Norwich City will always be the only show in town

Tuesday, June 5, 2012
1:26 PM

Reports of Norwich City’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

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David McNally’s public pronouncements over the weekend in this newspaper re-affirmed the Canaries are firmly back on the front foot. The pessimists and false prophets forecasting impending doom can retreat beyond the Norfolk borders.

Yes, City have lost one of the finest young managers in the modern game. Yes, they appear to have a captain who no longer wishes to lead from the front, but they are far removed from a club in crisis.

McNally has a proven track record in managerial recruitment. You trust his judgement again to deliver and bring in the right character to soothe frayed nerves among a support base and a squad who should still be basking in the afterglow of achieving Premier League survival.

The chief executive set out in stark terms on Monday just what an attractive proposition Norwich will be for large swathes of the managerial fraternity. The club is stable financially with a playing squad that has a youthful core which will only improve if cultivated with the same care and commitment Lambert and his coaching staff displayed on a journey that still has plenty of mileage left. Lambert’s era may have come to an end – the parting may not have been as painless as either side would have envisaged – but the Scot’s lasting legacy provides a solid base for further sustained growth.

Lambert is not the only manager capable of finding players; or motivating them to perform above and beyond the call of duty. The man himself was often at pains to deflect the effusive devotion from the terraces towards him in the direction of his players. With good reason.

Norwich existed long before him. They can thrive and prosper without him. That in no way is meant to downplay the scale of the achievement he oversaw. He inherited a shambles and built from the bottom up to a position of Premier League strength. McNally has conceded the break was inevitable. Only the timing was the imponderable factor in the divorce.

Lambert never hid the fierce ambition he had to one day emulate those stellar playing achievements. City were a vehicle. Just like Colchester, and no doubt Aston Villa if he can restore former glories to a club with the potential and the abundant resources to propel him onto the next level of his managerial odyssey. The relationship between club and manager was a mutually beneficial one, but there were no divided loyalties. And why should there have been. Football management is a precarious occupation. Lambert had experienced it at Livingston; the pitfalls as well as the euphoric heights. Grant Holt, you sense, is another who needs no reminding the grass is not always greener.

Whatever the underlying ebb and flow of his contract negotiations, there has been a major fracture between player and club. For it to play out so publicly is damaging to all sides. Holt appears committed to leaving the place that has put him on the Premier League stage.

The Canaries would certainly be poorer for his departure – both in goals and his ability to bind a squad of disparate individuals written off in many quarters. Holt is a figurehead, a striker at the peak of his considerable powers.

Like Lambert, his lasting contribution to the recent revival deserves fulsome recognition. But if Norwich can no longer satisfy him, then a parting of the ways is inevitable. And if it comes, it will be on City’s terms. McNally knows Holt is a valuable commodity should the club finally decide the only option is to trade him on the open market.

Yet, it will take considerably more than the figures so far quoted. One hopes there is still a chance to pull back from the brink.

The new manager will play a pivotal role in the general healing process. The initial brief must include an end to any lingering uncertainty and sense of fractiousness that has threatened to engulf since the closing days of last season.

But Norwich is far from a club in peril. McNally’s proactive stance is symptomatic of an inner self-confidence. City proved on the pitch they belong in the Premier League. Their fan base proved likewise off it.

Lambert’s exit and Holt’s desire to follow suit must be placed in their proper context. One of a club on a sure footing heading in the right direction. If the familiar faces are no longer at the helm, so be it.

Norwich City is bigger than any one individual. However large the shadow cast.

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