Norwich City may need a new backbone to deal with big step up

Chris LakeyPaul Lambert hasn't wasted much time getting to grips with his squad as he prepares for the first Championship campaign of his career. Andrew Crofts became his first summer signing when he joined City from Brighton, where he was skipper and fans' player of the season, and five days later was joined by centre-half Elliott Ward, who was out of contract at Coventry.Chris Lakey

Paul Lambert hasn't wasted much time getting to grips with his squad as he prepares for the first Championship campaign of his career.

Andrew Crofts became his first summer signing when he joined City from Brighton, where he was skipper and fans' player of the season, and five days later was joined by centre-half Elliott Ward, who was out of contract at Coventry.

Darel Russell is still mulling over a contract offer, Gary Doherty, Jamie Cureton and Paul McVeigh have all been allowed to leave at the end of their contracts - and coach Ian Crook is returning to Australia.

With inevitable question marks over the remainder of his squad and their ability to cope with the jump up to the Championship, all eyes are on what Lambert will do next. He's said he will bring players in 'to help the other lads', but where?

t Goalkeeper: One of his biggest tasks. He has two young lads, Declan Rudd and Jed Steer, who need experience. They will get that on loan. The intention is that one will be available as back-up, but to whom. Lambert wants to bring Fraser Forster back on loan from Newcastle after his invaluable contribution to the title success. There are other admirers - all will have to wait and see what Magpies boss Chris Hughton decides to do with him. Ex-City keeper Joe Lewis has been linked, but might be too expensive - while Arsenal may consider another loan for the highly-rated 20-year-old Wojciech Szczesny, who was at Brentford last season and may now need a Championship challenge.

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t Right-back: Russell Martin holds the shirt, having been brought in from Peterborough by Lambert. There's back-up in Michael Spillane. Neither is particularly experienced at Championship level, but might be expected to cope. Teenager George Francomb was thrown in briefly last season, but has a way to go before he's in contention.

t Left-back: Adam Drury was back to his old self last season after finally ending a long injury absence. Barry Fry once described him as the best left back outside of the Premier League: the tag may have proved a bit of a burden, but he is still top drawer. Michael Rose was brought in on loan from Stockport as cover, but Drury was clearly first choice. No official decision has been made on whether or not Rose returns. The only cover is Rhoys Wiggins, but he appears to be on his way, so Lambert will need some sort of cover.

t Centre-halves: Lambert moved quickly to bring yup the numbers following Doherty's departure by signing Elliott Ward, but that still leaves him with just four - Ward, Michael Nelson, Zak Whitbread, Jens Berthel Askou, although Michael Spillane could do a job there. Ward has Premier League and Championship experience, Whitbread is being readied for a full pre-season and his first genuine run in the team - from what we've seen he looks classy. Nelson had a good ending to the season - notwithstanding the Leyton Orient game -but has never played higher than League One level, and pace may be an issue. Askou was injured last season and never really regained his place. Young David Stephens was on loan at Lincoln and will need further experience before being considered. Don't be surprised if there's another change or two in the centre-halves' club.

t Midfield: Plenty of players who fit the job description, although you have to wonder which ones are 'in' and which ones may be available to other clubs. Lambert is still trying to persuade Darel Russell to sign a new contract, and has brought in Andrew Crofts from Brighton - you'd have to consider them as high up in his thoughts. But there are question marks over a lot of the others. Korey Smith was excellent last season, but has only one Championship start to his name so is effectively untested. Simon Lappin was one of the first names on the Lambert team sheet, but there will be question marks over his pace. Wes Hoolahan, the most creative player in the middle, will be integral if Lambert plays the diamond role - but what if he doesn't, how will he be accommodated in a higher level of football? Will Lambert go for a more expansive game, or will he keep it tight again? Stephen Hughes was by no means a regular but often looked the part - and has almost 100 Championship appearances to his name. Anthony McNamee blew hot and cold in his rare starts, while Matt Gill started just two games for Lambert. Owain Tudur Jones didn't start any - he and Gill could be deemed surplus to requirements, while Tom Adeyemi looks set to go out no loan. While Lambert has plenty of midfielders he will probably look for one more of proven quality.

t Strikers: Grant Holt and Chris Martin were magnificent last season - but can they do it in the Championship? Curiously, Martin is more experienced at that level - who can forget the way he announced himself in the early weeks of 2007? Holt has only a handful of appearances, but will be aching to prove himself at this level. They pulled up trees last season and it's hard to see Lambert breaking up the partnership. Both have an eye for goal, both know how to play football, and while they won't be the quickest strike force around, they could still be deadly if Lambert accommodates that deficiency. Lambert's problem is that the back-up is lacking in experience: Oli Johnson oozes promise, but football is an impatient master. Cody McDonald is an admirable substitute. After that there's no one. The pacy Luke Daley suffered recurring injury problems, while Stephen Elliott's loan spell proved to be a bit of a damp squib, despite his two goals at Huddersfield.

t Coaching staff: Crook's return to Australia leaves a big hole, but there will be plenty of people interested. Gary Holt will no doubt feature in the speculation, as could ex-City skipper Craig Fleming, who has worked wonders at Lowestoft. It's a good job for an ambitious coach. The role of goalkeeping coach appears to be available, with Lambert suggesting that he needs to persuade Laurence Batty to take it on a permanent basis: but it would be a surprise if Batty doesn't return. An announcement on a new chief scout was promised by Delia Smith on a web chat last month - we're still 'watching the space'.

t Conclusion: You only have to look down the backbone to see where the holes are: goalkeeper, central defender, midfielder and striker - not all necessarily starters, but cover and competition at least.

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