Paul Lambert’s proud record of never losing back-to-back games since his arrival at the helm of Norwich City could come under its sternest test yet as the Canaries play host to Burnley this weekend.
Last Saturday and the Norfolk side found league leaders Cardiff City a little too hot to handle on their home patch.
A big decision here, a tad more concentration there and Norwich could – possibly – have nicked something from their trip to South Wales. In the event, however, they lost 3-1.
Today they face a decent-looking Burnley side who have managed to cope pretty well with their fall from Premiership grace last season.
And in the likes of a player like Chris Eagles have the ability to really test Norwich’s play-off resolve; to put that remarkable record under the microscope.
“Like I’ve said before, once you lose one, you look to get the next one,” said Lambert, insisting that it is the players themselves who deserve the credit for always bouncing back after the odd, rare reverse. He was clearly expecting today’s game to be no exception to that rule.
“The lads know that if you get beat, you have to get back as quick as we can. That is what they have done since I have been here, so they don’t need me to tell them,” said the Canary chief, able to call upon an all-but fully fit squad.
Or at least one with no fresh injuries to report. Just as well, in that Lambert was expecting a tough game as Norwich set their sights on cementing their place amidst the play-off pack whilst – ideally – ensuring that the top two do not disappear wholly out of sight before the turn of the year.
Burnley, Lambert claimed, are likely to have a big part to play as the season gets towards the business end… the £65 million business end depending on whichever valuation ‘experts’ put on that ticket to the top flight.
“I think they will be round about it – they have not lost many players from the Premier League I don’t think, and they are just down,” said the Canary chief.
“It is another hard, hard game for us. We’re at home, but I also respect what they have done as a club. This is another tough game.”
As is every one, it would appear. Paul Lambert didn’t get where he is today by taking any game lightly.
“Every game is tough – League One was always hard,” said Lambert. “I have never been involved in a game where I thought it would be easy.
“Even last year in the FA Cup when we went to Paulton, I played the strongest team I could because I just think every game is hard.
“I just think every game you have to play well to get something. This month is hard, and by the end of December you will see what’s what. But every game is tough.”
What Lambert is not doing is looking up at the heavens that would be the Premier League. For now he keeps one wary eye over his shoulder; make sure that we stay up in this division is the first hurdle for his side to leap. Only then will the Canary chief sleep easy at night.
“As I have said you cling on for dear life to stay up there, and that is what you do,” he said.
He wasn’t – clearly – about to get too carried away by what remains an impressive autumn for last season’s League One stars.
“We’re doing fine; the lads have been great,” Lambert reiterated. “We can’t argue that; they have been great for me even when we have been beat I have never come away thinking that we never gave everything, because we always do, if they do that you can’t ask for anymore.”
Burnley will ask a few more questions of both his squad and of him as a manager; can he keep City’s ‘bounce-back-ability’ as Iain Dowie once described it intact?
“There is no doubt that they are going to be one of the strong sides,” he warned. “This is a really tough game.”
Having had a week out and then looked all the better for it against the Bluebirds, the expectation is that Wes Hoolahan will be back on centre stage today.
“I said to him the other day you sometimes can’t see the forest from the trees,” explained Lambert, his man management skills once more to the fore.
“He [Hoolahan] needed a little break which I thought he needed; he came back and I thought he was excellent,” said Lambert. “Sometimes he is unplayable how he plays the game; he came back on Saturday and was excellent.”