Clarets chairman Barry Kilby finally laid the ‘Lambert for Burnley!’ story to rest this weekend as the Lancashire club admitted defeat in their chase for the City manager’s services.
It was their strange decision to make their intent public on Thursday evening that set a frantic 36 hours in the life of the Norfolk club in motion.
A simple ‘Hands off!’ statement from the Canary board later that evening proved to no avail speculation-wise as the rumour machine – fuelled by everyone’s ability these days to post their own opinions and thoughts in an instant and link to those that did – went into over-drive.
Twice Lambert himself had to declare his own disinterest to the Press on the Friday; he elaborated again in the immediate aftermath of the FA Cup home defeat by Leyton Orient.
Back in Lancashire, with Clarets fans rightly wondering whether every other candidate will now view themselves as second choice for Brian Laws’ old job, and Kilby was clarifying the position of his board.
They did, he said, ‘respect’ Norwich’s decision and would now be moving on in their search for a new manager as their own play-off hopes start to dwindle; tenth in the Championship is hardly a disaster by the standards of other recently-relegated clubs.
Some pass straight through the second tier and only, finally, regain some stability in League One. Portsmouth had a period of looking as if they were aboard a non-stop train to the third tier; ditto Middlesbrough.
Charlton barely stopped in their old stomping ground of the Championship; ditto Southampton and Leeds United.
Either way, Burnley’s interest in Lambert has now officially ended.
“I would like tonight (Saturday) like to stress to supporters that Paul Lambert (Norwich City manager) was only one of a number of targets we would like to interview for the post of Burnley manager,” Kilby revealed in a formal statement posted to the club’s official website.
You sensed that he had some explaining to do after their very public chase of Lambert back-fired.
Certainly, Kilby’s opposite numbers in the Canary boardroom might have preferred ‘a quiet word’ ahead of all the furore that descended on Norfolk in the run-up to this weekend’s FA Cup clash.
“There are other targets,” Kilby continued. “But someone had to be first and Paul was already in employment, so we acted through the proper channels and made a formal enquiry to speak to Paul.
“Obviously this was refused and we respect Paul and Norwich’s decision and now we must move on to other persons on the short-list.
“There were half a dozen names on the short-list and the task starts again tomorrow morning (Sunday). I do think the situation needs to be resolved as quickly as we can, but we cannot let that be the over-riding factor.
“It is about appointing the right man for the job to take this club forward.”
What is likely to make the job of Kilby and Co that much harder is the fact that he is not alone in seeking a new manager with both Ipswich Town and Crystal Palace now in the hunt for a new man at the helm following the exits of both George Burley and Roy Keane of late.
Stature-wise and pay-wise, the three clubs are probably not a million miles apart – in the sense that all three will probably be dipping their toes into a similar-sized pool of available talent. All three, for example, might find a Gary Megson seeking a way back into management. Or, indeed, a Paul Jewell.
And they might not be the only ones, either. Up above in the Premiership and the sound of sharpening knives has been heard at both Aston Villa and West Ham United – a knock-on effect of the transfer window being the urgency with which boards have to move if their new manager is to be given any chance of bringing in fresh blood before the month is out and the transfer window closes.
As the Canary board will unhappily attest, it is very, very easy to get the appointment wrong – even if you go into the process of interviewing and appointing with every best intention in the world of delivering the next Paul Lambert.
With the glorious benefit of hindsight, Kilby and his board might think twice before going so public with their plans again; once bitten, twice shy. And no-one wants to be seen to be re-buffed more than once as the Canaries desperately hope that the matter is now finally closed and their much-admired manager can be left to go about his business in peace.