Actions speak louder than words for Norwich City

Norwich City boss Paul Lambert has been keeping his cards close to his chest in the quest for a place in the top flight and it's a policy that is paying dividends so far.

Paul Lambert exhorts a strict no publicity policy at Carrow Road; empty barrels make the most noise and all that.

The theory is, if you don't say much, don't kick up a fuss and simply go about your business, then the rewards will come.

In the pre-match and post-match Press conferences for the first 10 league games of the season, Lambert has played his cards so close to his chest it's a wonder he can see the aces in his pack.

No headline grabbing 'Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum' labels for recalcitrant young players, no rash predictions of success or failure, no secrets shared, not even in promised confidence.


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Even the merest hint of something he perceives might be damaging to the cause and he jumps on you – as he did when blaming the media for 'feeding the animal' he has created.

And, frankly, who are we to complain, with City sitting comfortably in third place in the table?

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If City are doing well, then the conclusion is that Lambert is doing things the right way. End of.

Doesn't stop us looking at how City have coped so far – and then polishing off the crystal ball to see what the next 10 games hold.

If results are anything compared to those safely tucked away in the kit bag, then even Lambert will have a difficult job in holding back the tide of optimism.

A quick look back suggests it hasn't been as taxing a start as it could have been.

City have played more teams currently in the bottom half of the Championship than in the top, but interestingly, five of their opponents finished in the top half last season – including Nottingham Forest and Leicester who were in the play-offs – and one was in the Premier League. On day one, the fixture list looked a little more daunting than it has proved to be.

The fact that Norwich are newcomers to the division and that Lambert and his coaching team are experiencing Championship football for the first time, only strengthens the value of their initial achievements.

So what might the next 10 games bring?

Queens Park Rangers away, Palace and Middlesbrough at home and Cardiff away complete October's commitments, before Burnley come to Carrow Road.

Then it's trips to Millwall and Reading, followed by a massive couple of games at Carrow Road, at home to Leeds and Ipswich, before a Saturday afternoon in Derby.

In complete contrast to the first 10, it's games against seven of the top half teams and three from the bottom half. Four of the teams are in the top six, two occupy the automatic promotion spots.

While it's a truism that every game is a tough game, it seems a particularly disproportionate way to describe City's immediate commitments.

More than 3,000 City fans will make their way to Loftus Road on Saturday, hoping their team can be the first to score there in the league this season. It'll be an interesting little wager, given that City have scored in their last 32 away league games.

Neil Warnock has taken Rangers to the top of the table on the back of eight wins and two draws and with pundits purring over midfielder Adel Taarabt and striker Jamie Mackie.

Palace at home four days later might be a relief, but while George Burley's men are second bottom, they did give QPR an almighty fright a fortnight ago before going down 2-1 to a last-minute goal. Palace have lost only once in their last five visits to Norwich, but their away record of one point from a possible 15 suggests they're road weary.

Middlesbrough are as hit and miss as anyone: string together a good result or two and you're guaranteed it will be swiftly followed by a slump. They were 2-0 up at home to Portsmouth last time out but could only draw. Manager Gordon Strachan has spent big – Kevin Thomson cost �2m from Rangers, Stephen McManus �1.5m from Celtic, Nicky Bailey �1.4m from Charlton – and free transfer Kris Boyd won't be cheap either.

But it isn't working and Strachan is already under pressure.

Then it's back on the M4 for City's first trip to Cardiff's new stadium, fortunately built just over the road from their decrepit old one. Cardiff are just a point ahead of Norwich, but they've been the talk of the Championship since signing Craig Bellamy on loan from Manchester City. For a club that has had so many financial problems, it was a surprise – but what an impact the former Norwich man has had.

Burnley may not have won away as of yet, but their visit to Carrow Road won't be much easier. Ditto Millwall and Reading away - very difficult. City were well beaten at Millwall last season, while the presence of those troublesome Sky TV cameras at the Madesjki won't inspire confidence among those fans who believe they are a jinx.

We've skipped through a few games there because the last two games of November are really what it is all about.

First up, on November 20, are Leeds: the tussles with them last season were cracking, and with their vocal away support and the 'no one likes us we don't care' attitude, this one is unlikely to be any different.

Leeds started brightly but have faded: their recent form includes a 6-4 defeat at home to Preston, having led 4-1 at one stage. Then they went to Ipswich and lost 2-1 to leave them mid-table.

The atmosphere will be electric for that one, but eight days later, when Sunday lunch is suspended for the visit of Ipswich, it will be enough to sustain the National Grid.

The first East Anglian derby since April last year at Portman Road when Ipswich kicked City in the guts as they slumbered like an old sop towards League One.

If they haven't noticed down Suffolk way, things have changed.

Derby away at the beginning of December takes us up to the 20-game mark, but will City still be surprising us by then?

The crystal ball is about as useful as a chocolate teapot given the topsy-turvy start to the season. The key is to win home games and try and get at least a point away.

That means beating Palace, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Leeds and Ipswich – current home form suggests nine points at least.

And away? QPR, Cardiff, Millwall, Reading and Derby – tough at the start, tailing off to attainable.

City have lost three times this season: Watford at home and Doncaster away were reflective of the games, Hull at home most certainly wasn't.

They've been average and still won, they've been excellent and won.

But there does look to be a trend forming: in the last four games they've looked pretty good: winning at Preston and Bristol City, losing at home to Hull and pipping a brave Leicester side. Each of those teams had something of the cornered animal about them, given their league positions.

What City now face are a few teams with a lot more confidence and arrogance, a swagger perhaps. Which is why they may be hitting the right sort of form at just the right time.

Paul Lambert always says that if any team are going to beat his men, they will have to work for the privilege. He doesn't say much more – perhaps he doesn't need to.

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