Norwich could take more than just the Foxes' crown
Paddy DavittGary Doherty is right to use Leicester City as the template for the next phase of the Canaries' evolution. Doherty and his team-mates are odds on to inherit Leicester's League One crown in front of another Carrow Road sell out this weekend.Paddy Davitt
Gary Doherty is right to use Leicester City as the template for the next phase of the Canaries' evolution.
Doherty and his team-mates are odds on to inherit Leicester's League One crown in front of another Carrow Road sell out this weekend.
Nigel Pearson's men were similarly comfortable winners of English football's third tier; seven points clear of second-placed Peterborough United. The Foxes need one more win this campaign to guarantee their place in the Championship play-offs.
A remarkable achievement, whatever else happens in the post-season lottery.
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But what Pearson and his Leicester chairman Milan Mandaric engineered during the last close season demands even greater respect. No wholesale changes to playing personnel. No major plunges into the volatile transfer market.
Just forensic pruning to a squad of players Pearson backed to make the next step up. Just like Paul Lambert's belief his current crop of Canaries has the wherewithal to compete a rung higher.
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You don't recruit the likes of Oli Johnson, Anthony McNamee and Zak Whitbread without one eye on the longer term picture.
Leicester's starting XI for their first game back in the Championship last August featured nine starters from their League One farewell romp at Crewe the previous May.
In came Pearson's one major summer purchase, �1m Doncaster signing Ritchie Wellens. Out went England Under-21 defender Joe Mattock in a �1.2m switch to West Brom. A net profit on his outfield starters.
Dany N'Guessen and Paul Gallagher also pitched up in the East Midlands for undisclosed fees - loose change you suspect compared to the money washing around the Premier League and overseas markets.
Pearson drafted in half a dozen free signings. Let eight go. Brought in two loans. Sent five the other way. Can you see the pattern emerging? Balancing the books. Good housekeeping. No mortgaging against the prospect of future, as yet, unrealised expectations.
Lambert, pictured, and chief executive David McNally now face the same tough choices. McNally in the post-Charlton glow was quick to remind supporters the Canaries operate within tight financial constraints. The increases in turnover will be welcome. But who goes in the summer matters to the club's balance sheet as much as who arrives.
Modern football has little room for sentiment. Not quite football Darwinism but the club's long term stated goal of Premiership football comes at a cost - perhaps to some of those players who put their collective shoulders to the wheel in the pursuit of League One success.
Clearly a frontline that has plundered in excess of 50 league goals, with young reinforcements such as Johnson and Cody McDonald waiting in the wings, has little need for a player like Jamie Cureton in the twilight of his career.
The likes of Matty Gill, Owain Tudur Jones and Rhoys Wiggins have had restricted opportunities to shine. All pre-Lambert Carrow Road arrivals. The renaissance of Doherty and Wes Hoolahan acts as a salutary lesson that Lambert is a man for turning. But players who failed to force their way into his League One plans are surely disadvantaged when City swap Edgeley Park for Fratton Park.
Lambert will already have done his homework. Which of those blossoming youngsters with another year under their belts can cut it in the cut throat Championship? Which of his established senior players can dominate at a level that increasingly resembles a Premier League Two in all but name?
Lambert prioritised defenders and strikers in his January transfer window dealings. Expect the same again - along with his most pressing concern: A number one. Declan Rudd has all the attributes but Fraser Forster is already the real deal. Three years difference in age but a gulf in league experience.
Forster will have plenty of other options than just his current temporary employers after routine heroics between the sticks this season. However, should anyone need reminding, Newcastle's talented shot stopper was Lambert's first signing. The Scot has proven himself a master tactician from his technical area. A motivator of men in the dressing rooms and on the training pitches.
Over the next three months he gets a first real chance to prove his mettle in the market.
One thing is certain. The Championship fixture list will not be the only thing of interest to Norwich's expectant fan base this summer.