Norwich boss Paul Lambert today praised Preston midfielder Darel Russell, as the ex-Canary prepares to face his old club at Deepdale tomorrow.
It’s not a certainty that Russell will start, but last season’s League One hero should feature at some point after completing a Bosman free transfer from Norfolk in the summer.
And despite not being able to agree a new deal with the former City trainee when 2009/10 came to a close, Lambert only has good words to say about the former midfield man.
“As a player and a person, he was brilliant,” he told reporters this morning, speaking during his weekly pre-match press conference.
“When I first came in I think he was training with the kids but we weren’t good enough to keep him out of the side. He got fit and when he came back in he was colossal for us.
“As a person he was great as well. People have said he is difficult to handle but not once did I have a problem with Darel. His performances were great and I’ve only got good things to say about him. He’s a really good lad.”
Tomorrow’s long trek to the North West promises to be an intriguing encounter, with the Lilywhites starting the season slower than boss Darren Ferguson would have liked.
The Deepdale outfit have lost five of their six opening games and the solitary win only came against crisis-club Portsmouth. Even that was a drab 1-0 affair.
We’re only in September but the son of Sir Alex is already under pressure, not that Lambert thinks that is necessarily a good thing for the Canaries.
“There are two ways you can look at it,” he continued. “They are under pressure to get a result but Darren did great at Peterborough and it’s really early in the season.
“We know how tough it’s going to be and as I’ve said before, apart from Leeds and Millwall, these other teams are established in the Championship. But we’re certainly playing well enough to go up there and win.
“Every time you go away from home it’s hard. I never think you’re just going to turn up and win. But the onus is always on the home team to make the running and the crowd can get on their back if the other team get a foothold in the game.
“The crowd can get on top of you [the home team] and that’s what we’ve got to try and do tomorrow. We’ve got to take the game to them and get the supporters on their back.”
In terms of team news for tomorrow’s encounter, it looks to be another shoot-out between Anthony McNamee and Simon Lappin for that midfield slot, with the tricky winger quiet at Doncaster on Tuesday night.
McNamee could be used as an impact substitute once again, with Lappin’s presence allowing City to return to the topical diamond formation.
One player who is sure to retain his place, however, is skipper Grant Holt, despite Lambert admitting that he is still playing catch-up with his match fitness after a summer on the sidelines with a thigh complaint.
“You’ve got to remember that he missed most of pre-season and it’s not easy to get it back when you’re just playing games all the time,” added the Norwich boss.
“I took him off on Tuesday because it was my decision to take him off and it’s my prerogative to do what I want, and I just thought he had done well for the duration he was on and he looked a bit tired towards the end of the game.
“I put Oli [Johnson] on to see if we could get something. But he is still playing catch-up, he definitely is.”
Meanwhile, PNE chief Ferguson has challenged his players to give the fans something to shout about tomorrow, with a bumper crowd expected due to a cheap ticket offer at Deepdale.
“The fans are sticking by us, they are sticking by me and the players and that’s really important, but we have got to give them something back and get a win for them,” the Preston boss gaffer told the club’s official website.
“If we can get that win and move up the table then we have got two tough away games. Norwich is a game we can win and apart from Swansea I think we could have won any of the other five games.
“I like to play the right way in terms of passing and angles and all the rest of it, that won’t change, but we have got to start winning games.”