Paul Lambert backs Norwich to stand tall at Stoke in the Premier League
John Ruddy's military background could come in handy this afternoon to thwart Stoke's heavy artillery.
Norwich's number one revealed earlier in the season football saved him from a probable career in the armed forces and Paul Lambert certainly expects City's stopper to be in the line of fire at the Britannia this afternoon.
The Potters may have more to their armoury these days than a stereotypical set piece barrage, but Matthew Upson's opener from Ryan Shotton's long throw during last weekend's 2-0 Premier League win over Swansea underlined the hosts are still not averse to going the direct route.
'I think if John feels he can get it, he'll come off his line. I can't tell anybody what to do when they are out there. You can only give them so much,' said Lambert. 'The lads have to see it through their own eyes and make decisions. I'm not on the field of play and I know it is a different game out there. We can give him a guide on what we think, but I trust him to make the right call. I don't like telling players they must do this or they must do that. You can prepare them but there is no point me telling him to come for things when I am not really in that moment when the ball comes into the box.
'I don't have a big side - only the two centre backs, Ruddy, Grant (Holt) and (Steve) Morison. The team is not overly big, height-wise. We'll come up with a plan that will hopefully work in our favour.'
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Lambert admits knowing about the source of the potential threat is one thing. Dealing with is an entirely different animal.
'We have to try and combat it because it is a weapon they have and that they use really well,' he said. 'The lads did it in the first game (at Carrow Road). We knew it was coming and I am pretty sure it will come again. It is something in Stoke's game that we have to combat. We will have to go and head it and compete and hopefully we will be okay.
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'It is difficult maybe if you don't have someone in your own club who can throw the ball in like that to prepare against, but you just bring the pitch in and make it smaller. You know it is coming so you try to deal with it. Loads of teams have tried to go there and deal with it. There is certainly no wrong way or right way to play football. It is somebody's opinion about how they want to play the game. It's effective for them and we are just going to have to put our bodies on the line I think.'
Norwich earned plenty of plaudits for their efforts last weekend against the champions, but Lambert insists it is trips to the Britannia where he will gauge the Canaries' ability to compete in the Premier League.
'The confidence is really high and it has been for months on end,' he said. 'The lads are playing really well at the minute. Straight after the game it was a sore one, but Manchester United have done it to a number of teams, not just us. The good thing from my point of view is that the lads were really, really disappointed. It shows how far we have come.
'The main objective is to stay in the league. That has always been the priority, regardless of what position we find ourselves in. These are the games, it is not the Chelsea's, Manchester United's or Tottenham's. Nobody expects a thing from those. It's the ones you are competing with to try and stay in the league and Stoke in that respect is a lot tougher than Manchester United because no-one expected anything. Stoke have done great for years in the league, they did great in the Europa League and they are doing great in the FA Cup.'
Norwich travelled north with January signings Ryan Bennett and the fit-again Jonny Howson. Lambert believes it is important to get both involved in and around the first team group – irrespective of whether they feature at the Britannia.
'Jonny is in the squad but I have to decide what I am going to do with him,' said Lambert, following Howson's successful 90-minute midweek reserve outing. 'He played well and he did okay the other day but you can never judge anything on a reserve game. I won't just put him in for the sake of putting him on. It would have to be if I felt he could change the game, whether it was to try and win it or whatever the case may be. I haven't decided whether to put him on the bench or not.
'Ryan only joined us yesterday (Thursday) so he probably doesn't know too many people's names, let alone anything else. He'll come up with us to see what it is all about. He is obviously fit enough because he has played all the games, but we have lads who are playing really well at the minute, but he is in the squad.'
Dani Ayala is also in the travelling party after returning to training earlier this week following his hamstring injury. Striker James Vaughan (hamstring) and defender Marc Tierney (knee) did not make the trip.
'Daniel trained, which is good news for us,' he said. 'The game is probably too early for him this weekend, but the fact he trained with us is pleasing. Dani is in the squad but whether it is too soon or not I'm not sure. At one time this season we only had one centre half fit and Russell (Martin) went in and did great but now we have lads competing to try and stay in the side.'
Martin and Simeon Jackson only returned to training yesterday following their international excursions across mainland Europe – the downside to international recognition.
'It doesn't help (with preparation) but you are probably caught between a rock and a hard place,' said Lambert. 'You want them to do well for themselves and to improve and do well for the national team but from my point of view you don't see them in some cases until Friday and you just hope they come back okay. I think you would rather have that problem than not. You just have to hope they come back okay. You have to weigh it up, but I just try to pick a team that I think can go up there and win.
'Russell went and played 90 minutes for Scotland and did fine. I said after last weekend's game he had a virus, which had floored him, and playing someone of the magnitude of Manchester United would have been too much. You are up against world class players. He might have felt better on the Sunday, but United was never going to be a game for him with what he went through.'