Norwich City’s �5m Premier League incentive to finish on a high

Norwich City will be going flat out for the finishing line in the last four games of their Premier League season – knowing it could give manager Paul Lambert the best part of �5m extra to spend in the summer.

Just one point currently covers six positions in the table, between Sunderland in ninth place on 43 and Stoke City in 14th on 42. The Canaries are sitting 11th, also on 43.

With 15th-placed Aston Villa eight points behind Sunderland, but with a game in hand, a strong finish to the season could also push them into the tight mid-table group.

And with each place in the table worth roughly an extra �750,000 in merit payments, the difference between Norwich finishing ninth and 15th will be huge.

'It's why we don't have meaningless end-of-season games any more in this great league of ours,' said chief executive David McNally.

'I grew up watching lots of dull end-of-season games where two teams would play out a boring 0-0 and they were meaningless games. There's no such thing in this league.

'There's one point between six or seven teams in mid-table, call it �750,000 a place after very limited overheads. Six places, what's that? It's �4�m.'

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As the Canaries prepare to take on relegation-threatened Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park tomorrow (3pm), McNally confirmed that the higher the finish, the greater the boost to Lambert's transfer budget.

'We're a co-operative, plain and simple,' he said. 'And by that we mean any spare cash goes to the football manager. While this team of people are here managing the club, that will always be the case.'

Last season, Aston Villa collected �9.08m in merit payments for finishing ninth, out of �49m in all in TV fees and prize money. Blackburn, who were 15th, received �4.5m in merit payments out of a total of �42.1m.

It means there is an added incentive for City to end the campaign on a high with tomorrow's game at Blackburn followed by the visit of Liverpool, a trip to Arsenal and a home game against Villa on the final day.

With City looking to bounce back from the 6-1 home defeat by Manchester City, the heaviest of the manager's reign, Lambert is without injured defenders Marc Tierney (groin) and Daniel Ayala (knee) for the rest of the season. He was today expected to give an update on the fitness of striker James Vaughan (hamstring), out of action for the past nine weeks, and defender Zak Whitbread (calf), who has missed the last three games.

Blackburn, facing a protest march from fans before tomorrow's match, are desperate to end a run of five straight defeats, which has left them second from bottom of the table.

Manager Steve Kean is forced into at least one change with injured defender Grant Hanley (ankle ligaments) expected to be out for the rest of the season.

His likely replacement at centre-back will be Gael Givet, centre of controversy last weekend after Kean said the Frenchman declined to play at Swansea – an accusation denied by the player.

Marcus Olsson could be brought in on the left side of midfield with twin brother Martin dropping to left-back. Midfielder Simon Vukcevic may be recalled to the squad. Rovers are hoping attacking pair Junior Hoilett (hamstring) and top scorer Yakubu (knee) will be fit after both hobbled off in the second half of the 3-0 defeat at Swansea.