Paul Lambert - Norwich City are driven by passion for Premier League
Paul Lambert insists the fear of failure is driving Norwich City onwards and upwards.
The Canaries' chief believes he has assembled not only a squad good enough to compete in the Premier League – but one fuelled by a desire not to slip back down to the Championship at the first attempt.
Lambert admitted the allure of the top flight is all-consuming after a battling point against perennial trophy-hunters Chelsea.
'We're facing world class players but they have earned the right to play them,' he said. 'It's wonderful and we just came up and we don't want to go straight back down. We've been in it now for 22 games and I am pretty sure if you asked every single one of them they would want to do 3,022 games in it. I'm delighted with them.
'I'm under no illusions what the lads have done. They have been brilliant for me. I have nothing but praise for the team. They have been terrific and they give it a go every single time. Two years ago we were playing Yeovil, Walsall and Stockport – and that is no disrespect to them.
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'Now you are playing against Chelsea who are used to playing in the Champions League. We're also competing against them, which is incredible.'
City's defensive resolve was tested for the second consecutive weekend with keeper John Ruddy pivotal to that landmark clean sheet.
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'I thought John Ruddy was excellent,' said Lambert. 'I think he has been playing really, really well – but it wasn't just him, I thought the whole group from the lads up front, to the midfield and the back four put their bodies on the line when they had to. It will give the lads confidence but I've never felt that the confidence was draining from them because they hadn't kept a clean sheet, because they were winning games. That makes you have confidence. As long as they were winning, I was always at ease.
'It was a huge point for us. I thought first half we were excellent. Second half, Chelsea had a lot of the ball, which they are entitled to do, as I think they are a fabulous side. You make no apologies for defending as strongly as we did in that half, but in the first half I felt we gave as good as we got. You have to be disciplined when you are playing a team at that level. You have to keep your shape or they will pick you off.'
Lambert paired Zak Whitbread and Dani Ayala together for the fifth consecutive outing after struggling for the majority of the campaign to find two fit centre backs amongst his depleted stocks. The Norwich chief accepted Whitbread has been a commanding presence since his return from a hamstring injury suffered in the corresponding league fixture at Stamford Bridge.
'Zak has been brilliant,' said Lambert, who also revealed Elliott Ward is poised for a potential return in tomorrow's scheduled reserve game against Chelsea's second string after a six-month injury layoff.
'He has got nothing to prove to me because I think he has been fantastic since he came to the football club and (Dani) Ayala has been terrific for someone who is only 21-years-old.
'He has been a huge signing for us. It's not just them two, I can go through the whole lot and even the ones who don't make the squad are every bit as important. I only had one recognised centre-half for three or four months and I had to play Russell Martin in there. It wasn't tweaking it; I had to do it for given reasons. Leon Barnett came in and was doing great, Ayala has come back and we're hoping Wardy will play a bit of the game on Tuesday. Whitbread's playing on top of his game, so I've got four centre-halves there.'
Lambert confirmed he plans to assess James Vaughan's fitness before deciding if the ex-Evertonian plays any part against Chelsea's reserves at Carrow Road.