City boss Paul Lambert used Saturday’s 2-0 win over Oldham Athletic to issue an ‘Over my dead body…’ plea to the board over the prospect of ever-selling Grant Holt.
Or Wes Hoolahan. Or, indeed, anyone that was not surplus to his promotion requirements.
Holt’s 21st minute opener against the Latics made it 19 for the season; Hoolahan’s 32nd minute second made it 11 for the mercurial Dubliner.
Add the Third Musketeer – Chris Martin – to the pack and Norwich’s frontline trio have now bagged 40 goals between them. By the first week in December. Woe betide anyone who tries to prise that trio out of Lambert’s hands.
“Nobody’s going anywhere as far as I’m concerned,” said Lambert simply. “Not going anywhere.
“I’d be stupid. And the fans would burn this place down if I let them go. So I’m not going to do it.”
Speculation will be inevitable. Anyone score 20-plus goals before Christmas and they are ripe for the gossip columns. Whether or not both City boss or, indeed, player himself says ‘I’m staying…’
“Basically, it would be over my dead body. Put it this way, I wouldn’t be happy that’s for sure. So I’ll do everything I can.”
Would he expect interest in those two players?
“You’d probably have to ask every other manager,” said Lambert, as someone looks to either pep up their Championship promotion campaign or fend off the drop to League One with a sniff around Norfolk’s finest.
It is, however, to City’s considerable good fortune that there aren’t too clubs with too many brass farthings to their name right now; times are still very, vary hard money-wise. And 2010 is unlikely to bring much change, either.
“They’re performing at the top of their game and when you do that you tend to attract interest – and, maybe, you get one out of the blue that you never saw coming.
“It’s what other managers see as being vital for their team. But there we are sitting near the top of the league and I’m letting a couple of lads go…?
“I’m sure the fans would be quite happy with that. I don’t think that there’ll be a stadium here.”
He has, undoubtedly, got the ‘mix’ right. The chemistry is spot on. Lambert’s long history with Hoolahan helps bring the best out in the Canary playmaker and by dropping him into that central hole he minimises the player’s defensive liabilities.
He also has the added insurance of the likes of Korey Smith and Darel Russell mopping up behind him; filling in the holes as and when they appear.
At this level, it asks a tactical question too far of most opponents. Oldham certainly included. Teams simply don’t have players of equal stature and threat to force Norwich onto the back foot.
Saturday’s victory was about as straight-forward as they come; even if Fraser Forster had a couple of sharp saves to make after the break.
“I saw Wes years ago when I brought him over to Scotland and his progress has been dramatic,” said Lambert, who took Hoolahan to Livingston after travelling to Ireland to watch him play.
“And some of the football he played today… I thought he was unplayable at times. And his goal was different class.”
As for Holt, Lambert’s knowledge of the lower reaches of the English league from his spell with Wycombe Wanderers had ensured he knew exactly what he was inheriting from ex-Canary boss Bryan Gunn.
To this day, he probably offers a small prayer of thanks for the way that Gunn and chief executive David McNally doggedly dug the 28-year-old out of Shrewsbury Town in the summer.
“Grant Holt is just a typical British centre-forward,” said the Canary chief, now well-versed as to what Beccles’ finest adds to the mix.
“Chrissy Martin – as I’ve said before – is an absolutely brilliant finisher when he’s in front of that goal.
“So you’ve got three lads there who – at the minute – are really, really confident. And really, really good players.”
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