City boss Paul Lambert has hinted that he may ring the changes for tomorrow night’s clash with Southend, after Saturday’s below-par performance against the Saints ended in their first home league defeat since August.
As is the norm at his pre-match press briefings, the Scot wasn’t giving too much away. But we could well see a fresh face or two, especially if the appeal against Darel Russell’s red card is unsuccessful.
The Canary chief is expecting a response from the FA by tomorrow lunchtime and may well have two different line-ups in mind.
Whatever eleven he decides on for a game that has taken on even greater significance, after the gap to third place was chopped to just four points at the weekend, Lambert knows he’ll get plenty of blood, sweat and tears.
But by the time he’s tucking into his pre-match lunch, the Scot should know whether he’ll have the former City trainee at his disposal.
“It’s a bit bizarre really because they have said that they will have a look at it and give us a decision by tomorrow afternoon which doesn’t really help us if the truth be known.
“But we have to appeal because it was a really, really poor decision. If they’ve got any common sense they’ll see it wasn’t a red card. It wasn’t a red in a million years and I’ll stand by that.
“It’s my prerogative to pick who I want to pick and what system I want to play. But it doesn’t matter who plays tomorrow, they will give me everything they’ve got and that’s all I can ask for.
“We might look to freshen things up to give lads an opportunity to come in and do equally as well as the other lads. We’ll see.”
There has been some clamour in recent weeks for Lambert to freshen up the system, with many teams flooding the midfield, nullifying the threat of City’s ‘diamond’ formation to some extent.
Tucked in behind the front two, Wes Hoolahan is one of the key men to that way of playing, but the City boss reiterated his admiration of the talented Irishman.
Even if Lambert decides to go all 4-4-2, you get the feeling that Hoolahan will be involved in there somewhere.
“Wes Hoolahan was one player who I thought was up there on Saturday and he’s been terrific for me since I’ve been here.
“I can’t criticise lads individually; collectively we just weren’t at it on Saturday and we got beat. But we’ll bounce back.
“We had a chat about it like normal. Because of the level of our performances, if you drop below that it tends to get highlighted.
“We’re not going to lie to the people who come and watch us, we knew we weren’t good enough on the day.
“But we’re still top of the league. If you had said to me way back in August that we would be sitting top now, then you would have taken it.
“If this is what happens [the reaction to defeat] when you’re still at the top of the league then I’d like to see what would happen when you’re not.
“We’ve done great and we’ve got a great opportunity to bounce back tomorrow night.”
With reports emerging this afternoon that the Southend players have yet to be paid for January, with a winding up petition still hanging over them, it will be interesting to see what sort of mental state Steve Tilson’s Shrimpers are in.
But Lambert, as always, insisted it will be yet another tough encounter. When you are a club the size of Norwich, plying your trade in the third tier, you are a scalp ready to be gunned down.
And tomorrow will be no different.
“Every game is hard for us. As I’ve said before, whether we’re top, middle or bottom, every game is tough.
“People want to raise their game and we have to have an intensity and a fear factor that we can’t get beat. I think if you have that as a footballer and as a team, it’s good.
“The fear of failure drives you on and you’ve got to have it. You’ve got to have it to perform and we know we have to win the game tomorrow night.
“You’ve got to look over your shoulder at what’s behind you and if you don’t have that as a footballer you can become complacent.”