Norwich City boss Lambert wary of Chelsea’s high rollers
Paul Lambert yesterday cautioned that anyone wishing to write Fernando Torres' footballing obituary is simply deluded.
The Spanish superstar looks a pale imitation of the man who terrorised Premier League defences at Liverpool prior to his �50m move from Anfield. Torres is likely to lead the line at Carrow Road today with Didier Drogba away on African Cup of Nations duty, but the World Cup winner has been unable to match Steve Morison and Grant Holt in the goalscoring stakes so far this campaign.
Holt has repaid his �400,000 transfer fee from Shrewsbury many times over during City's rise from League One – but Lambert is adamant Torres remains a priceless commodity.
'If you ask me, 'Would I like to have Torres?' then yes, of course I would. I wouldn't bother about his price tag,' said Lambert. 'I know the lad hasn't scored for a while, but that boy is still a top player, no doubt. He is a brilliant footballer and a terrific striker. I don't think it is anything to do with a price tag hanging over his head because I don't think footballers go into a game thinking, 'I cost X amount of money, so that will weigh me down'. I don't buy into that. I think he is a world class footballer – whether someone costs �50m or someone costs �400,000. I don't think that hangs over people's heads. Sometimes you need something to go in, maybe an ugly goal or a break, to kick-start you. People ask can he play together with Drogba? I'll take the two of them. If they don't want them, then they can bring them here. Good players can play with anybody. That is certainly the case. If Chelsea want to send them down here for �10 each, then I'll take it.'
Holt, in contrast, has scored four times as many goals in the top flight as Torres this season to underline his residual value to the Canaries.
'You can't put a figure on people any more, but if you are talking value for money then Grant has been phenomenal for this club for �400,000,' said Lambert. 'That is the thing. When you have that goalscoring ratio and what he has done for the club, I'm pretty sure people look at that and think it is nothing. Yet to some clubs it is a hell of a lot of money. Grant has come in and done great since I have been here. I'm pretty sure after the Colchester 7-1 game, which he played in, people weren't thinking that was money well spent. He didn't have a sniff, but his career picked up and he has kept on going and going.
'Of course, finance helps, but as long as players have the hunger to do it, it shouldn't matter how much they cost or the level. They have to want to win things because football is about winning and lifting trophies or whatever. That is what the game is. You don't want to deflect from that because the other success comes as a result.'
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City's number nine backed his manager's verdict that Torres' pedigree proves he is a high class operator.
'He's under a lot of pressure,' said Holt. 'He's gone for a big price tag and it's not nice when you're not scoring goals, and you could see last week from the highlights he hits an unbelievable volley that goes off the bar and hits someone on the knee and goes in. That's probably what he needs, he needs a cross to hit him on the back of the head and go in the bottom corner. I think if he gets that, it will be as big an achievement as if he whacks one from 40 yards.
'You're only worth what someone wants to pay for you, to be honest. If someone wants to pay �50m for him, that's what he's worth. If someone wants to pay �400,000 for me, that's what I'm worth. It was a big purchase for Norwich because there wasn't a lot of money there, so it was a big investment. I'm hoping that everyone who's paid it and everyone who put their money back in thinks it's been good value for money.'
Holt opened his Premier League account in August's corresponding fixture at Stamford Bridge to draw Norwich level, before a late penalty and John Ruddy's subsequent red card turned the tide in favour of Andre Villas-Boas' men.
'We're playing one of the best teams in Europe. We had a really good game against them at Stamford Bridge and we'll give it everything we have got,' said Lambert. 'No doubt they are a top, top side. The onus is on us to try and make the running as we are at home. The confidence in my lads has never wilted – whether it was the beginning of the season or not. The lads will do everything they can to win and the crowd will be buoyant.
'Chelsea's system is still the same. The personnel might vary now and again, but they still have international players in the backbone of their team. What we have done since is pick up some good results, but that is all we have done at the minute. There is still a long way to go. I think you get more respect from teams now because Norwich is holding their own. My lads have a lot of belief that they can win games and I trust them to go and go do it.'
Lambert confirmed yesterday defender Marc Tierney is now fully over his recent groin injury. Jed Steer is poised to again deputise for Declan Rudd as back-up to Ruddy, with Lambert content to stick with the status quo amongst his keepers.
'There are no plans at the minute to do anything,' he said. 'I have full confidence in Jed and no problems on that score. Jed and Dec are really similar. There is not much between them and you don't know if someone can do it until they get a chance. If I had to put him in (in the Premier League) I would have no qualms on that score.'
Elliott Ward and James Vaughan are now back training with the first team squad – with Lambert not ruling out a potential reserve outing against Chelsea's second string next week. The Scot also paid tribute to Ritchie de Laet after injury forced the Belgian to cut short a season-long loan stint.
'I spoke to Sir Alex a couple of weeks ago and he was great,' he said. 'We thank him and Manchester United for allowing us to have him. He did great for us, Ritchie, at the beginning, but the back injury was an issue. Manchester United knew that and we told them what was wrong and that it was probably best for everybody that he went back.'