June 4, 2012
While Paul Lambert begins his search for a quaint little three-bedroom home in the West Midlands, I, along with many Norwich fans, am teetering between outbursts of anger and bittersweet gratitude. Despite the agony of his departure, Lambert will be forever seated in Norwich history as an undisputed legend, arguably the greatest manager in the clubs 110-year history.
From the dreary rock-bottom of England’s third league of football, off the back of a 7-1 demolition at the hands of Lambert’s Colchester United, the scot dove in head first and grabbed a dying club and performed close to three years of life-saving football resuscitation. After 142 matches, 70 wins, a League One winner’s trophy, two League One manager of the month awards, named League One manager of the year, a Championship runner’s up medal, named Championship manager of the year Dr. Lambert has nursed the Canaries back to full health. The reconstructive surgery had made the team more attractive than many had ever remembered them being.
Paul Lambert, to you Norwich City will be eternally indebted.
With that out of the way, how about an outburst of anger?
May 15, 2012
It would typically be a non-event in East Anglia. in the past, both ends of Manchester, Liverpool and all four corners of London, joined by some Spice Girl’s husband on a beach in California, would be waiting pensively to hear the list of 23 names who would represent England at the next major tournament.
Meanwhile, the good folk of Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn and other tantalizing Norfolk hotspots could rest peacefully, knowing that their humble Canaries would, once again, not be fielding any England internationals this time around.
But tonight, we wait with angst. Not one, but two of Norwich’s talismanic performers have an outside chance of being named in Roy Hodgson’s Euro 2012 squad tomorrow, when it is announced at 1pm (BST).
April 13, 2012
While Manchester and England's top two clubs have been going back and forth in the playground squabble over whether the title race is finished or not, Norwich have been quietly getting back to form and picking up points. Even this morning, Roberto Mancini has done his best to play mind games with his United Counterpart, Sir Alex Ferguson, albeit in somewhat broken English/Italian.
However, unlike the last time the two teams met at Carrow Road, when Delia Smith left a famous imprint in the day's events and even less like that painful day in December of last year when Man City took all three points at the Etihad in a 5-1 drubbing against Paul Lambert's men, tomorrow's early Premier League kickoff promises to be a battle of a different nature. Mancini would to well to forget about Manchester United and focus solely on Paul Lambert.
When Manchester United visited in back in February they came up against a resilient and resourceful Norwich side. Had it not been for an excruciating Ryan Giggs volley, the title race could be a great deal closer. Coincidentally, since then, Manchester City have been on a dismal run of away form, having claimed just eight points from the 27 available.
April 3, 2012
Back in the middle of March, the League Managers Association asked all of the Premier League managers to answer a few simple questions; a survey, if you will. Each manager was asked to give his opinion on a number of questions including "Who is the most impressive boss?" and "which team do you most enjoy watching?" (75% of managers, accurately identified Spurs as the most enjoyable team to watch).
Bearing in mind that this was a survey of the Premier League's most erudite minds (and Mark Hughes), it was noteworthy that the top flight's newest managers, Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert, amassed 87% of the votes for most impressive boss; Rodgers with 47% and Lambert taking 40%.
It comes as little surprise to the Swansea and Norwich faithful. We've watched these two teams build formidable reputations as tenacious competitors and who believe that you win games by playing attractive football.
A survey like this would ordinarily churn the rumour mill and cause great concern for the fans of smaller teams with revered managers. Which bigger club is going to take our manager? However, Norwich's recent run of poor results will leave many City fans feeling calm with regards to Paul Lambert's immediate future.
Although it only took him two and a half years to be inducted into the Norwich City Hall of Fame, it's possible, just possible, that the City gaffer's almost perfect record as the Canaries' boss is showing signs of weakness and the wheels could be coming off.
March 6, 2012
When I was 16 years old, my mate, Big Aza, asked me to go along with him to play for his Sunday league team, The Unicorns. They were down a man and had "a massive cup game" against The Norwich Busmen. It's the kind of big match that every young lad dreams of.
The game kicked-off 15 minutes late because Jason, our 40-year-old rotund super striker, had been out with the lads the night before and had to remember where he'd left his car before he could drive to the remote Norfolk field where we were waiting.
At half time, as I stretched and took on plenty of water, I watched as my new team-mates prepared for the second half; some got into their Vauxhall Novas and turned the heat on to get warm, whilst others frantically lit cigarettes to help recover from the previous 45 minutes they'd had to endure without nicotine.
While it might be a stretch to compare Norwich's away game at Stoke to the Unicorn's high profile clash with the Norwich Busmen, there were some tragic similarities in the quality of football. Maybe we've just become accustomed in recent months to seeing Norwich involved in high intensity matches with somewhat attractive, flowing football. Saturday was not one of them.
At home to Manchester United a week ago, there were times that Norwich were allowed to get the ball down, pass it around and, consequently, we created chance after chance. A team like United is happy to let you have the ball at times, has the strength of character to soak up your pressure and punish you when you least expect it. The game at Stoke was a different beast.
February 26, 2012
If you want to talk about records and reputations, here are a couple of tasty little figures which will help to paint the picture for Norwich’s home tie against Manchester United on Sunday morning. Ryan Giggs, should he feature, will clock an astonishing 900 appearances for United, while Paul Scholes, with a lowly 685 United appearances, is registering 17 years playing alongside Giggs in the United midfield. Playing together, they’ve each earned 29 winners medals across all competitions, including two Champion’s League Winner’s medals.
So when Sir Alex Ferguson threatens to look to experienced players ahead of the match with Norwich, you can be fairly confident that he knows exactly what he’ll get from his two midfield legends.
February 2, 2012
I've taken some deep breaths, allowed a moment to reflect and treated myself to a replay of the home win against Derby from last season (always brings a smile). I've reminded myself that we're a (twice) newly promoted team on the crest of one of English league football's most impressive stories and I still can't stop my blood from boiling.
It's okay to lose a game. It's one game out of 38 on the back of a six game unbeaten streak, which included a 0-0 draw at home to Chelsea; the second largest bank balance in the country.
In addition, Sunderland deserve credit. They've been unrecognizably transformed from the team we dismantled back in late September, championed by ex-Norwich Player of the Season Steve Bruce. Sunderland's New Manager, ex-Norwich manager (albeit for 20 games) Martin O'Neill, has given them belief, a revitalized work ethic, creativity and huge amounts of defensive pressure.
Nevertheless, the fact stands; we've let ourselves down today in a massive way and while I'm happy to celebrate as we continue this meteoric climb to Premier League safety, there are lessons to be learned from today's indistinguishable contribution by both players and coaching staff.
January 22, 2012
If you look back over the chronicles of Norwich City heroes and fan's favourites, there are obvious legends that stand out; Steve Bruce, Kevin Keelan, Darren Huckerby and the undisputed "Disco" Dale Gordon are some of my picks. There are, however, a couple of names printed on The Barry Butler Memorial Trophy for player of the season that are less predictable.
During the 1990s, five of Norwich's player of the year recipients were defenders, including the unlikely 1996 winner, Spencer Prior. Of the 43 winners since Terry Allcock first won the trophy in 1967, 16 have been defenders, more than any other position.
It's a bit premature to be considering this season's player of the year award after just 22 games, but we're starting to see significant progress by the defensive unit that could result in another defender being the standout performer. It would be unexpected of a team that had to wait 22 games to keep its first clean sheet and for two and a half seasons and relied on its remarkable goal scoring ability. This weekend's home draw against Chelsea marks a step up in defensive quality.
January 5, 2012
You’re a professional footballer worth millions of pounds, playing on football’s most important stage. It’s the beginning of January and after a restful New Year you’re looking forward to the first game of 2012; a chance to make all things new.
The game kicks off and within 11 minutes, you’ve sent the home fans (all 15,000 of them) into raptures with one of the best goals of your career. A seven game streak without a win looks like it could be coming to an end. The gaffer’s smiling, the fans are singing your name and your teammates owe you a drink. All is well. All is new.
But as the crowd settles back into their seats at Loftus Road, you look up at the 1970s scoreboard, with one or two missing light bulbs to see your name in 75 watts of glowing electricity and it suddenly hits you; you’re not just any footballer. You’re Joseph Barton.
December 20, 2011
I feel jovial. This season of giving seems to have been a rich one thus far in Norfolk. Last weekend, Everton generously allotted us a single shot on target, which yielded a single goal and ultimately one single point. John Ruddy gifted us his best performance in a Norwich shirt and was thoughtful enough to save it for his former employers.
Paul Lambert gave us the most lavish gift of all; a diamond! The midfield four of Andrew Crofts, Andrew Surman, David Fox and Wes Hoolahan that were so consistent in midfield last season have been reunited for the last two matches and to strong effect.
So naturally, all eyes tonight will be focused on Molineux for what we hope will be Norwich’s next present opening ceremony. The Wolves defense were particularly kind in giving ex-Norwich forward Peter Crouch a late winner on Saturday. With that fresh in his mind, Mick McCarthy will be carrying an additional dose of frustration along with his typical misery as he plans to unleash his inner Scrooge and postpone this Canary Christmas.