Motivation is the manager’s X-Factor – just look at what Paul Lambert did at Norwich City

Paul Lambert celebrating gaining promotion at Norwich. Picture: BILL SMITH

Paul Lambert celebrating gaining promotion at Norwich. Picture: BILL SMITH - Credit: Archant © 2011

There's a sod's law which runs through the sports desk: at times of managerial change, someone will be off.

David De Gea saves from Sergio Aguero during the Manchester derby. Picture: PA/MARTIN RICKETT

David De Gea saves from Sergio Aguero during the Manchester derby. Picture: PA/MARTIN RICKETT - Credit: PA

It happened to me when Bryan Gunn was unveiled and it happened to Paddy Davitt when Paul Lambert departed Carrow Road. Others have been affected in varying degrees, but it's hardly the sort of thing you can plan.

After all, as the fork went into the squid at lunchtime the last thing I expected was to hear that Neil Adams had resigned.

Yes, the FA Cup defeat at Preston was, by all accounts, way, way below what was expected – although why anyone expects anything in the FA Cup nowadays is beyond me.

The last two home games have been 5-0 and 6-1 wins – how many managers leave their jobs after those sort of scorelines, and with their team seventh in the table?

When Bryan Gunn was sacked just two games – albeit one was a horrendous 7-1 loss – into the 2009-10 season, City were the subject of much finger wagging. When Chris Hughton was sacked past his sell-by date, but with only five Premier League games remaining, they were criticised again – and Gary Lineker is still mightily annoyed by it, judging by a recent tweet.

Both managers were in much smellier stuff than Adams, the FA Cup game notwithstanding.

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At what point does a manager, or his employers, decide that the plan isn't working? There won't be too many Norwich City managers who have departed with their team in such a good position. Presumably, it is the under-achieving that was the concern. The accepted theory is that City have a squad which is capable of earning promotion.

But that quality becomes near redundant if it is not playing to its potential. If City's current players performed as they should be, then Adams would still be manager.

So is it the players' fault for not performing? Or is it Adams' fault for not getting the best out of them?

Paul Lambert has cropped up time and again in this week's debates, and while some will say it is irrelevant, the truth is that Lambert extracted every last bit from his players. He discovered the motivation for each and every one of them, and in turn was rewarded with performances that lacked nothing in effort.

Lambert had the ability to do what many of his predecessors and successors couldn't – make his players play to their limit.

If Alex Neil can get the best out of the current squad, it could be a thrilling second half of the season.

Keepers need competition

Goalkeeper David de Gea would appear to be in the form of his life at Manchester United, and now faces the task of keeping Victor Valdes out of the side.

The rumours that Valdes might sign will have kept the United keeper on his toes: now that he has actually agreed an 18-month deal, de Gea will need to be sharper than ever.

Every club needs two good keepers: you can't have one stand-out and one just for emergencies and cup games. Competition for the most isolated figure on the pitch needs to be at fever pitch.

The only question I have is: didn't Liverpool fancy Valdes?

Perhaps they did – because they need him. A dodgy keeper saps confidence from the players in front of him, and Simon Mignolet and Brad Jones just aren't good enough for a team which had pretensions of cracking the top four again.

Top of the world to all

It's no secret that boxing has gone from being a subject of passing interest to a personal passion.

But while I do enjoy something that is alien to me – controlled and licensed violence – I am quite easily confused by the state of the sport in a worldwide context.

There are countless governing bodies and there are countless titles. The latter I don't have a problem with because it is a device which ensures proper competition between fighters.

But the number of authorities perplexes me.

Now, World Boxing Council president Mauricio Sulaiman wants change, including a tournament of champions for each weight division, with the winner from among the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO champions being the only one who can rightfully be called a 'world champion'. After all, how can there be several different heavyweight world champions?

It makes a mockery of the title – and boxing is better than that.