Places are up for grabs – Lambert
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert has challenged his new look squad to give him a major selection headache ahead of the Premier League kick -off.
The Scot warned places are up for grabs on the eve of tonight's first genuine pre-season test at Crystal Palace after adding seven signings to the group who helped end the club's top flight exile.
Lambert insists he is keeping an open mind over the men who will carry Norwich's colours into battle at Wigan on August 13.
'It's something I've not really thought about,' he said. 'It's a level playing field for everybody and it's up to the players themselves to force their way in.
'Once that Wigan game comes in, I'll know exactly what's happened. These next games will be mix-and-match again. It won't be set in stone. Lads need game time. We're gradually building them up and they become fitter and better for it and then the Wigan game is the most important game.
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'It will be more or less the same squad that went to Germany with us. They won't get 90 minutes but they'll build up from what they've been doing so they might get an hour, but not the full 90 at the minute.
When next week comes they will get 90 minutes – the ones you think are going to be round about it. This week is a hard week for us, but everyone will get a chance to get some game time under their belts.'
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Lambert revealed Adam Drury, Marc Tierney and James Vaughan returned from the club's mini German tour with minor niggles. New Tottenham loan signing Kyle Naughton will not feature at Selhurst Park after flying back from Spurs' South African trip late on Sunday night. The young full back is expected to link up with the Canaries over the next few days.
'I'll speak to him and see how he feels and judge it from there,' said Lambert. 'He has done great at Sheffield United, Spurs and Leicester. It's a chance for him to get some more experience.
'I just think it's one of those we needed some more options down the right side because we only had Russell (Martin) and it is a tough ask to play every minute of every game at that intensity is hard. I think you have to have that pressure on you to perform and that is what we need to have for players who want to stay in the side.'
On the injuries he added: 'Adam just got a slight knock on his calf at the minute, which kept him out in Germany, but it's not too bad. They're only slight knocks but I'm not taking any chances with them. They've done most of the running and their work, so a game here or there is no problem for them to miss. James had a little bit of swelling with his knee so we'll see how he is.'
Lambert confirmed yesterday his Premier League pre-season planning does not include the senior professionals omitted from the club's overseas tour. Owain Tudur Jones, Cody McDonald, Oli Johnson, Steven Smith, Stephen Hughes and Anthony McNamee were also notable absentees from last week's Norwich XI games at Wroxham and Histon.
'It's entirely up to the lads,' said Lambert. 'Their agents are working for them to go and do something. I think a few of them have had chances to go but they've not taken it, so they're still here. The lads know. I sat down and spoke to them towards the end of last season.
'They've been fine, they haven't been obstructive or anything like that. They know the situation, it's up to them to make their agents work for them.'
Lambert is close to finalising his 25-man Premier League squad which must be declared at the end of the current transfer window.
The City boss has no imminent plans to bolster his goalkeeping ranks with John Ruddy and the inexperienced Declan Rudd the only two senior keepers on the books and teenage understudy Jed Steer poised for a potential Yeovil loan switch.
'I don't have any problem with Dec but you don't know until it happens,' he said. 'I hope nothing happens to John, but if anything does I might have to go and get one but at this minute I don't have any problem. I roughly know the 25. It's not a hard decision.'
Lambert wants to step up the pace with this week's friendlies against Football League trio Palace, Southend and Coventry after gentle run-outs against German part-time opposition.
'The lads worked really hard and we just tried to prepare for what lies ahead,' he said.
'The main purpose is to go away and prepare for what's going to come your way, and get the new lads mixing with the lads that are already here. It's important. They've done really well. Their work rate has been what it always is. Pre-season in my view is just to get us fit, to get us ready for that first game. We've still got a number of games to play, but as long as we're ready for the first one, that's the important thing.
'The games in Germany weren't structured in a way that was going to be really hard for us at this stage. It was just to get us out there, get used to each other and how the team play and get different formations and play different ways.
'It wasn't the score, the score was irrelevant. It was getting the lads fitter.'