Paul Lambert revelation could work in Chris Hughton’s favour
It's difficult not to believe that Chris Hughton would rather not hear the name Paul Lambert in the corridors of power at Norwich City – but his predecessor may just have done him a favour this week.
City's stuttering start to the season has proved what everyone knew and isn't rocket science – that following the man who brought City three seasons of awesome success was always going to be extremely difficult.
City's already precarious position has left many fans wondering if Hughton is the right man for the job – a situation that will be eased only if results begin to turn in his favour. With the same personnel to work with, Hughton needed a little bit of help, a little bit of dust sprinkled in front of him by Lady Luck.
And he got that on Thursday night at a fans' forum when it was revealed that Lambert was taking action against the club over the manner of his departure. I hesitate to repeat the assertion that he was claiming unfair dismissal, not just because I don't want a legal letter landing on my desk any time soon, but because I can't quite see where that is possible. Constructive dismissal, perhaps, but I have sat through too many tedious industrial tribunals hearings to know that one cannot assume the most obvious.
Everyone knew Lambert wouldn't hang around Carrow Road too long and the tittle tattle at the end of last season was that he was on his way; a word here, a comment there, a nod's as good as a wink bit of insider information from someone who 'most definitely' knows – it all suggested he had waved his last goodbye. What he left behind was a fan base that just about accepted the inevitable and, while questioning his move to Aston Villa, was appreciative of what he had achieved for City.
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But that attitude hasn't perhaps helped Hughton; when analysing City's performances this season the name Lambert crops up far too often. Hughton must be sick of it because it was always in a positive light, casting him in the negative.
But all that has changed. Lambert is now the bad guy, big time. No one will forget what he did for the club, but any suggestions that he would be afforded a comfortable reunion with City fans when next they meet have been blown out of the water. Instead of polite applause he can expect the sort of reaction that Colchester fans gave him when he returned there for the first time. I was there and it wasn't nice.
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Much of what happens on and off a football pitch is played out between the ears. The fans will see this as the time to get behind Hughton, to give him the support that was perhaps being kept in reserve by the Lambert Factor, to adopt a backs-to-the-wall mentality that is met by rolled-up sleeves and a warrior attitude. The emotions that this Lambert revelation have engendered should have a positive effect on the terraces – and spread on to the field.
There are many City players who will be grateful to Lambert, but while he gave them an opportunity, his departure was also a rejection of their services. They, as well as Hughton, need positive support from the fans. Instead of chirping away at Steve Morison 'because he looks lazy', instead of criticising Grant Holt 'because he doesn't look interested', it is time to be positive.
Social media has been buzzing with comments about Lambert's legal move and the impression I took away was that it is time for the new era to be officially welcomed in and the old one to have its flag lowered, wrapped up and put away in a cupboard, to be brought out for ceremonial purposes only.
Hopefully, Saturday's lunchtime Chris Hughton debate, pre-Chelsea, will be replaced by the dissection of another and newly-revealed part of the Lambert legacy.
Chelsea away and Arsenal at home is just about as tough as you can get, but would we be forecasting wins under any other manager? Of course not – which leaves the little matter of the next match in the sequence – Villa away.
Yes, it has been a difficult start, but the problem is perhaps one of perspective. A year ago, survival was almost unanimously accepted as more than sufficient. Now, is improvement seen as the absolute necessity, rather than another season trying to keep away from the sharp and dangerous jaws of the relegation zone?
For those who take the latter view, the current state of affairs is presumably a bit of a shock to the system.
They will have expected City to be sitting comfortably around mid-table. But that hasn't happened and, frankly, doesn't look like happening for a while yet.
So, does that make it justifiable to call for Hughton to be removed? Of course it doesn't.
Frankly, it is as ridiculous as the accompanying argument which says 'let's bring Harry Redknapp in as manager' – as if the man who everyone was tipping to take over as England boss has good reason to make Carrow Road his next port of call. It's laughable.