Norwich City’s Paul Lambert and Swansea’s Brendan Rodgers are on message
Hunger is the most priceless commodity for Premier League success.
An ephemeral beast, I grant you, but an unquantifiable element without which Norwich City would not be contemplating another potential season in the top flight. Swansea too for that matter – despite Paul Lambert's men edging a thriller at the Liberty Stadium. Hunger is the common denominator linking both sets of managers and players. By itself, hunger will not keep Norwich or Swansea in the same division next season.
Without it, a duo who have been a breath of fresh air amongst the staleness emanating from clubs like Bolton, Wigan and Blackburn would be down with the dead men. I'll go further. Minus that collective desire to work hard, to strive for self-improvement, it's fair to contend Norwich and Swansea would still be in the Championship – or worse in the Canaries' case.
Much has been said and written regarding the footballing miracle Lambert has presided over.
The wins, the heart-stopping dramatic late moments; Carrow Road bathed in May sunshine for the past two campaigns as manager, coaches, support staff and the men who matter most took a deserved lap of honour.
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None of that was achievable without hunger and desire – two imperceptible qualities at the heart of the Lambert revolution.
Look no further to try and comprehend the surreal state Norwich currently find themselves in; where they are closer to Liverpool than Wigan, to Chelsea than Bolton.
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Press Lambert for his thoughts on bringing new blood into his tight-knit group and one aspect transcends his entire recruitment process. Defenders, midfielders or strikers. It matters not. They have to be hungry. Young, as well, more often than not, but Lambert has demonstrated enough flexibility when it comes to the birth certificate. Hunger is non-negotiable. Swansea counterpart Brendan Rodgers is on message. The Swans' playing style may have won many admirers, but hard work and honesty are also fundamentals for the Northern Irishman.
'I have seen so many players at this level so far without the hunger and no matter what you do in life you need to possess the passion and enthusiasm to succeed,' wrote Rodgers, in the matchday programme ahead of Norwich's weekend visit. 'As the manager of this great football club, I promise to ensure that money doesn't distort the reality of what we are about as a club and that each and every week we continue to play with the pride and passion to defend this great white shirt which we are all proud to represent.'
For white, substitute green and yellow. Lambert attaches such significance to hunger when he recruits because even the motivational powers of the Scot do not extend to instilling it into those under his command. Hunger has to come from within. It has to be self-motivational.
That applies equally at the top as it does the bottom or just hovering around the Europa League places – not a topic I suggest you broach with the Norwich boss if you want a straight answer. Sir Alex Ferguson has presided over a dynasty of unbridled success at Manchester United. But the Old Trafford oligarch's genius has been to retain his own hunger. To go again after Premier League title on top of Premier League title. Wayne Rooney is the most gifted English player of his generation. Plenty of rough edges and flaws, which thankfully have started to erode with greater maturity – but an immense talent. Rooney has the wealth to go with his wondrous ability, his two goals against Liverpool underlined yet again football for the Scouser is about love not lucre.
To retain that hunger when he never has to work another day in the rest of his life is arguably more impressive than the way he leads the line with such venomous intent.
Even if Rooney possessed only a thimble full of the God-given talent bestowed upon him, you suspect the parks' pitches of Merseyside would resonate to the backdrop of his vocal urgings every Sunday morning.
Harnessing that commodity is what gives Lambert and Rodgers a fighting chance.
Both have innumerable other qualities that guarantee managerial longevity in their respective careers. None greater than recognising what sets the winners apart from the losers in such a precarious job.
You need good players. You need quality. But if you can add hunger to the mix then you have a formidable asset on your playing staff. Get enough of them on board and you can take on the footballing world.