Norwich City have proved they can handle the spotlight

Football may well be played on grass. It's also played between the ears.

Norwich City's squad is devoid of the household names littering this weekend's latest opponents Manchester City. Or for that matter any of the recognised top six. That is no slight on their collective talents. You don't rise from the Football League and then flourish as Paul Lambert's men have done to date on hard work and application alone.

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli has flagged up the potential of Anthony Pilkington, Wes Hoolahan and Marc Tierney because the Italian believes they have the ability to blossom in the international arena.

Russell Martin's displays in an increasingly less unaccustomed centre back role earned him a recent recall to the Scotland set up. However much veracity you attribute to those reports surrounding John Ruddy and Bradley Johnson, there performances this season will certainly have brought them to the attention of England's hierarchy. Steve Morison and Andrew Crofts have been key cornerstones in a Welsh revival led by Gary Speed before his tragic death.

City have quality in abundance. They are also fearless. Ready and willing to go and mix it at the Etihad Stadium this Saturday, like they did at Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford and Anfield to varying degrees if you measure those trips in points gained. But there was one undeniable constant coursing through all three away performances. Bravery. City have quality; they also have character. That belief comes from within each individual - but it is also has to be extracted by a motivator-in-chief.

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Of all the constituent parts that make up a modern-day football manager, the ability to get inside the heads of a disparate group of young men remains paramount.

You can be the most tactically astute boss on the planet. Or the most innovative coach on the training field. That counts for little when you have to stare into the whites of your players' eyes ten minutes before kick off sat deep in the bowels of one or other of the more intimidating citadels in British football - and then convince your charges you belong. Kyle Naughton captured the essence of Lambert when he recalled the trip to Liverpool earlier this week.

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'At Anfield, he said, 'There'll be no rolling over here, no shying out of anything because of who they are. We are going to fight for every single ball'. By the time he had finished, we all felt we could get something out of the game and we did.'

The British game is evolving. Guts and effort and heart are poor substitutes for technical quality, movement and pace. You need the whole package; welded together by a manager and his coaching staff capable of inspiration. Herein lies an inherent contradiction. The more football changes, the more it stays the same. What set the likes of Brian Clough, Bill Shankly, Jock Stein and Sir Matt Busby apart is no different today. Steve Morison, in his tribute to the departed Speed, spoke movingly about the 42-year-old's impact on the Welsh squad. Players could not wait to join up during the international break. Call offs and the obligatory 'minor' injuries were an anathema during Speed's all too brief tenure.

Lambert inspires similar qualities. You don't need a window into the inner sanctum. Just watch how those men in green and yellow perform on the pitch every Saturday and Sunday.

Manchester City's expensively assembled squad may have the edge in quality this weekend. They won't come anywhere near to Norwich's unshakeable belief.

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