City goal hero Darel Russell has revealed that the unwavering belief of manager Paul Lambert has spurred them on to a League One title triumph.
Upon his arrival at the club back in late August, Lambert told his squad that they would be lifting the championship come the end of the season, despite a poor start to life in the third tier.
And Russell, who scored his first Carrow Road goal of the season in yesterday’s 2-0 title-clinching win over Gillingham, paid tribute to the Scot’s influence in Norfolk.
“When Paul Lambert came in he said we were going to win the league,” said the Canary chief, speaking after yesterday’s party in the sunshine. “I think that’s the difference between him and a number of managers I’ve had.
“He actually came in and said ‘you’re going to win the league’ from day one. You have other people saying what they’re aiming to do but he said ‘we’re going to win the league’.
“That terminology and belief that he’s given us, we’ve taken on. We’ve managed to take that into the season and completed the task.
“We’ve had games where we were 1-0 down at half-time and he came in and said ‘we’re going to win this’ and we often did. As players, you take on that belief and confidence. It gives us strength of character and team spirit and it’s helped us push on.”
The all-action midfielder hit his second of the season, a 25-yard chip that came off the underside of the bar, in yesterday’s success – ironically, his other was in the reverse fixture back in September – and the former City trainee is glad to finally hit the back of the net in front of the Norwich faithful.
“I would have been extremely disappointed if I didn’t get a goal at Carrow Road this season. I’ve been playing deeper this year and the chances have come few and far between.
“But it just fell to me and I managed to catch it right. The ref seemed to take an eternity to make it official but I saw the lino flagging for a while. It was nice to wrap it up and be a part of that.
“Gillingham is one of the teams I score goals against. I’m really glad I got a goal in front of the home fans but as a team we’ve been fantastic, we’ve shared the goals around.
“Everyone has added their little piece to the season and us doing that shows our strength of character. It’s fantastic to finish a long season at the top and get that winners medal.
“We’ve done it with a fantastic coaching staff, fantastic fans and fantastic players. It’s really pleasing and what a fantastic day it was – great weather, great result. It’s just brilliant.
“We’ve been a really good team and we’ve got a great team spirit in the changing room. Everyone’s been together and that’s been massive. We’ve shown that in games when we’ve been behind and come back and won in difficult times and in good times.
“We’ve gone out there and completed the job. We wanted to go out there and get the title with a win and we’ve done that.”
Next season will, of course, be a different kettle of fish in the Championship but it’s a level Russell knows well, having played there with Norwich and Stoke City. And the 29-year-old is hoping that two more wins will carry plenty of momentum into 2010/11.
“We want to go out on a high so we can hit the ground running next season. We can’t take our foot off the pedal, but it would be nice to entertain the fans in the process, which we’ve done many times the season.
“We’re looking to win the remaining two matches, get six points from the those games and that will give us a lovely total of 98 and give us the confidence to go into next season with that winning habit. Being winners is great.
“The Championship is definitely a difficult league – you find that it’s a very physical league with a lot of athletes. But as long as you play the right way and play good football moving the ball quickly, then anyone can cope with it.
“I’m quite sure the manager will make some additions in the summer and that will help the team for next season. I think we’ll be fully prepared for the Championship.”