Winning is all that interests Lambert
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert is ready to become Mr Unpopular in pursuit of the greater good.
The City chief is not interested in massaging any potential bruised egos among his players or winning plaudits from the purists for serving up attacking footballing theatre to the Premier League masses at home and abroad.
Every decision, every selection, every substitution this coming campaign is designed to ensure Norwich emulate the likes of tomorrow's opponents and become fully paid-up members of the most exclusive league in world football.
'It's not easy to leave people out but you just hope they understand that I'm just trying to pick a team that can win a game – that's what I will try and do,' said Lambert, with the added conundrum the Scot must shortly submit his 25-man squad list to the Premier League at the end of this current transfer window.
'I will try and pick a team that collectively will stick together. I'm going to need everybody. There won't be one player that won't play a part in it this season – everyone will play.
'I'm going to need every player in this squad to make a contribution to it. That means it might be different from last Saturday – that's normal.
'I have to look at Stoke and respect what they have done and I have to try and combat that. I don't want to play brilliant football and get beat every week. We will get no thanks for that, that's for sure. If we've got to win ugly then we will take it.'
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One constant for the Canaries despite their Football League elevation is another guaranteed show of support from an expected 27,000 Carrow Road sell out.
Lambert, however, knows Tony Pulis' street fighters will not be fazed by a trip into deepest Norfolk for City's Premier League homecoming.
'It will be different – the big players will handle any atmosphere home or away,' said Lambert.
'It doesn't matter to them. A crowd can influence it to an extent but the opposition players are used to it and can handle it. It will be a full house as it has been for the last two years – I know what to expect and so do the players.
'It's a massive ask. I said last week if we can stay in the league it will surpass anything we have done here. They (Stoke) have got a foothold in the league now.
'They are established in it. They've done fantastically well and it's something we've got to aspire to – to stay in the league.
'I'm pretty sure everyone wants to improve every year on the season they had before and it's fantastic for them getting to the FA Cup final and then obviously qualifying for Europe. That's a really successful season. I think their club has got an infrastructure that is very, very good. What they have done is terrific.'
Lambert insists the Potters are more than a one-trick pony. The creative talents of Matthew Etherington and Jermaine Pennant defy the traditional Stoke stereotype. Aerial bombardment is only one weapon at their disposal.
'We will just try and keep the ball and play for 90 minutes. It's a game, we have to win. I know the threat of it, I saw it last week,' said Lambert. 'Everyone tries to cope with it and it's difficult but there's nothing set in stone that you have to play football the way people tell you to. You have to try and win.
'I don't think that you get two games the same. The onus is on us to make the running because we're at home –that's normal. I watched Stoke last Sunday and I thought they were excellent. They got a terrific result – so it's going to be a really hard game for us.'
Stoke flew straight to Norfolk from Europa League qualifying duty in Switzerland on Thursday night as they bid to complete a gruelling first full week of the Premier League season following a goalless home draw against title-challenging Chelsea.
Champions League winner Lambert knows from his own playing experiences continental wins can have a positive impact back on domestic duty.
'If you're not in Europe then you're not being successful – it's brilliant for Stoke to do what they are doing,' he said. 'It's great for the club, great for the players and the manager. If Stoke went all the way in the Europa League final then I'm pretty sure you wouldn't hear them saying they've played too many games.
'It's hard as a player. It's really tough, especially if you've got to go away from home. I know it's tough from my own playing experiences. You've just got to try and see it through and hopefully Stoke won't.
'You're better off asking Tony that. If you're in the Europa League you've obviously had success elsewhere. I don't make the rules. If the league tell you that you have to play on Sunday then you have to play. If they tell you to play on Monday then you play on Monday.'
Lambert has injury concerns over Zak Whitbread (knee) who was replaced by Leon Barnett during the final quarter of last weekend's Wigan draw – but the Scot is ready to fast-track new signing Dani Ayala into the matchday squad.
'It's not too soon. He has just come in and he is probably ready to play. The only concern I've got is that he probably doesn't know everyone's name at the minute. That's the only concern that I've got,' said Lambert. 'The higher you go up, you've got to be comfortable with the ball as well. He is a strong defender – he is a tall lad, hopefully he fits in. It's a great opportunity for him.
'Daniel has come in and he has played in a reserve game the other night and did really fine.
'There's an opportunity for him to make a career for himself and hopefully he fits into the group. He's been in Britain for the last four years or so, so it's not as if it's all new to him. He has been on loan at Hull and Derby and he's done really fine there and that prompted me to go and get him.'
Lambert will not gamble with Whitbread in the face of an expected physical encounter.
'I will have to wait and see how he is,' he said. 'If there's any doubt then I think it's too big to take a risk on any of the players. I think everyone else seems not too bad – they seem to have recovered from last week. I think Zak's the only one giving cause for concern.'