There are many ways to judge the qualities of a manager.
One, clearly, is to see the manner in which he can revive – and, all-too-often, reverse – a team’s fortunes on the one occasion that he has ‘access’ to them during the course of a game.
The 15 minutes or so at the interval, in short. Most players – and, indeed, managers – would tell you that their ability to influence a game from the sidelines is very limited. At best.
For the vast majority of the time, the players are out there on their own. A manager’s instructions invariably get drowned out by the cauldron of noise in which games are played – particularly amidst the kind of atmosphere that City’s home clash with Leeds United generated this weekend.
Paul Lambert would have struggled to have made himself heard.
A point you always felt was rather lost on the hapless Peter Grant. He could point and scream all he wanted, but the players paid all-too little attention.
They were beyond his control; his fate in their hands. So, that’s one judgement. Can a manager influence the course of a game at the interval? To which the answer in Lambert’s case is… Yes.
Another judgement can be made with regard his dealings in the transfer market. Where and when he makes his move; who he throws into the pot – particularly when a dressing room would appear to be as nicely balanced and generally harmonious as that of Norwich’s right now.
As they tend to be on the back of a title triumph and a decent start to the new campaign.
So whilst the boy has yet to kick a ball in anger, you can’t help but feel that the arrival of Arsenal youngster Henri Lansbury might just burnish Lambert’s managerial reputation that much more.
Pulling one of Arsene Wenger’s starlets out of the bag is not without peril.
David Bentley’s contribution to Nigel Worthington’s Premiership cause was mixed. It would be fair to suggest that Bentley’s own fortunes in the years since have been ‘mixed’.
That he is a talent is not in doubt. Attitude is more of a problem.
And then there was Kieran Gibbs who arrived amidst much fanfare under Glenn Roeder’s reign. Again, ability was not in doubt. Age was the issue.
Or rather the physical maturity the teenager demonstrated with regard to the rough-house world of Championship football. Because I don’t think it was ever quite his thing.
You could almost sense the wince from a distance as he sought the ball in a 50-50 environment. The muscular confidence wasn’t quite there; he was one-up from Bambi; had the touch, but not the tendons for making a big impact at this level.
Lansbury – on paper – looks a different beast. He has a couple of years on Gibbs, having just celebrated his 20th birthday this autumn.
Above all, however, he has ‘previous’ at this level. He has 34 games under his belt for Watford last season; a clutch for Scunthorpe the season before.
Given that Watford’s midfield is unlikely the place to be for shrinking violets, you would imagine that the Enfield-born Gunners starlet – once, it appears, almost one of Norwich’s own – arrives well-versed in the ways of the Championship wilds.
But there is another point here.
At least two managers of late would promise this, that and the other arrival… and no-one would ever show. It would be a constant tease.
Great for a back-page headline; but after a while there was the whole ‘Cry wolf…’ syndrome going on. Punters would have heard it all before.
As and when someone did – finally – arrive, invariably you got the sense that they were fifth-choice… that neither player nor manager were wholly confident in the arrangement. It was just a body.
One that – again – was invariably at the back end of some long-term rehab; let’s give it a go, see how long it lasts…. Not the best basis for a successful loan spell.
But Lambert has delivered. Having delivered the tease in the wake of the Leeds game, within 72 hours he had the player in his midst.
Time enough to get him bedded in ahead of the derby clash with Town; time enough to add to the gnawing fear down the road that Sunday could be an altogether unpleasant experience in front of the Match of the Days cameras.
The other point to ponder is the likely effect – positive or otherwise – it will have on the existing dressing room chemistry.
The chances are that still being on Wenger’s radar at the age of 20 will command respect.
‘The kid must have something…’ will be the view of the grizzled old pro; ‘OK… let’s see it…’ might be that of the younger generation who had to settle for an Academy upbringing at Colney, not London Colney.
Lambert identified a need – Korey Smith’s absence might be key here – and acted on it.
And, as I say, delivered with a player of a pedigree and potential that *should* be what most people would have ordered.
Lambert’s managerial repute just stepped up another rung.