For most, it will come as no surprise. But it was still pleasing to see City clean up recently when League One players and managers voted for their stars of the season.
Norwich did, of course, romp to the title in what was a terrific team effort, led by Paul Lambert. But there were some stunning individual contributions as well, and the rest of the division were happy to acknowledge that.
When quizzed on their Player of the Season in the official play-off final matchday programme, two Canary stars in particular got a mention.
“I’d go for Grant Holt at Norwich City,” said Southampton goalkeeper Kelvin Davis, himself one of the outstanding performers in the division.
“He has banged in goals all season to keep their promotion push on track and, along with Rickie Lambert, must be the best buy of the League One season.”
“There are a number of strong contenders but I would pick Wes Hoolahan,” added Leeds boss Simon Grayson. “He gets the nod just ahead of his Norwich City team-mate Grant Holt for the quality of his delivery. When Hoolahan was missing – which wasn’t very often – Norwich weren’t the same team.”
“Wes Hoolahan cut us open at will when we lost 3-0 to Norwich City at Carrow Road in March,” said Yeovil’s Craig Alcock, casting another vote in the direction of the talented Irishman. “He was a class above. He has plenty of tricks and also an eye for a pass.”
“Wes Hoolahan is just a very good, skilful player and he was on fire when Norwich beat us 2-1 at the Banks’s Stadium in January,” said Walsall hitman Darren Byfield. “He’s got real quality, and you can see why Norwich have built their side around him.”
Last but not least, Oldham warhorse Sean Gregan also hailed the impact of Hoolahan, recalling the Carrow Road contest back in December when the Dubliner ran them ragged.
“Wes Hoolahan was just unplayable that day. The lads couldn’t get near him to kick him! He was named in the Team of the Year and is so comfortable on the ball – he has also scored a lot of goals.”
When it came around to the Manager of the Year debate, as expected, most opted for City boss Lambert, who masterminded a tremendous turnaround in Norfolk after that opening day shocker against the U’s.
“Paul Lambert has done a fantastic job at Norwich,” continued Saints stopper Davis. “They were on a real low after losing 7-1 to his own Colchester United side on the opening day of the season and he picked them up and moulded them into the best team in the division.”
“Considering they got beat 7-1 by Colchester United on the opening day, Paul Lambert has done a terrific job at Norwich City,” added Gregan. “After that result it would have been easy for the club to go one way but he’s taken charge there and they have won the league by a mile in the end.”
“Norwich City finished as champions so it has to be Paul Lambert,” said Byfield in his interview. “Especially in the circumstances – they weren’t exactly flying when he came in – but he did a great job and to finish on top ahead of Leeds United and Charlton Athletic was no mean feat.”
Saving the best ‘til last, Whites chief Grayson also paid tribute to his opposite number at Carrow Road. And the former Blackpool boss was man enough to admit that Norwich – and the man at the helm – deserved all the accolades.
“I’m going to turn to Norwich again and say Paul Lambert, because of the way they played. Norwich produced some attractive football to win the title and Paul has to take credit for that.”
There were also other ‘gongs’ dished out, with Yeovil defender Alcock claiming that City were the toughest side the Glovers faced, as well as having the best young player in League One on their books.
“The best team we played would have to be Norwich in that game in March or Swindon when they beat us 3-1 in December. Leeds United were also very impressive in the second-half at their place when they beat us 4-0. However, for the best performance over 90 minutes, I would go for Norwich.
“And I like Korey Smith as well. He’s a great young player and he did a sound job protecting the back four, breaking up play and feeding the ball-players.”
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