Lambert pep talk was vital
Paddy DavittNorwich's title-winning talisman Michael Nelson revealed a Paul Lambert pre-match pep talk helped inspire the Canaries clinch the League One championship against Gillingham. Nelson was again City's unlikely goal scoring hero following his pivotal role in the previous weekend's promotion success at Charlton.Paddy Davitt
Norwich's title-winning talisman Michael Nelson revealed a Paul Lambert pre-match pep talk helped inspire the Canaries clinch the League One championship against Gillingham.
Nelson was again City's unlikely goal scoring hero following his pivotal role in the previous weekend's promotion success at Charlton. The 28-year-old produced an almost replica close range headed finish from Simon Lappin's inswinging corner to put the gloss on Norwich's Championship return following Darel Russell's long range opener.
"The gaffer said before the game and after last week no one remembers the runners-up, people who finish second," said Nelson. "So it's nice to go out and do the job and finish it and I hope by the end of the season we can be top of the league with quite a number of points gap, just to prove that we fully deserved it.
"We've definitely been the best team. Once the new manager came in and the ship got steadied, we just kicked on. Every time we got a defeat we bounced back with a win. It just shows the desire of the lads and the commitment and the togetherness we've got. We never had a bad run of results. We had some press saying not so long ago we had a little blip - MK Dons, and losing at Leyton Orient. I think any team in any league would love to have a blip like we've had this season."
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Nelson's 82nd minute header triggered a memorable Carrow Road title party on the final whistle with Grant Holt leading his men back out onto the pitch for a lap of honour.
"Most teams do it every season but never in front of 25,000, knowing that you've won the league and you can just chill out and relax and enjoy the next two games," said Nelson, celebrating the first title of his professional career. "I've had a promotion before but just as runners-up, been to a play-off final and a play-off semi, but it's nice to do it with a bit of breathing space.
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"It's been manic (in the changing room) - people getting chucked everywhere, a couple of the coaching staff have been in the ice bath, the bucket the champagne was in went over the kit man's head and just a lot of beer and champagne flying about which I think is well deserved."
Nelson cashed in on another pinpoint Lappin centre for his second goal in consecutive games - but admitted it was just the luck of the draw.
"No, it's not something we work on in training," he said. "Grant Holt had a little word as we were lining up in the box and said he was going to go one way and I was going to go the other way just to fool the defender. He bought it, Grant blocked him and I had a free header.
"I'm really pleased to score here. The other two goals came away from home. I managed to get the ball in the net twice here but they've both been disallowed so it's nice to get it done and very pleasing that it was on such an important game.
"I think you could just sense the goal was coming and once Darel stuck it in, I think we dominated, really."
Nelson insisted there had never been any premature title talk inside the City dressing room despite a New Year surge which left Lambert's men in clear blue water at the top.
"There wasn't one point I can remember where we thought 'Yes, we've won the league'," he said. "The Leyton Orient game was a setback but we bounced back at Charlton and results went for us. Every game hasn't been brilliant football and nice and pretty. Wehad to dig in deep and grind things out like we did last week and that's the sign of a good team.
"We had a good spell against teams who were around us. Over Christmas we played Millwall and Huddersfield and good results against them drove it home and sent out a little bit of a message to teams in the league that we were ready. We managed to keep that run going and when we did have a little setback and a defeat we bounced back with a win straight afterwards. It's just been a case of maintaining it and trying to stay at the top and that's what we've done."
Nelson is now relishing the chance to test himself at the highest level of his career next season.
"Yes, definitely, that's one of the main reasons I signed," he said. "You get a club like this coming in and I knew they'd sold 18,500 or 19,000 season tickets at the beginning of the season. I knew they had a great chance of automatic promotion, if not winning the league. That was the major factor in me signing."