Norwich City boss Paul Lambert - I know what Roberto Martinez is going through
Paul Lambert shares more than managerial solidarity with Roberto Martinez. He feels his pain ahead of struggling Wigan's Premier League visit to Carrow Road.
The Norwich chief swept into the top flight on the back of consecutive promotions that personally brought him manager-of-the-year honours – but Lambert has also experienced plenty of dark places at the helm.
His first posting at Livingston in the Scottish Premier League saw him win only five of 32 games in a season that ended with relegation by 15 points. Martinez brings the Latics' to Norfolk this weekend propping up the rest – a place Lambert would not wish on his worst enemy.
'It's horrific, yes. There is a lot of pressure to win,' he said. 'It doesn't matter where you are in the table, you have to try to win. At the bottom, the anxiety plays on your brain. If you lose, the next thing you do as soon as you finish, you look for another result to see it if helps you.
'It's the worst feeling for a footballer. At Livingston I had that. It's never nice, even though you're getting everything out of the lads you could possibly get, we just couldn't get results for one reason or another.
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'It was the same coming here at Norwich, second from bottom in the league. As I said before, the only thing that was keeping us off it was Southampton's points deduction. But the size of the fan base indicated that I had to win more games than not.
'It's alright saying you've got a fan base but the lads have got to go and produce it week in, week out, then try to make a run at it. It happened here, so I know what it's like.'
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Lambert's reticence to raise his immediate sights above Premier League survival springs from an inherent caution shaped by such traumatic experiences.
'You do learn, but at that time I couldn't ask for any more effort from the team,' he said. 'They gave me absolutely everything, those lads. They were young as well, but they gave me everything and at the end of the day, that's all you can ask for and with a bit of luck here and there you might just pull through. But when you can't get results, it definitely weighs you down.
'When people talk about Norwich in Europe - it's a nonsense. I just tell the truth, the realism that my own main objective is to stay in this league. Everybody's expectancy level can go through the roof, but we have to try to stay in the league.
'We never get over-excited about it but if the lads stay in this league, it doesn't matter how they do it, it helps us build and it helps the players with their own careers.'
Lambert knows Wigan's desperation makes than a dangerous opponent this week – irrespective of current league status.
'I think Roberto has known that for a number of weeks that they need wins. You have to try to pick up points,' he said. 'I've got to look after my own team. We have to get running and get at them and do everything we can. We need the crowd to stick with us because it's going to be a tough game.
'It's the same whether you play a team at the top or the bottom – you try to win. This is a tough game and no-one should be under any illusions that it is one of the hardest ones we face because everyone expects Wigan to turn up, being bottom of the league, and lose.
'That is everybody's perception of the game but I know in my own head how tough it is going to be. The lads know it will be really tough but we are playing well enough to win. They are still an established Premier League side with really good players but it is another game we will try and win.'
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan was critical of Martinez's team selection after last weekend's home defeat to Swansea, before pledging his full support to the Spanish boss. Lambert accepts the riches on offer for Premier League membership only serve to intensify the level of cut throat competition required to stay in such an exclusive club.
'We've come right up through the financial difficulties the club's had and we have to try to stay in it to keep the club going. The club will be fine now,' he said. 'I don't think it will ever go back to the level of financial difficulty it was in and at the minute we're doing incredibly well in the hardest league, which two years ago, nobody would have thought this was going to happen.'
Wigan's latest home loss prolonged a wretched run at the DW Stadium, and Lambert believes Martinez's side may relish the absence of home comforts.
'There is less pressure on you away from home. I think that is the case because of the fan base. The majority of the home crowd will be with us,' he said. 'Yes, they are having a hard time at the minute, but it is up to us.
'I don't think their style of play changes because Roberto is a football person, so I don't think they will move from their beliefs. We know we have to be bang at it.'
Lambert will again be without injured trio Marc Tierney (knee), James Vaughan (hamstring) and Dani Ayala.
The Spanish centre back did return to his homeland as part of City's mini training camp earlier this week, but has suffered a minor setback in his fitness battle to return from the hamstring injured against Bolton.
Lambert also insisted there was no mystery surrounding striker Steve Morison's omission from the starting line up in recent weeks.
'He had a slight problem with his ankle a few weeks ago, which is why I left him out at the beginning,' said the Norwich chief. 'I think since the Wales international game he's been doing really fine.
'There's no problem. It's been a big jump for him (through the leagues) as well, but he's been brilliant for us – a major part of what's happened here. He's led the line himself at certain times and sometimes he needs a break to come back again.
'He had a little ankle problem that was giving him a wee bit of concern at the time. He played through that for us, which is great, but Morison I think over the season has been excellent for us.
'They're only young. You get that with younger players – not Moro perhaps – but sometimes you get a bit of inconsistency from them because they're only young. But Steve Morison, if you look at his career, has not been a pro for 15 or 20 years.'