City boss Paul Lambert was playing his cards close to his chest this morning, as doubts remain over the availability of skipper Grant Holt for tomorrow’s Championship opener against Watford.
The Canary striker is due in a Market Drayton court tomorrow over a long-standing motoring offence and it is not yet known whether that will be morning, noon or night.
There is also the fact that he has only played 18 minutes of pre-season football to consider, after a thigh injury plagued his early preparations.
But whatever happens with Holt, Lambert has been reasonably fortunate on the injury front, with only Steven Smith and Zak Whitbread likely to miss out.
“It’s not too bad, most people seem to be OK,” he told the media this morning. “Stephen Smith is out and Zak Whitbread is a big doubt but Korey Smith is fine.
“Grant’s situation is with the people that are looking after him. I’ve got nothing more to say about it but I’m certainly not planning to be without him. I’ve got a rough idea as to what I’m going to do and I know what team I’m going to pick.”
City’s first match of the campaign offers them a great chance to start the season with a victory, with Malky Mackay’s Hornets only just avoiding relegation last season.
But while the Canary chief admits that it would be nice to kick-off with three points, it is only one game. Just look at what happened in 2009/10…
“It’s always nice to win the first game and hopefully the fans will get right behind us,” continued the Scot. “It’s new for us and Watford are an experienced Championship side but we’ll try and get on the front foot and take the game to them.
“You try and get off to a good start but it’s just one game and whatever happens, happens. But managers seem to have a shorter life-span and after one game you could get the sack!
“We’ll try and win; I know we’ll have the fans on our side and the players will give it everything they have got.”
In the two home friendlies of the summer, against Premier League giants Newcastle and Everton, Norwich have been impressive, knocking the ball around with style.
But while Lambert enjoys seeing his team play football the right way, he is well aware that it’s a results business. Points win prizes, not panache.
“It’s great to win with a bit of style but we’ve got to win more games than not first and foremost,” continued Lambert, who was in good spirits for his first pre-match press conference of the season.
“If you can do it by playing great football then you’d take it but sometimes we are going to have to fight and defend for our lives to keep the ball out of the net.
“I know for a fact that we’ve got lads who are going to run. The work ethic will always be there and we’ve got lads who want to play here.
“It’s not as if they are loans, they are the club’s own players and hopefully they, along with the fans, will be the ones that drive it on. We’re more than ready for it, that’s for sure.”
Tomorrow’s live TV clash sees the return of the popular Mackay to Carrow Road and if the game needed any extra spice, the former City defender and Lambert did, of course, play in the same Celtic side some 13 years ago.
“We played together for a year up at Celtic and he’s done well at Watford,” said the former Bhoys hero.
“I’ve had some good conversations with him on the phone and he’s done well under difficult circumstances there. It’ll be good to see him tomorrow and he’s a top lad.”
And finally, if you are hoping to get a prediction for the season from the Norwich manager, then forget it; he’s keeping counsel on that one also.
Although said with a wry smile, Lambert was not giving away any thoughts on his first season at this level as a manager.
“I’ve got my own expectancy levels and ambitions but the last people I’m going to tell are you boys! [the press].
“Time will tell. You can’t predict the future and we’ll go game by game – it will be really tough. But we’ve earned the right to play here and we’ll do everything we can to have the same feelings as we did last year.”
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