Anxious City fans may yet have reason to thank one of the more curious ‘Old Pals’ acts in football as Ian Wright today counselled caution to one of his ex-Celtic mates – Norwich boss Paul Lambert.
Writing his regular column in The Sun newspaper today, the former Arsenal legend and TV pundit ran down the list of likely runners and riders for the supposed ‘vacancy’ at West Ham as the luckless Avram Grant fights for his own managerial life.
The newspaper itself had already ruled out Martin O’Neill for the position, leaving the way open for yet more managerial speculation as the Hammers peer fearfully over the abyss.
But, according to Wright, switching to the East End of London would be the wrong move for his former Bhoys team-mate.
‘Stay where you are, Lambo…’ appeared to be his mate’s best advice, as he likewise ruled out a move for Cardiff City’s boss Dave Jones.
“Norwich’s Paul Lambert and Dave Jones of Cardiff are two other names who have been mentioned,” Wright wrote in today’s paper.
“However, I’m not sure either would want to take on the West Ham job given the club’s current position,” he added. And with good reason.
West Ham appear to be heading south this winter; Norwich are still driving north on the crest of a wave.
As Lambert tried to make very clear in the midst of all the Burnley furore 12 days ago, he’s been bitten by that Canary bug; working in a ‘one-club’ city such as Norwich can be an absolute joy when the good times are rolling.
A fact not lost on his pal Wrighty; the two sharing a lift together when their career’s coincided at Celtic Park under O’Neill.
“Paul is a good mate of mine as we used to share a car on the way to Celtic training,” revealed Wright.
“You will not meet a nicer man in the world and he is doing well at Norwich. I am not sure he would need all the stick he would get by walking into the job at West Ham.
“So I’d be worried if he took the position if it was offered. I’d rather see him get Norwich in the Prem or wait for another job.”
A similar logic applied to Bluebirds boss Jones after the pair shared a point in this weekend’s 1-1 draw at Carrow Road.
“Jones has done well at Cardiff in a difficult situation but I think he would rather see the job out in south Wales,” reasoned Wright.
The Canaries are due to host their Annual General Meeting at Carrow Road this evening where – no doubt – Lambert will again be asked to confirm his commitment to the Norfolk club by anxious shareholders.
And, no doubt, on the strength of his recent utterances on the matter, the Canary chief will again confirm said commitment.
There remains much of Martin O’Neill in the man; a commitment appears to mean just that; he comes to such conversations with a strong, moral determination to see out the contract he signed – and one that is proving such a winner for all concerned.
The reality is, however, that as much as Lambert and the Carrow Board may know the strength of his feelings in such regard, the Press and media will take more convincing – he is a natural ‘target’ for such speculation given his managerial feats of late.
Equally, there aren’t too many of his generation of players with a Champions League winners medal on the mantelpiece; the fact that it came whilst playing in Europe merely adds to his allure.
If anyone wishes for the latest pot to be further stirred, the Gold and Sullivans have strong Norwich links; they and City’s owner Delia Smith have always enjoyed a decent friendship – stretching way back to the Championship Play-off final against Birmingham City and beyond.
Hence they will be very aware of Lambert’s achievements in the space of 18, extraordinary months at the helm; likewise, they will be very well-versed in Delia’s determination to hang onto the club’s prized asset – a position she, in turn, will no doubt repeat to the club’s shareholders this evening.
Whether – on the basis of the Burnley circus – anyone will listen is another matter.
As events two weeks ago proved, these stories can swiftly develop a life of their own – whatever anyone actually says by way of a denial.
The hope today would be, of course, that Lambert takes heed of his pal Wrighy’s advice and goes precisely nowhere for the foreseeable.