October 20 2014 Latest news:
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
This is not about Paul Lambert. Honestly. He will never manage England. End of.
But be patient: because Lambert’s methods during his three years as manager of Norwich City might just be worth a look when considering where the fault lines have occurred in the national team’s structure.
Let’s start with the front page of the Pink Un on Thursday. The main image was of Jack Wilshire geting off the plane that brought the England squad home. He was carrying the distinctive green box of a well known brand of computer, as was his pal, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. They weren’t part of their luggage when they flew out - each player was given the £370 games console as they departed as part of a sponsorship deal involving manufacturer Microsoft.
Anyone who follows a footballer on Twitter is likely to have seen him carrying a shedload of brand-name bags – the assumption is they are freebies, because footballer gets them. Loads of them.
Actually, footballers - certainly those deemed good enough to play in a World Cup team – get pretty much what they want. Sponsors do that sort of thing. As an aside, in a previous life I used to get invited to all sorts of events and was always given a goody bag: £100 golf umbrellas, bottles of the sponsors’ whisky, sports bags crammed with souvenirs – a PR person once took off his watch and demanded I keep it. The fact is, if a sponsor can benefit, it will throw stuff at the right people (not that I was a “right” person, just someone they thought might mention their name in a newspaper column.
Anyway, back to the real world. You do get a sense that players need to get their hands dirty. That they are wrapped in cotton wool for far too many years by clubs anxious to protect their assets. If the asset turns out to be a dud, he is kicked out. If he is a diamond, you keep polishing it, feeding him life’s little luxuries to make sure he doesn’t disappear to a land with greener pastures. Spoil him.
So where does Lambert come in?
I can’t tell you whether or not City playeres were spoilt, stuffed with freebies or waited on hand on foot during his reign in Norfolk. What I can tell you is they were motivated up to the teeth.
They were hungry players who had a carrot dangled in front of them. Lambert persuaded them to come to Norwich and fuflil their dreams. The deal was they would work themselevs into the ground to achieve it.
Lambert motivated them brilliantly. He identified those who he knew would respond to a bit of friendly persuasion, players who still had something to offer and, in return, would take him where he wanted to be.
Russell Martin was rejected by Peterborough after they won promotion to the Championship. Lambert persuaded him to drop down a division – and look what Martin has since achieved.
I know Grant Holt wasn’t a Lambert signing, but could anyone have done a better job of allowing him free rein, as long as he delivered goals? Who knows? What we do know is that Lambert got what he wanted from Holt – and it was brilliant.
Fraser Forster (inset) and John Ruddy were both identified as quality keepers looking for an escape route to the top; brilliant business.
Holt, of course, and possibly Ruddy, were victims of the little club syndrome. Holt had a right to be aggrieved at being passed over for the Euros two years ago; Ruddy too should have been chosen for this World Cup ahead of Ben Foster.
But what if Hodgson had the same talent as Lambert for spotting players in need of a motivational carrot? What if he looked beyond the spoilt cream and dipped below the surface?
Perhaps the most talented players do exist aong the top clubs, but they are not always the best players. As Hodgson himself has proved.