Norwich boss is master of own destiny
Paddy DavittNorwich boss Paul Lambert is already on the fast track to legendary status at Carrow Road with his early tenure worthy of comparison alongside any of his predecessors.Paddy Davitt
Norwich boss Paul Lambert is already on the fast track to legendary status at Carrow Road with his early tenure worthy of comparison alongside any of his predecessors. Here PADDY DAVITT assesses Lambert's managerial philosophy
Lambert's footballing mantra is a simple one.
'Before my very first game as Wycombe manager Martin O'Neill gave me a couple of words of advice which were, 'just win and get players running for you.' That always stuck in my brain to man-manage players and get the best out of them. The most important thing is the players and the fans and if you can get them playing with you and supporting you, you have a great chance to succeed.'
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No over-complicated coaching or clever soundbites. No forensic analysis of formations or tactical gems. Whisper it for now, but following the rancour and discord of the recent past Norwich City football club appears to be on the up. Unified. Pulling in the right direction.
Witness the scenes at Colchester's Weston Homes Community Stadium on Saturday. Manager, players, away fans all in perfect harmony. Lambert celebrated each Norwich goal like he was sat in the midst of the lucky 1,900 away supporters and the odd straggler or two who sneaked through the gaps in Colchester's porous ticketing policy.
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Lambert was thrust into the limelight. His new club against his old and all the bitter backdrop that went before it. But Lambert prefers the shadows. Continually deflecting praise away from his role in this transformation. It's the players. It's the supporters. Since his arrival Norwich have gone from laughing stock to potential leaders of League One should they overcome Brentford this weekend.
The Scot is the catalyst. Whether he likes it or not. Just like O'Neill before him at Leicester. Or Celtic. And now perhaps even Aston Villa.
No coincidence Lambert placed such a high premium on O'Neill's sound advice. The mannerisms, the tracksuit image, the deadpan delivery, the cat-on-a-hot tin roof touchline style are classic O'Neill. But Lambert is no imitation. No clone of the Northern Irishman. He's a shrewd operator who knew a sure fire bet when he saw one at close quarters.
'I think everybody knows that Martin is a top manager,' said Lambert, quoted in an interview with the league managers' association. 'I just think the way he treats people is a big part of it. If you treat people right they'll run for you. You can have the perfect way you want to play but if people don't want to run for you that's when you've got a problem. Martin treats people like adults and he's got a terrific backroom staff as well, including John Robertson.'
Lambert made sure 'his' men made the same acrimonious switch from Colchester to Carrow Road. Gary Karsa and Ian Culverhouse. Trusted lieutenants. One doubts even City chief executive David McNally could have persuaded his fellow Celt to leave them behind as a sop to Colchester's outspoken chairman.
Likewise, Lambert's firm public stance on the futures of his prized playing assets. The Scot publicly stated before Christmas he would be answerable to a long queue of angry supporters should Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan, Chris Martin et al be offloaded in this transfer window. Or any transfer window. That was a warning shot to the club's powerbrokers as much as potential suitors.
Lambert is very much his own man. Pig-headed. Stubborn you suspect. Decisive. Assured. Characteristics that defined him as a player. Lambert won the ultimate club prize when Borussia Dortmund lifted the Champions League making him in turn one of the few successful British footballing exports. Now those same characteristics define him as a manager. Lambert returned to Germany to study for his Uefa Pro Licence with his playing career entering the final straight at Celtic. Not for him the easy option.
'It was a massive challenge, I went there and I was commuting from Glasgow to Germany for eight months or so, it was somewhat surreal,' he said. 'It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. When I joined Borussia Dortmund as a player the only thing I had to do was converse with people which I grasped, on the football pitch things are the same because football is a universal language and I had a great team to play with.
'However when you go on a coaching course and there are people there that you haven't met before, even though you have got a bit of a reputation, it counts for nothing because there were people on the courses that had won the World Cup. But the challenge was great and I don't like getting beat, put it that way, if it's there to challenge me I will go for it.'
Doesn't like getting beat. Arguably the finest trait for any manager who values longevity in the most precarious of professions. Something the Canaries' League One opponents are all too painfully aware of as City bid for a club record tenth consecutive home win on Saturday against the Bees.