Norwich City boss Lambert issues reality check
Norwich's current status inside the Premier League's top 10 may hint at parity with the big boys – but Paul Lambert reiterated yesterday City are operating in a different stratosphere in the transfer market.
Lambert rammed home the message again ahead of his side's bid to maintain their league momentum against FA Cup opponents West Brom this afternoon. The City chief was linked with a fresh raid on the Championship this week after Brighton's Liam Bridcutt joined the likes of Nottingham Forest's Chris Gunter and Blackpool's Matt Phillips in his reported sights.
Progress to date has been of the painfully slow variety, with the Scot having to abandon his usual recruitment policy of hitting the sales early. Lambert admitted Norwich's double promotion success has catapulted the club into a totally different market place.
'We've made progress on the pitch, but we are still nowhere near what the rest of them can do. We have got a wage structure here, but two years ago the club was flat on its face,' said Lambert. 'We have a structure we think might stabilise it, but you still have to get players in who you think can try and help. You'd love to be linked with people who cost �10m or �12m and pay the wages, but we're not - that is the reality of it.
'Because of what happened before we came in, when the club was nearly on its face, then common sense tells you we are not going to just go to the Premier League level right away. I don't think Norwich will really feel the benefit until they have been in it for two or three years with the finances. That seven-year plan doesn't work when you do it in two. No-one knew what was going to happen, but because you are in the Premier League, people assume that we can do what QPR can do, but we can't. The money they are talking about, we can't compete with that.'
Frustration summed up the mood at Lambert's latest press briefing.
'I was hopeful (at the start of the window), but we are not making inroads, that is for sure,' he said. 'Of course it's frustrating, but if we have to go with the group here, I'll go with the group here. I have no problem with that. They have been brilliant for me this season, but it is frustrating. We can't do the wages, as everybody knows. That is a problem, but that is the way it is. Everybody I spoke to before the season told you that the lads you have would need a hand.
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'There is no point bringing in people who I think will be a squad player or just to make the numbers. We can get a load of those. I don't want to do that. We want ones that can play a part from now until the end of the season and when you get those through the door in January it is a big help to the group already here. At the minute we are not making any headway.'
Lambert knows the inherent inflationary danger of dabbling in the market towards the tail end of the annual New Year scramble.
'People have their own perception about how much money Norwich have to spend and the funds available,' he said. 'You hear it all the time, but when you look at some of the prices, you can't compete with that. We are nowhere near it to compete. It is hard and we'll do what we can. People don't want to sell their best players and everything you want to do is inflated, but you have to weigh it up. Will we have to go right to the end? The way it is going, maybe. Let's wait and see. There is still a length of time, but I won't bring in just for the sake of it. It is easy to go and get lads who might not contribute. You can do that any day of the week. The level we are at and what you try and achieve you have to try and bring in new players.'
Lambert insists the relative lack of business right across the Premier League is indicative of the problems faced by every club. However, the Scot is not tempted to broaden his search to the continent.
'Not necessarily,' he said. 'Two years ago, as I said, you are League One, so all of a sudden you go from that to talking about scouting abroad. In League One you wouldn't be looking abroad in a million years, never. I wouldn't have done because you had to get out of that league and the best way to do it was British-based lads.
'The quickness makes it really hard because the seven-year plan has been blown out of the water in two, but I still think you have to walk before you can run. You might get one or two huge deals, like a few years ago, right on the last day, but that will only come from the bigger clubs who look to strengthen their hand.'
Lambert sanctioned a loan move for George Francomb to SPL outfit Hibernian earlier this week and the Scot revealed the short-term market is another option he has explored for potential inward arrivals.
Tottenham's Kyle Naughton and Manchester United defender Ritchie De Laet are currently the two members of his senior squad borrowed from fellow Premier League clubs.
'I've looked at the loan route and I have inquired about a few of them. Teams won't let them out. That is the thing, so you are hitting a brick wall, but we have inquired about a few,' he said. 'Letting George out was not a difficult one because I think we are well covered.
'He is at a stage where he needs games to play and I said before, I am not going to curtail anybody's career. With him being a young player he needs to play. I think it is great for him and to play at a decent level.'