The East Anglian managerial merry-go-round was tonight whirring wildly into life as north of the border Norwich forcefully fended off Burnley’s interest in Paul Lambert – south of it, and the word was that Roy Keane’s ill-starred reign as manager of Ipswich would be over come 9am.
In an unusual move in tune with such hairy times, the Canaries this evening took the rare step of officially confirming that they had, indeed, received a formal approach from the Clarets in regard to securing the services of Lambert – and in the same breath, confirming that permission to speak to the Canary chief had been denied.
Bog off, would be the vernacular term for their response.
Burnley set the ball rolling, it would appear, by officially declaring their interest in Lambert themselves – something the Norfolk side could clearly have done without at such a key point in the season.
Usually, everyone keeps their gobs shut and no-one is usually any the wiser; tonight, however, Burnley decided to do their business in public.
“Norwich City wish to confirm, in response to Burnley’s decision this evening to publish the fact that they have made a formal request for permission to speak to Paul Lambert about their managerial vacancy, that permission has not been granted,” read the official Canary statement, posted on the club’s own website.
“Under no circumstances would the club wish to grant permission.
“The club will fight tooth and nail to retain the services of Paul Lambert and his team during this critical period of the season, and whilst they remain under long-term contract. The club remain committed to Paul and his team in the long term and see them as a vital part of our future plans.”
It was all a bit of a flurry off official statements; Burnley’s being unusually public and direct in their intent after the exit last month of Brian Laws from the Turf Moor hot-seat. Sat tenth in the Championship, presumeably everyone was expecting a swift return to the top flight.
As Norwich and a host of other, one-season wonders will witness, it ain’t that easy. Either way, Burnley had Lambert in their sights.
“Burnley Football Club can confirm that tonight a formal request has been submitted to Norwich City Football Club to speak to their manager Paul Lambert,” read the Clarets statement, likewise posted on their own website.
“The club has begun the process of targeting the short-list of candidates to fill the vacant manager’s role at Turf Moor.
“And club officials have subsequently requested permission from the Norwich City board of directors to discuss the position with Lambert. “Burnley Football Club will make no further comment at this time.”
Whether that is the end of the matter remains to be seen. The suspicion is that it will be – Lambert has too much of a good thing going on right now in Norfolk to chance his arm with trying to revive Burnley’s flagging promotion hopes in Lancashire.
But, equally, it could yet prove to just the first of other, bigger fist-fights to come; Lambert – for better or worse – is a marked man; his name working its way up towards the top of a lot of little black books.
And money – and opportunity – will talk; just as it did when Norwich prised the Scotsman out of Colchester United’s hands.
Meanwhile down the road and the world and his media wife appeared to be heading to Suffolk to await formal confirmation of Keane’s exit from Portman Road.
This week’s 1-0 home defeat by Nottingham Forest left Town just three points off the drop-zone – the best-laid Premiership hopes of millionaire owner and recluse Marcus Evans looking ever more forlorn as the fiery Irishman fails to deliver for the second successive season.
Keane will not go quietly – nor cheaply.
And with Norwich having already proved the point as to what can happen if you get a mid-season managerial appointment wrong – all-too often in City’s case – so Ipswich could face a very bumpy ride this spring.
Keano for Burnley would kill at least two birds with one stone as this season’s events in East Anglia took something of a dramatic turn this evening.