Taking one for the boys from Paul Lambert - all in the name of banter

Here's some exclusive early team news ahead of tonight's Capital One Cup tie against Tottenham – I am doubtful for the match because of a knock suffered at Villa Park on Saturday.

Everyone expected a bruising encounter as Norwich City crossed swords with Paul Lambert and his new friends. The eagerly-anticipated grudge match turned out to be something of a slow burner, but eventually developed into a thriller at the Villa as the Canaries strived for, and eventually found, the equaliser they deserved.

The challenges continued to fly long after the final whistle and it pays to keep on your toes at all times on these occasions with such vitriolic potential. It's a lesson I ended up learning the hard way.

It was during a relatively routine post-match interview with the Norwich City winger Anthony Pilkington that I found myself on the wrong end of a high challenge.

Suddenly somebody shoved me in the back, threatening my own balance and, more importantly (in case the boss is reading this), thousands of pounds worth of BBC recording equipment. It was worth at least a yellow card and people have been sent off for less. There was no point appealing to the referee because the interview room half an hour after the final whistle is outside of his jurisdiction.

I quickly realised that none of the stewards, whose club issue claret blazers make them look like an Al Murray the Pub Landlord convention, were going to rush to my aid so it was a case of regaining my composure, if not dignity, straightening my glasses and turning to confront the interview interrupter – only to discover it was the manager of Aston Villa.

'Paul Lambert, Hero or Villain?' was the question posed by this very newspaper last week. Well, at that moment he was very much in the latter category as far as I was concerned, until it dawned on me that this was maybe some sort of traditional Glasgow greeting. In an attempt to regain control of proceedings I poked my microphone under his nose and got a response along the lines of 'At least I don't have to speak to you every week now.' He did have a glint in his eye as he said it so this whole episode may well have been what is known in football dressing rooms as 'banter'.

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It is a strange parallel universe where having some apparently unpleasant things said to you is a sign of acceptance. In any other walk of life, Lambert's comment on Saturday would be translated as 'it's really nice to see you after all these months. How's the family?' but when football people get together it is a non-stop roller-coaster of teasing, leg pulling and what they like to call 'stick'. It takes a bit of adjusting to for us mere mortals.

Anyway, I have had a bit of a stiff neck since that shove so will have to undergo a fitness test before deciding whether I can be risked for the Spurs game. Perhaps I should have given it the full Luis Suarez and gone down as soon as I felt the contact, sending my recording tools crashing to the ground. I've watched enough daytime TV to know that where there's blame there's a claim.

Having said that, it sounds as if Paul Lambert's legal team have enough on their plate already so trying to cook up some story about whiplash and a broken tape recorder on a no win, no fee basis might be taking 'banter' that little bit too far.


Headline writers everywhere have the gift that keeps on giving this week – a Halloween home game for the Canaries.

As soon as the date for the Tottenham cup tie was set as October 31, those with pencils sharp enough to write the pithy top lines of football reports will have been honing the trick or treat-based material to cover everything from triumphant progress to ignominious exit from the League Cup.

In this most chilling of weeks it is impossible not to comment on those distant moans, groans and blood curdling screams that could, legend has it, be heard hanging in the cold autumnal air on Tuesday and Saturday of last week if you listened very, very carefully. Because it was on those two evenings that Ipswich Town were at home.

It's as if someone has disturbed the demon of Norwich City in 2008 from its four-year slumber and it has reawakened 50 miles down the road. A team packed with the footballing zombies that are loan signings bobbing around the bottom with the other Championship rotten apples. It is difficult to gloat because you don't have to flick through many pages of the dusty old history books to find the Canaries' time as East Anglia's pumpkins.

Norwich City have proven that exorcising ghosts of this magnitude requires the same qualities as dressing up as a scary skeleton for a Halloween party; you have to get the spine absolutely right. It took some big changes right through the club to get Norwich's spirit upwardly mobile, and so efficient was Paul Lambert as our Dr Frankenstein that he was almost beaten by the yellow and green monster he created at the weekend.

If Ipswich can find their own evil genius then their souls can still be saved and a future free of cobwebs and somewhere closer to the toffee apple world in which we now watch our team play is achievable. Get it wrong and, as City fans will testify, they may end up in some frightening places. With all due respect to Oldham, Yeovil and Carlisle.