Norwich City boss Lambert wants to finish West Brom FA Cup tie at the first attempt
Paul Lambert insists whoever carries the Norwich City flag into battle this afternoon is good enough to edge the third part of the club's trilogy with West Brom in the FA Cup fourth round tie at the Hawthorns.
Lambert's faith in his squad rotation policy has been borne out by successfully navigating a path through a congested festive period to maintain their place in the Premier League's top 10.
The Canaries' boss dismissed any suggestion a pending midweek league trip to Sunderland will influence his selection – but Lambert admitted further cup progress comes with conditions attached.
'The worst case scenario is it goes to a replay, which I don't want,' he said. 'I want to try and get the game finished today. Win or lose. Roy (Hodgson) would say the same, if you asked him, but it certainly won't be a game we don't want to win.
'Whatever team I pick I hope goes and wins. Just because we change it a lot, its not to throw people, it is what Ian (Culverhouse) and I think might win us a game. It won't be a weakened side. 'We want to get through. I don't view whatever team I pick as being 'weaker' or whatever someone else's perception might be. I have great trust in the lads I play. That is all I ask for at the end of the day. The lads who have been here from day one just got on with it and the ones who came in since have bought into it.
'They have to handle disappointment when they don't get picked, but I am pretty sure if you asked them they would say they are loving it here at the minute. I just think some lads might need a break from playing week in, week out.'
Lambert believes Norwich's recent win in the Black Country carries little cup significance ahead of the clubs' seasonal decider.
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'The lads know it will be a really hard game because it was tough up there the last time,' he said. 'Beating them before doesn't matter for this one. No two games are the same.
'I just think Roy might change it for the Premier League game to come –- he might not, he might go strong – but I'm pretty sure the midweek games will play a part in people's thinking. Because we played them a fortnight ago I don't think there is too much more we need to know. They haven't picked up many points at home, but they are still a good side with good players.
'The personnel might be different, but I don't think there will be much of a difference overall. We defended really strongly on that day.and I thought we were a threat on the counter.'
Lambert confirmed fit-again duo Elliott Ward and James Vaughan would travel to the Midlands after successfully coming through a reserve work-out against Chelsea at Carrow Road on Tuesday evening. The manager conceded blooding them back into the first team fold, however, will take delicate handling after being out for months with knee injuries.
'They are not too far away,' said. Lambert. 'The good thing for me is that they came through the game the other night. A fully-fit James Vaughan will be a handful for anybody and Wardy coming back after missing most of this season gives me four good centre halves competing for two places in the side.
'I don't think there is anything worse for a footballer than being injured and all the rehab that goes with it – especially if they are going to be out for three or four months. It is a nightmare because you are going to have good days and bad days. Rehab work in the gym, I've done it myself, when I have been out for a few months.
'You feel great one day and you come in and feel you can do anything. A few weeks later you feel you can't be bothered with anything because it just hits you. They've battled through that point and the frustration, but I don't think they ever felt out of it because no-one has isolated them. We still kept them involved and talked to them.'
Ward has yet to play a single competitive minute this campaign after being a staple in the backline that earned promotion from the Championship. Former Everton striker Vaughan's early City career has been blighted by injury since becoming Lambert's first signing of last summer.
'James had a good sustainable period at (Crystal) Palace where I felt he was a major influence on them staying in the league,' said Lambert. 'If we can get him fully-fit he'll be a handful. He gives us that pace in behind and he is an aggressive lad.
'His enthusiasm has probably cost him injuries with the way he plays the game, but he is not too dissimilar to Simeon (Jackson) in the sense they are small, nippy forwards. If I keep him fit he'll be another big asset.
'In Wardy's case he was a huge part of getting this club where it is today and Vaughany is just a young lad who hopefully can now push on. I couldn't throw them in at the minute because they have only played a bit of the game the other night. That would be unfair on them to throw them into the magnitude and intensity of the Premier League. I haven't decided what I will do yet for the cup game. I might just take them up there for a bit of sight-seeing. I don't know.'
Marc Tierney is also ready for a first team return after playing 70 minutes against Chelsea's second string. The left-back slot is up for grabs at West Brom with Tottenham's Kyle Naughton ineligible under the terms of his loan agreement.
Young keeper Declan Rudd has undergone surgery on a foot injury and will be out for up to two months – leaving new signing Jonny Howson as the only injured outfield player currently on Lambert's roster.
Howson himself confirmed yesterday he is inching closer to a return from the knee injury that has ruled him out since early December.
'We're not talking several weeks. He is not too far away, which is pleasing,' said Lambert. 'There is no pressure on him. I think he is a fantastic player and someone we had seen for a number of years. When he is fit I think we'll have a big player on our hands – and not just in the short term.'
• If today's tie finishes all square the replay will be at Carrow Road on Tuesday, February 7 (7.45pm).