Norwich City have staying power
Norwich City are capable of matching Stoke City's achievement in re-establishing themselves as a Premier League club, according to former boss Bruce Rioch.
As Arsenal, another of the clubs once managed by Rioch, prepare to visit Carrow Road in Saturday's sell-out game, he said the Canaries had the right formula on and off the field to retain top-flight status.
'It's a tough league. Norwich have been there before and not stayed in it but this season with the players, the management and the fans they have – the supporters have been magnificent again – I believe they can stay there,' said Rioch who cited Stoke as an example of what can be achieved.
The Potters, promoted from the Championship in 2008, have since finished 12th, 11th and 13th in the Premier League and qualified for Europe after reaching their first FA Cup final last season. They are currently 12th in the table and top of their Europa League group.
'I recall a comment from Tony Pulis, who is a good friend of mine, a few seasons ago when he said 'If we can stay in for two or three years, we can build and develop and stay in it a long time',' he said.
'If you keep dropping out you lose your players and it's much more difficult. But Stoke have stayed in there and now Tony has been able to sign people like Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios.
'I think it's really looking good for Norwich to do that and stay in this division.
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'Paul Lambert has done an absolutely fantastic job. He has put great belief into the team and the football club and that has transmitted itself to the supporters. It appears, from the outside looking in, that everything is in unison and everyone is pulling in the same direction and it's sending out the right signals about Norwich.
'The brand of football they play is exciting. There appears to be a no fear philosophy, from the boardroom through to the manager to the team to the supporters.
'Behind the scenes Delia Smith has been absolutely magnificent, brilliant for Norwich City, supportive as a fan and a director.'
Rioch, 64, a former Scotland captain like Lambert, said: 'When you listen to Paul speaking, he gives you confidence and that's what he will give to his players. There seems to be a calmness emanating from the manager.
'He has a tremendous pedigree with his Celtic background and then playing in Europe. He has a lot of experience working with top managers at clubs that expect success.'
Like Lambert, Rioch engineered back-to-back promotions when he took Middlesbrough from near bankruptcy in Division Three in 1986 to Division One in 1988.
'It is an enormous step. But they have the talent, confidence and belief that they can compete – confidence is so important in all of our lives – and they work as a unit,' he said.
Rioch, who had one season in charge of Arsenal in 1995-96 and nearly two years at Carrow Road from 1998, now lives in Cornwall and coaches non-League Falmouth Town one night per week. He also watches Coventry youth team matches – his son Gregor is Academy manager – and some Premier League games at Aston Villa.
He does not believe the Gunners' visit this weekend is the kind of match that will decide the Canaries' fate.
'If you take points from the big clubs they are bonus points, really,' he said. 'You're competing against teams that have spent �300m on players and whether you play them home or away, it's very tough. Going to Anfield and taking a point was phenomenal and now they have Arsenal.
'Arsenal's rocky period began before the season started when they lost Fabregas and Nasri. Their impact was immense and they didn't begin too well.
'There was a lot of criticism but they came through that. Van Persie is a threat, always dangerous, and Walcott with his pace. Of course they have lost Wilshere with a long-term injury but they are more settled now.
'They're not as good as the 'Invincibles' because that Arsenal team had everything – pace, power, skill, class – but they've picked up as a team. You have two teams going into the game with confidence, trying to win. It makes for a really good match.'
'But it's the home games against Wolves and Wigan and Queens Park Rangers you really need to win to stay in this league.'