Chris Lakey: A Norwich City hero in charge of Ipswich Town? That'll never do...
PUBLISHED: 18:46 25 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:01 26 October 2018
Focus Images 2011
Former Norwich City boss Paul Lambert looks set to take over from sacked Ipswich boss Paul Hurst - Chris Lakey looks at the ramifications.
It was perhaps the least surprising news of the week... swiftly followed by reports that test the very extremes of the imagination.
Ipswich Town’s decision to sack Paul Hurst was hardly unexpected – but the reports that Paul Lambert was set to take over will have been met with incredulity, rightly or wrongly. Swiftly followed by ... what?
How should Norwich City fans properly react?
Even in this bizarre world that football has created for itself, this is one brave move by Paul Lambert – and one exceptional move by Ipswich Town. Ring any bells? Memories of August 2009 anyone?
Let’s turn the clock back a little...
On the evening of August 8, 2009, not long after Lambert’s Colchester United had won 7-1 at Carrow Road on the opening day of the League One season, City set the ball rolling to make him their number one target to take over from Bryan Gunn.
Six days later, City announced that Gunn had been sacked. Lambert was named new manager two days later and was in the stands at Griffin Park for the game at Brentford on August 18.
City lost just two League One games before the turn of the year, they had one run of eight wins in a row, and they won the title by nine points.
Lambert was a hero – but more was to come: the next season City won automatic promotion to the top flight, finishing second to QPR. In each of his first two seasons, City were never beaten twice in a row in the league.
Having kept City in the top flight in 2011-12, Lambert offered his resignation, but it was declined. A month later he was named new manager of Aston Villa. His departure wasn’t smooth: then chairman Alan Bowkett revealed the Scot was suing the club for £2m for breach of contract.
Shortly after moving to Villa, Lambert said: “I had my reasons [for leaving], which will probably remain private and I don’t want to keep going back to that.”
That’s Lambert: he was never one for raking over old ground. History was exactly that. The old boys network wasn’t for him.
Despite that, Lambert maintained a decent relationship with City supporters, because one of his great skills was insisting, always, that it was all about the fans and the players. It was a mantra repeated on a weekly basis. It meant he was out of the spotlight, and that was the way he liked it – he was much happier taking the applause of the crowd than giving a journalist a few soundbites.
Now he’s going to be talking blue rather than yellow and green. He’s going to be thinking how he can get Portman Road rocking in the way Carrow Road did during his tenure.
Lambert left Norwich City under something of a cloud. He will be under a positive monsoon on February 10 when he returns to Carrow Road with City’s fiercest rivals.
You can come back in charge of Aston Villa, or Blackburn or Wolves or Stoke. But not Ipswich Town.
Because of what he created at Carrow Road.