Time for change says man whose feat Lambert matches
The last man to achieve consecutive promotions to reach the Premier League has advised Paul Lambert to learn from his biggest mistake.
Joe Royle guided Manchester City into the top flight from the depths of English football's third tier more than a decade ago.
The 62-year-old also occupies a unique place within the East Anglian footballing firmament – two seasons as a player spent at Norwich, where he was crowned player-of-the-year, being followed by four campaigns at the helm of Ipswich.
Royle managed both Oldham and Everton in the top division, but it is his feat at Maine Road that best qualifies him to offer an assessment on Lambert's success story.
'It is a fantastic achievement. Brilliant,' said Royle. 'I had two marvellous years there at Norwich so I have a lot of affection for the place.
'I'm sure some fans have never forgiven me for managing Ipswich as well but I still have friends in the area and I follow the club from a distance so I know how happy the place will be.
'To do what Paul has done isn't easy – especially on what shall we say is a limited budget. What money he has spent he has spent well and brought the right players in. They have carried on passing the ball going up the divisions which is nice and is a testament to the work of Paul and his staff.
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'The second promotion for us had a certain element of bounce to it in the sense we went up on a wave of euphoria. We were welcoming Premier League teams to our place, the fans bought into it as well, everything was new but the reality is that bounce only takes you so far. Ipswich had a great first season when they were first promoted and then couldn't go again.'
Royle was unable to keep the blue half of Manchester in the Premier League for more than a season back in 2000/01. Hindsight offers a sense of perspective.
'In my own experience we brought in three or four new players when I should have brought in eight,' he said. 'Believe it or not but in those days at Man City we were buying players for �35,000 and free transfers. We had to go out and spend �3m on Richard Dunne and Alfie Haaland for �2.5m when we got promoted and in the end we spent about �10m to get up there, but even that wasn't enough.
'It's a fine line. I can see from Paul's attitude to the game he is a serious thinker and he will know in his own mind what he needs for the highest level.
'I don't want to sound negative, but the demands of the Premier League mean he will need an influx of talent. The first thing you find when you go up is that the opposition is bigger and quicker. You need to match that before you can play.'
Norwich's steep rise has been likened to Blackpool's fairytale ascent in recent days – but Royle points out one crucial difference.
'Norwich have gone up automatically which is a huge advantage because going up through the play-offs is hard,' he said. 'It's not only planning for next season that is on hold, but your planning for pre-season.
'You don't know what division you are in so will Premier League clubs want to play you? Paul can now map out his pre-season and he won't want to be playing Premier League clubs, he will probably want to test his side against foreign clubs or local clubs from the lower divisions.
'He'll be talking to agents and clubs about different levels of player.
'I'm sure even at this stage Paul has got in his mind the people he can take on with him, the people he feels will have a chance and the ones who he might feel will possibly struggle within his squad.
'They obviously have a fantastic team spirit and he will have a loyalty to his players, but he will know in his heart of hearts that some of them will struggle at that level. Going up brings its own problems, but I am sure he will address that.'
Royle believes everyone connected with the Canaries should pause to savour the moment before worrying about fighting their corner against the English establishment.
'All I would say right now is let them enjoy it. Let them enjoy just getting there,' he said.
'Paul looks a very level-headed lad. He seems a very impressive young man. I don't know him but he has done a terrific job there and I'm pleased for the fans and everyone, but just enjoy the moment. I'm sure the planning has started; I don't know his budget but he'll have players in mind.
'I think it's a good time to go in (the Premier League). It's levelled out a lot in recent years and there are almost three divisions and that bottom tier is getting bigger. There are more and more clubs competing on a similar budget each season now.'