Following a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest, Norwich City are up to second place with four games left. Here's why I love Paul Lambert...
It says something about the man when you start writing a match report before the game and during our darkest hour: one defeat and a draw from our last two. But of course, In Lambert We Trust. We have never lost two in a row within the same season. This is the man who administered the most important thrashing in our recent and ancient history with a 7:1 opening day humiliation as manager of Colchester which earned him the big chair at City. Lambert is the man who then took Norwich back to Colchester to wreak revenge on his own children, the very same season, with a 5:0 whipping. In Lambert We Trust.
So it was probably Paul Lambert mind games that led to the ‘doubtful’ status of big Grant Holt and lickle Wes Hoolahan because as soon as their availability was announced the City sighed in relief. Brian Clough of course was the master of this; players in wheelchairs would miraculously appear boots laced come 3pm. This pair, more than any, has come to represent the engine room of this cheap and endearing outfit. Ipswich might have the cash, but we have Paul Lambert.
Forest’s opener, an against the run-of-play carnival-style freak deflection which seemed to glide into the goal by Billy Davies’ mind power alone, was – considering the nerves of the home fans – instantly brushed aside. Rather than our typical hand wringing of years gone by, the crowd just got louder. “This is probably what we need,” said a guy sitting behind. He was right.
I tried to fashion a slightly gay song dedicated to our impish Wes Hoolahan based on the words to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. “Wes Hoolahan… dah dah dah… your passing’s never seemed so good… I would hump you if I could…”
The finest aspect to Paul Lambert is his unflinching optimism. He looks like a manager, with his trackie bottoms tucked into his Borussia Dortmund socks, who is longing to get out there himself. For people new to PL I can safely say this: you will hear more of him. Paul Lambert is a genius. Away to Watford Tuesday night on what was a black run of a pot-holed pitch, he turned the worst Norwich display of the year so far into a near victory with three substitutions within five minutes.
The whole Norwich City squad is over achieving on a massive scale. We have no Craig Bellamy big earners. We don’t have QPR’s credit cards. We’re a side who – although possessing some undoubted talent – runs on confidence. Watching Lambert nudging his glasses onto his nose, twitching in excitement, every single second counts: as seen in our string of last gasp victories. When compared to Ipswich’s Roy Keane who seemed to manage like a human trafficker – with allsorts being ferried in and out of Portman Road – Lambert must be an excellent motivator because he’s had bugger all money. Comparisons with Martin O’Neill abound.
So merrily we went about our business. Grant Holt’s upright, back straight, nutted equaliser looked like he was being beamed up for alien autopsy. If aliens do get hold of the man, they’ll find the biggest heart – both physically and metaphorically – in English football. From that moment it seemed destined that Norwich City and our talismanic centre forward would prevail.
Andrew Surman then placed home the winner as cool as a cucumber just before the break. Good as Forest are – and recent form doesn’t do justice to their performances – it was a game you could happily switch off from, which after the Swansea defeat was blessed indeed. Zack Whitbread and the rest of the Norwich defence mopped up every thing, like a doorstop of... ahem… white bread.
At ease, I tried to fashion a slightly gay song dedicated to our impish Wes Hoolahan based on the words to Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. “Wes Hoolahan… dah dah dah… your passing’s never seemed so good… I would hump you if I could…” It is a song I must stress that only I was singing. In my head. Hoolahan’s touch is sweet though and he covered just about every blade of grass in a man-of-the-match display.
So… our terrible run of a defeat and a draw from our last two ended (OK, we had only lost two in 20-something games before that, but in this era of message board paranoia, these two games registered as a catastrophe). In two seasons of rare ‘moments’ – considering the mediocrity we’ve endured over the last decade and longer, it actually stood out. So, when Paul Lambert inevitably moves onto Aston Villa or whoever, I would like him to know: that in Lambert we trusted.
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