Norwich City ‘in a good place’ insists chief executive David McNally
Norwich City is in peak fitness – despite the loss of their manager and questions over the future of want-away star striker Grant Holt.
Paul Lambert's departure to Aston Villa – confirmed over the weekend – and the impasse with Holt, who maintains he wants to leave Carrow Road, have divided supporters.
Lambert's departure was perhaps inevitable, but Holt's decision to hand in a transfer request was a major shock – and signs are beginning to emerge of a fans' backlash against the charismatic striker.
Meanwhile, one national newspaper went so far as to claim there was a mutiny among the City squad, with players disgruntled at 'what's going on'.
But City chief executive David McNally – who has been at the centre of both Lambert's departure and talks with Holt and his representative – insists that Norwich City Football Club is in rude health.
In an exclusive interview, McNally said:
• The club believed Lambert's next club would be one competing in the Champions League.
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• The Lambert and Holt issues are not connected.
• City haven't seen the last of Holt.
• The players are all looking forward to the next challenge.
'It (the club) is in the healthiest state that it has probably been in its history,' said McNally. 'We have just finished in the biggest and probably most difficult league in the word in 12th place. Following on from two years of a meteoric rise from 66th in the Football League pyramid to 12th in the Premier League, we are looking to improve the squad this year, we are looking to invest heavily in new players.
'We are under no pressure to sell any players – if we do sell any players then the extra money goes to the football manager, so I think we are in a terrific place.
'The hottest ticket in the county is at Carrow Road. Most of the complaints in my post bag are from people who can't get a ticket to see the game.
'If that is a crisis and if that is a difficult place, then bring it on.
'Of course, there are clearly some real challenges that we face, but that is football. Paul Lambert has been magnificent for this football club and we will be forever grateful.
'Three fantastic years and he will always be welcome at Carrow Road. He is truly a Carrow Road legend and quite rightly is in the Hall of Fame. We are very grateful to Paul for his achievements over the years and we wish him well.'
There is little doubt Lambert's success would attract suitors but the view of many supporters is that he has perhaps not gone as high up the Premier League ladder as he might and that Villa represents, if not a step down, then certainly not a step up.
'We believe that it was inevitable at some point that Paul would leave us – we thought for a very big team, one of the big clubs in the game,' said McNally. 'And I am not being disrespectful to Aston Villa, because clearly they are previous European Cup winners and have won league titles, but we thought he would go to a team that was perhaps competing in the Champions League even. It was inevitable because he is very good, he is a very good football manager. He has done brilliantly for Norwich City. I would say of course that Norwich City have done brilliantly for him too – and I am sure that he recognises that. But he has been a great, great servant for that three years to this football club, and look where we are now.
'So, yes, it as inevitable but, yes we are a bit surprised he hasn't gone to a team that is competing in the Champions League.'
The speculation surrounding Lambert and Villa coincided with Holt's transfer request – leading to reports that player will follow the manager to the Midlands. However, McNally says the two are not linked, and reiterated his stance that Holt is not for sale.
'The Grant Holt matter is completely unrelated to the Paul Lambert issue,' said McNally. 'That is clear from the timing of the initial transfer request.
'Grant Holt, we would prefer absolutely to stay at the football club. He has been magnificent for us. The first player to win the Player of the Season trophy three years in succession, and rightly so – he was mentioned by many as a potential member of the England Euros quad this year – 70 goals in three years, 17 goals last year including 15 in the Premier League. He is not for sale – Grant Holt is not for sale.'
Not at any price?
'How much will it cost me and the club to find a replacement, a centre forward with 70 goals in the next three seasons?' asked McNally. 'How much would that cost?
'Players do join football clubs and players do leave football clubs, but Grant is not for sale. He has two years left on his contract and we look forward to him completing the length of his contract. There is not really a split. He has asked for a transfer, it has been denied and that is where we are, really. I am sure when we have a new manager in the new manager will pick up the day top day management of the players once again.'
And will that be by a 'mutinous' squad of players?
'It is a ridiculous, sensationalist headline which I am sure that particular newspaper perhaps regrets, with the benefit of hindsight,' McNally said.
'There is no mutiny here. I am sure if they looked at the definition of the word they would understand why they are so wrong.
'The players are fine – they will be saying, quite rightly, good luck to Paul Lambert, he has been great for them, and they have enjoyed working with him, but most of the players that I have spoken to are saying they are really excited about the new season, new face, new voice.
'Good luck to Paul, I am sure he will do well at Aston Villa, but we are really excited about the next chapter at Norwich City Football Club. And we are very lucky that we have so many young talented footballers whose careers are on the rise and we have got them at the right age and we have time on their contracts.'