East Anglia Derby: Grant ready with his shark riposte

Great White welcome awaits Norwich's new manager today - but his team will bite back

Ipswich fans will be flaunting plastic sharks at Portman Road today. Not in a desperate bid to frighten away a Norwich team who last lost on this ground eight years ago, but to embarrass the Canaries' new manager, Peter Grant, who was once the victim of a classic Godfather-style sting.

It happened a dozen years ago when Grant was the captain of a Celtic side who included Paolo Di Canio. Grant explains: "We went on a pre-season tour to Sweden and the manager, Tommy Burns, arranged for us to share, explaining that Paolo could not understand English and I could not speak it. Paolo was a big pal and at one time I told him I had this thing about sharks.

"We had been to a function where they had a table full of fish dishes, with the centrepiece a shark's head. Before we left Paolo slipped it into a bag and before the two of us went to bed he slid it under my covers. We put out the lights and to say I got a fright when I put my feet between the sheets is an understatement."

Di Canio has subsequently written about the episode in his book, hence the prospect of the 41-year-old Grant facing trial by shark today.

For someone who played a record 54 times for Celtic in Old Firm derbies such tactics stand about as much chance of deflecting him from his self-appointed task of the annexation of three points as all the fuss being made in East Anglia this weekend over the latest of the "Old Farm" clashes.

When he left Celtic after 15 years to join Norwich as a player in 1997, Grant was involved in two games against Ipswich. "We won the first one 2-1 at home, not long after I arrived. I thought I played very poorly and wasn't happy with the win, but the supporters went home happy as Larry, all they wanted to know about was the result." His second match, in February 1998, was the last time Norwich have lost at Ipswich, a 5-0 humiliation. "I thought I played well that day," Grant chuckles.

Grant acknowledges that East Anglia derbies generate every bit as much fervour, if possibly less noise, as the Old Firm clashes. "I felt as nervous and excited in my last one for Celtic as I did in the first," he says. "So I know about the passion and people going to work happy on Monday if we have won. But for me, above all, it is three points, a massive three points, because they are also our biggest rivals.

"In derby matches you just try to have that coolness in your mind. You know everybody else is het up, so it's the ones with cool brains on top of that who are successful. That's what makes Sunday a special day, two groups of supporters desperate to beat each other. We know what we represent and we know what the prize is at the end."

For the past few days Grant has been starting practice sessions at 11.30am, roughly the time they normally finish, because that is the kick-off time today. Such is the attention to detail of someone who gave up his job as assistant to Alan Pardew at West Ham to take on his first managership, and who has turned round Norwich's floundering season with four wins in his first six matches.

"I thought it was too good an opportunity to knock back," explained Grant, who was appointed on Friday the 13th (of October). "It was a difficult decision because I loved my time at West Ham working in the Premiership against the best coaches, bosses and players. I want to take Norwich back to that, but as my own man, making an imprint with my team. Norwich giving me the chance to do that was my reason for leaving a club like West Ham."

Grant denied he had returned to Norwich because it is a pleasant place to live, saying he could twice have accepted managership of Bournemouth, where he ended his playing days, if he had wanted the easy life. "The easy life doesn't suit me, I'm a typical Glaswegian, the first time you relax is when you're in your box, going to the big man in the sky. Yes, Norwich is a lovely part of the world but that's not the thing that excites me, it's the football club and the challenge."

He praised his sacked predecessor, Nigel Worthington, whose legacy, he said, was "a good bunch of boys who work very hard in training", adding: "They give 100 per cent effort, if not always the quality I am looking for. I knew Nigel had built a good foundation. I am trying to build the house on top."

That the quality is emerging is shown from recent victories, all by a single goal, over promotion rivals like Cardiff, Birmingham and West Bromwich Albion. Another win today and the team who were 19th when he arrived will be in a play-off position, a run achieved, he insists, by attacking football.

"At Stoke [where Norwich were beaten 5-0] we were down to 10 men but I kept two strikers and two wingers on. I don't play to draw games, I want to win as many as I can. That way you get promotion, become champions."

As the American Civil War admiral David Farragut famously said: "Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." Damn the plastic sharks of Ipswich, too. Grant, a fish lover but shark hater, has his own antidote planned: "I'll take a tin of salmon on the pitch with me."

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'