Why Lambert owes debt to Norwich City fans

Paul Lambert admitted at last night's packed annual meeting that he wondered what he had let himself in for at the start of his Carrow Road reign.

Lambert became the first manager in a decade to guide any club into the Premier League with back-to-back promotions – but the Scot revealed he was far from certain he had made the right move when he initially switched from Colchester in August 2009.

'I'll never forget it. The first game when I came in I watched them against Brentford and I thought to myself, 'My word, what have I let myself in for here,' and that is me being totally honest,' he said.

'Delia makes me laugh when I tell this story because she walked by me and said, 'Good luck with that lot.' She was right, but what I did cling onto, and I've said this numerous times, was the fan base. All I had to do was get the lads to believe.

'Whether we were going to win League One by the margin we did you are never quite sure but my job was to instil a bit of belief into them. I think the players and the crowd had an acceptance about them when it came to getting beat.

'They were used to maybe winning one or two, drawing a few and then losing the next four. That had to change.'

Arsenal's Carrow Road league visit last weekend underlined the accelerated rate of progress – but Lambert is well aware what it will take to stay in the division.

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'I look at the fixture list coming up and I think, 'Oh no, we've got Manchester City in a fortnight,' but that is the difference in the Premier,' he said. 'Never in a million years did I think we would be in this position. I remember when I first got the job the chairman said to me just get us in the top six. You do that and then he turns around and says I want you to win it. And then when you win it he expects you to do something in the Championship, but that is the way football is.

'That is why I never rest because I know for a fact the moment we go on a losing streak I'm just not so sure people will be singing. 'There is only one Paul Lambert.' I'm a realist. If this goes belly up the only one who kops it is myself. That is fine, I know the game.'

Lambert insisted the tests like this Saturday's against fellow newly-promoted rivals QPR are the ones that will decide the Canaries' fate.

'Arsenal were too good. The movement was too good,' he said. 'We gave it everything we had to try and stay in it for 90 minutes and we were, but I can see how Arsenal can beat teams five and six because if they score early you have to go and chase and before you know it you can be four down.

'I don't think we are competing with them. I think we are competing with the ones around about us and the ones below us. That is our barometer – to see if we can compete with them.

'If you asked me two years ago would we be sitting in the Premier League my answer would have been, 'No.' David (McNally) said we had a seven year plan and that has been blown out of the water. It's been brilliant. I've loved every minute of it. I've loved the highs. Yes, I get as depressed as anybody else when we lose but I pick myself up and I go again.'

Lambert opted to sidestep questions from the floor over his potential January transfer window targets. Chairman Alan Bowkett and chief executive David McNally – both re-elected to the board by shareholders – had earlier re-affirmed their commitment to back Lambert in the New Year sales.

Bowkett also revealed the club is planning for the long term with the decision to overhaul the Academy structure in line with new national Premier League guidelines. The Canaries will aim for 'Category One' status alongside the biggest clubs in the professional game.

'The rule of thumb in terms of Category One status is that you have to spend �2m per year in youth development,' said Bowkett. 'You receive from the Premier League roughly �750,000 in contributions.

'That would still be four times the amount we currently spend. Our aim is to try and produce one young player for the first team every year. Paul is very much of the firm view, and this goes back to his experiences in Germany, that if we are to compete then we have to have our own young, hungry players.'