City boss Paul Lambert has described the ‘vital’ role both the board and the club’s principal shareholders have played in propelling his side into the ‘best football league in the world’.
Tonight that support for their 41-year-old manager and his young team was never more plain as Lambert, Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa agreed new deals with the Carrow Road club – in an instant nipping all the speculation of a switch to newly-relegated West Ham United in the bud.
Club chairman Adam Bowkett admitted that the negotiations had been ‘protracted’ with the Scot and his close-knit team, but that comes with the territory. Lambert well knows his value in the current managerial market-place.
But, equally, he is canny enough to recognise the strength and purpose the likes of chief executive David McNally bring to the party – as well as the pure passion that Delia Smith, her husband Michael Wynn Jones and long-standing director Michael Foulger add to the mix. Stephen Fry, of course, is another intriguing twist to the winning boardroom cocktail.
“I think they’re vital,” said Lambert, quizzed on Sky Sports News as to just how important the support of Delia and her board has been.
“I think at any football club you have to have good people at the top – and that’s what Norwich have got. They’re good people. And allied to the players and the fans, everything’s gone really well for us.”
Lambert was speaking ahead of not only tonight’s announcement, but also his own success this week in picking up the League Managers Association award for The Championship’s Manager of the Year.
Sir Alex Ferguson – winner of the Premier League award – joined the party on a live link-up from Manchester; two generations of Glasgow’s finest managerial sons sharing centre stage.
The event also gave Lambert to return to one of his more familiar themes – at least locally. The strength of feeling among the supporters for their beloved football club.
Their tireless support of the Canaries was, said Lambert, ‘monumental’.
“They back them through the good times and the bad times which I think is great in any supporter and with that kind of fan-base then you’ve always got a chance against teams.”
That commitment was evident again earlier today when the club announced record season ticket sales ahead of the 2010-2011 Premier League campaign – 21,883 all told.
Which is 820 higher again than last season’s record figure of 21,063.
The club are planning to add additional seating to the ground this summer bringing the capacity up to 27,000.
Under Premier League rules, 10% of that capacity has to be made available for visiting supporters.
All of which will ensure that ‘casual’ tickets for individual games will be like gold dust next season.
Lambert – along with 21,883 season ticket holders – clearly can’t wait to get in the midst of it all.
“When you look at the league there’s some fantastic teams in there with world class footballers,” he told Sky Sports News.
“And two years ago – with no disrespect – we were going away to lower league teams which was difficult. And now we’re going to some of the best venues in the world.”
It has, by any standards, been an extraordinary journey – and one that shows little immediate sign of ending following this evening’s news of Lambert and Co’s new deals.
Interestingly, Lambert admitted that the club needed a sea change culture-wise when he first arrived in Norfolk – hard on the heels of inflicting that 7-1 home defeat on a hapless City side in their very first game of the season.
“There was an acceptance about getting beat,” he noted. “So we had to try and change that mentality to try and get them to win. And, thankfully, we turned it around pretty quickly.”
The Class of 2009-2010 will, he admitted, need a little bit of help to keep that prized Premiership status intact.
“We have identified players that we would like to come to the football club and I’m sure that the club will do everything it can to bring them in.”
No-one, he warned, was coming along for a jolly.
“I’m a great believer in that you’ve got to be hungry to win games; you’ve got to have a desire to win games – that’s the philosophy that’s been with us for the last two years and it won’t vary too much from that and if I can get lads in to help the current group then that’s what I’ll do.”