By Hugh Dunnett
Suffolk and Norfolk police have revealed how much they are looking forward to a friendly double play-off clash between East Anglian rivals Ipswich Town and Norwich City.
As the Championship table stands, with just one match to go, the two sides are on course to meet in a two-legged semi-final of the play-offs.
Police say these will be good-natured games, with both sets of fans enjoying their time together, despite the stakes being so high.
Top brass say there is no evidence any of the opposing fans will partake in alcohol – nor will there be any aggressive chanting or violent flashpoints.
In fact they are so happy with the games, which will be the biggest ever played between the rival clubs, that they have allowed all officers to go on leave if they wish.
“These will be low-key, friendly games between two teams whose fans get along really well. It will be a great advert for community football,” said Inspector Ed Insand.
However, if results on the last day of the season go unexpectedly, then Ipswich and Norwich could avoid each other in the semi-final play-offs – but possibly then meet up in a do-or-die final at Wembley instead.
This would be an exciting prospect for both the British Transport Police and the Metropolitan Police, who say 80,000 close-knit East Anglian fans descending on the capital would be a joyous, tension-free occasion.
A spokesman for the Met said: “We don’t want any trouble at the play-off final, so we’re hoping it’s Ipswich and Norwich who make it through. It will certainly save on the policing bill.”
That’s a thought echoed by the Greater Anglia train company, which runs the mainline service from Norwich to London, stopping in Ipswich.
An insider said: “A Wembley final would be a tremendous and friendly day out for all our customers in Suffolk and Norfolk. We would offer free alcoholic drinks in our buffet cars to help them all get along on the long and fun journeys to and from London.”
If nothing changes on Saturday, then Norwich will finish fourth in the league, with Ipswich just behind in fifth. That would mean a two-legged play-off semi-final, with the fist being played at Portman Road, and the second a few days later at Carrow Road.
The winner of the play-off final will be promoted to the Premier League – a feat said to be worth £150 million.
Meanwhile, Norwich owner Delia Smith, the television chef, is hoping the two sides don’t meet, because she is fed-up with Ipswich fans singing: “Stick your saucepans up your…”