Hamadi, could make his derby debut at Carrow Road.

But regardless of who leads the line at Carrow Road, Chaplin pointed out: “In terms of our team principles it doesn’t change much at all. We’re very much team driven, rather than by individuals, but the difference is there for all to see in that they have different strengths and it’s quite obvious what they are.

“Since they both joined in January, we have used them really well in the minutes they have had and also adapted to them really well when they have been on the pitch, utilising their strengths, and we’re looking to continue to do that.”

Turning the clock back more than 72 hours to the win that took Town to the top of the table, Chaplin recalled how he sprinted across the pitch from the home dug-out to join the goal celebrations in the far corner. “It was a big, big moment and a big outburst of emotion from everyone in the stadium,” he said.

“Maybe I got a little bit too excited, but I was just so happy for the boys on the pitch and the club in general.”

He was still wearing his fitness tracker following his 89th minute replacement by goal hero Sarmiento and laughed: “I think I recorded a new top speed!”

Chaplin was also asked if his past connection with Portsmouth, who are Saints’ biggest rivals, might have influenced his impressive celebratory dash and he replied: “I don’t know, probably, but I’m not too sure. The game in general was a great game, a great spectacle for the fans in the stadium to witness and for those watching at home on television.

“I thought we thoroughly deserved our win at the end and it was an amazing night to be a part of.
“I’m fully behind rivalries between certain clubs. It’s what football is all about. I know I’ve said it before – prior to the first game against Norwich – but it’s what makes you fall in love with football in the first place.

“Things like that really get you. They’re the games we all look forward to when the fixture list comes out every single season and as a fan, definitely.”

Meanwhile, he and Nathan Broadhead remain locked on the 13-goal mark in the race to be Town’s top scorer this season. Chaplin said: “The goals have been well spread out through the team this season and it’s exactly what we want.

“I think all the lads in the changing room would tell you the same, that it doesn’t matter who scores as long as we’re winning games and picking points up. That’s the main thing.”

Chaplin was recently ruled out with a back and side issue and missed the 6-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, a pretty rare occurrence and only the second time this season that he has not featured in the starting line-up in the Championship.

“It was really annoying,” he admitted. “I thought I’d be able to sort of get through it and play, but it wasn’t one where I would have been able to impact the game if I’d played, so it wasn’t right to be involved.

“Luckily, we were brilliant on the day and it didn’t matter at all. I’m proud of the fact that I’m available virtually all the time and I don’t like missing games at all.

“The international break came at the perfect time for me. I was lucky that I only missed one game because it could have been a three-game week and I might have missed a couple more than I did. It was the right time for me personally because the two-week break until our next game gave me a chance to be ready for it.”

Chaplin returned to score the only goal of the Good Friday visit to lowly Blackburn with a first-time shot that surprisingly beat home keeper Aynsley Pears. He both started and finished the match-winning move and said: “I probably did all I could do because the ball was a bit too far in front of me to get a good side-foot on it.

“I had to improvise a little bit and I was definitely a little bit lucky with the way it went in. The keeper should have saved it but I was happy with the contact, definitely.”

Photo: TWTD

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BlueCanadian added 22:33 - Apr 4
Going into Sunderland: "We almost never win at the Stadium of Light" ...
Games being on Sky: "We always seem to lose when we play on Sky" ...
Last week going to Ewood Park: "We never beat Blackburn Rovers away" ...
There are lots more, but if there's one thing that we have done well this year, it is ignoring previous history.

BlueNomad added 22:37 - Apr 4
Conor, you are a star! I love the love you clearly show for the club, your teammates and supporters.

Suffolkboy added 09:03 - Apr 5
Thoroughly professional sportsman , intelligent , enthusiastic ,fit and obviously hungry to do everything he can to contribute at and for ITFC !

MK1 added 13:58 - Apr 5
It means so much to us, please make it happen. A last minute winner off you a$$ would be ideal. A stonking 0-3 win will do just as nicely. Let's just win please.

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