Norwich City boss Lambert strives to emulate Fulham
Paul Lambert allowed himself one moment of reflection before trying to plot Fulham's downfall today in a Carrow Road finale to an epic 2011.
The Norwich boss has been the chief architect of City's rise from League One, which culminated earlier this year in a long overdue return to the big time.
The Canaries will approach 2012 in rude health on and off the park after an ascent of giddy proportions; signposted by a never to be forgotten evening on the south coast in May.
'That whole day was great, with obviously the earlier result at Cardiff,' said Lambert. 'I don't think anybody thought Middlesbrough could get something, even though they were playing well at that time. That was a big moment for us and then actually doing it (at Portsmouth) was an absolutely huge moment. I said at the time there are not many occasions when you have moments like that. When you do, make sure you enjoy it. That was a huge moment for this football club because the finances were at rock bottom and getting up to the Premier has made it survive.
'What we have done here creates a monster at times, which is something you have to curtail. You have to walk before you can run, but you know you have to get results.
'Listen, I have loved my time here. As I say, the football club is stable and hopefully financially it won't go the way it went ever again long after I am away from here.'
Lambert believes managing expectations along with maintaining their Premier League status are mutually inclusive themes for 2012.
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'I think it has been incredible what the lads have done,' he said. 'We have surpassed people's expectation levels to the point where maybe they think now we just have to turn up to win. It never works that way. We're new and there are lads who haven't played in the league before. We are virtually an underdog in my own eyes. People compare us with Swansea and QPR because they came up with ourselves and are doing really fine as well, but we aren't favourites in any game we play in. We're making a fist of it and that is what we'll continue to do.
'I think what people have to get out of their head is the fact that we are playing catch up with nearly every team in the league. The expectancy level is something we need to try and manage a little bit. I keep hearing the thing that we are compared to Blackpool and they went down. We're not Blackpool. Different clubs, different players and surroundings.
'The players know and I know that we are only half way through, but we've given ourselves a fighting chance to try and stay in it.'
Lambert believes Norwich need look no further than today's opponents for inspiration with Fulham having clocked up more than a decade of unbroken Premier League service.
'They have a terrific side with some really, really top players,' he said. 'They have been an established Premier League side for a number of years. The squad is strong and they got a great result recently against Chelsea. Going there and getting the result they did shows everybody what a good side they are. Everybody coming here needs to know that it will be a tough game.
'Look at their squad and it's of a really, really high quality because they've had a lot of games, with a European campaign as well.
'I think the Europa League is tough because of when it starts and the amount of games you look to play in it, but we'll have to be right on top of our game to get anything from this one.'
Fulham's success at Stamford Bridge came without the attacking talents of England international Bobby Zamora, Andrew Johnson and Republic of Ireland stalwart Damien Duff – further evidence for Lambert of Fulham's spending power highlighted by the �10.6m arrival of Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz during the close season.
'Look at the money they have spent. It's a lot of money but they are getting top players,' he said. 'I don't know why they didn't play, but you are talking about three lads who are top players.
'Duff with the Irish thing and playing as well as he has at the clubs he has been at, Zamora was on fire last year and so was Johnson. I don't know what has happened there, but the manager picks the side that he thinks will play.
'Any team that can go to the Emirates or Stamford Bridge and pick up points shows you how good they are. Every Norwich fan may expect to come and see us turn them over, but I don't see how that can be.'