City boss Paul Lambert has revealed that it’s a totally different feeling chasing honours as a manager, as the former Celtic captain edges ever closer to putting a League One championship on his CV.
The former Bhoys and Scotland midfielder is well used to winning titles and cups – well at Celtic Park anyway – but apart from a play-off campaign during his time at Wycombe, this will be his first chance of silverware in the managerial hot-seat.
And as the league leaders – who are nine points clear of their nearest rivals Swindon – get ready to welcome MK Dons to Carrow Road tomorrow, Lambert says it’s a different sensation being behind that white line.
“When you’re a player you have more control and influence on a game, that is the difference with being a manager,” he told reporters this morning at a gloriously sunny Colney.
“You’re behind the white line and it’s in the lap of the gods. All you can ask is that they give you everything they have got, which they have.
“They have been brilliant for me, the team spirit has been fantastic and that’s why they are in the position they are in. They have a great desire but once the lads cross that white line, there is nothing I can do.
“They have to go out and perform and more times than not they have done it. So if we do have success, they should get everything that is coming their way.”
Ahead of the visit of Paul Ince’s Dons tomorrow, Lambert revealed that both Gary Doherty [dead leg] and Wes Hoolahan [thigh] have a 50/50 chance of making it, after the pair missed Easter Monday’s 2-1 win over Stockport.
If Doherty doesn’t pull through, Zak Whitbread is likely to partner Michael Nelson once again. And the Canary chief praised the January signing after a decent showing in the Hatters success.
It was his first start in 2009/10, having arrived in Norfolk recovering from injury, and Lambert was delighted. Let’s not forget that reserves boss Ian Crook has already predicted that the US-born Scouser could become one of the “best defenders City have ever had”.
“He has been out for a long time and he was brilliant. Jens is out with his foot injury so I had to throw Zak in and he was terrific.
“He is a top player, there is no doubt about that. The lad played with Liverpool in the Champions League a few years ago and you don’t do that if you’re a bad player.
“We have to remember that he has been out for a long, long time and to come in with the pressure on, and people expecting you to come back in and play like you have been playing every week, made it a big decision for me. But I thought he was great.”
Mathematically, the Canaries can be promoted at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night and another three-point haul tomorrow will go a long way to wrapping up a swift return to the Championship.
But Lambert isn’t thinking about life in the second tier just yet, even if he did acknowledge that Norwich’s destiny was in their own hands.
“You don’t know what league you are going to be in. You can have a fair idea but nothing is guaranteed so I don’t look further than tomorrow.
“But we are in the position we want to be in and it’s in our hands now. No one else can influence it – only we can.
“When I first got here I was told to get us into the play-offs. So, yes, if we have done that – fine. But we are now in a position where we can get out of this league automatically.”
Another topic thrown into the mix was the future of goalkeeper Fraser Forster, who will not be available again through suspension after he saw red at Tranmere a week ago
But whether he will be returning to Norfolk on another loan or pushing for the Newcastle No 1 spot in the Premier League next season, Lambert is tipping the 6ft 6in ‘keeper for the top.
“Newcastle have done great this year to get back in the Premiership. They’ve been the best team in their league by miles and Fraser is their goalkeeper.
“As I have said before, he has been fantastic for us so whatever happens he is going to be a really top goalkeeper. I’m sure he will push [Steve] Harper all the way if he goes back there.”