City skipper Grant Holt followed the manager’s earlier line to a ‘T’ this morning when he insisted that tomorrow’s clash with second-placed Leeds United was ‘just like any other game’.
“We’ve just got a job to do,” said the 28-goal Canary striker simply, ahead of this weekend’s top-of-the-table clash.
In fairness to Paul Lambert’s title favourites, they have become masters of ‘doing a job’ – be it home or away; playing well or, shall we say, slightly indifferently.
Norwich have churned out the results week in, week out. Two defeats in their last 24 league outings marks them out as a class apart in this division right now as Leeds, in particular, struggle to hit any such level of consistency.
The Norfolk club now have just nine games left; on current form they look odds-on to book their place back in the Championship with a clutch of games to spare.
“They’re all big games between now and the end of the season,” said Holt, looking to score for the fifth successive game this weekend.
“We’ve just got to keep doing the job that we have been doing over the last 30-odd games or whatever since the manager’s come in. And if we do that, then we’ll get the points.”
Whether or not Leeds arrive as something of a wounded animal, determined to right a few recent wrongs performance-wise, only time will tell.
Simon Grayson’s stuttering troops have won just twice in their last nine outings; the ‘highlights’ of which have included home defeats by both Walsall and, most recently, Millwall. Not exactly the form of champions-elect.
“Obviously they won’t be pleased with the way their performances have gone,” said the 28-year-old. “But you can’t take any team lightly. We played Swindon last week; they’d had a couple of bad results, but I thought they were a good side – they passed the ball round well.
“And they showed why they’re in the place that they are. Leeds have gone through a bit of a tricky patch lately, but they’re obviously a good side because they’re still second.”
Swindon, of course, nicked two points out of Norwich’s hands right at the death; it was, however, a rare blip on the road back to the Championship. Automatic promotion has long been City’s to lose – however wary manager and players might be of seeing the end in sight.
“It shows the measure of the squad how disappointed we were just to get a point,” said Holt. “But we will correct that this week. We’ve been on fine form and the lads are starting to click again.”
The enforced absences of both Holt and Darel Russell through suspension didn’t, he said, help. The pair’s return to centre stage of late keeps the promotion pot bubbling nicely as yet another full-house waits expectantly at Carrow Road.
“We had a bit of a blip – but we kept on winning games,” said the City skipper. “The manager had to tinker around because we had suspensions – we had both myself and Rusty [Russell] out – so we adapted that a little bit and the manager then decided to bring Rusty back in and he’s been fantastic since he came back from that suspension.
“And it’s working again. We’re moving it and we’re full of confidence at the moment.”
Outside influences can, of course, rock the best-balanced apple cart. Sudden managerial vacancies at Parkhead, for example. The fact that the Celtic board have opted to install Neil Lennon into the job – at least until the summer – appears to be one potential crisis averted.
In fairness to City chief Paul Lambert, he has always been at pains to distance himself from the post – a position that he repeated this morning. It is, it would seem, a stance that he has repeated to the boys in the dressing room.
“The manager has said that he’s staying here – that he’s got a job to do. And that’s it. We know where we stand.”
With a job to do – and, maybe, a point to prove after that earlier defeat to the then flying Yorkshire side at Elland Road?
“Going into the game we knew that we had to put a performance in,” said Holt, with Leeds being some 11 points distant at the time. “We knew we had to show how good we were. And we were on a run; we were starting to tick on a little bit.
“But once they beat us, we knew we had a long mountain to climb. We just got on with our own jobs and, thankfully, we’ve done that. We’ve caught them and we’re now in a better position than they are.”