Wittingly or not, City full-back Russell Martin last night touched on the biggest challenge now facing triumphant Canary boss Paul Lambert – how to avoid his Football League ‘Band of Brothers’ falling victim to a clutch of Premiership-style egos.
That the newly-promoted Norfolk side will look to strengthen again over the summer is not in doubt; Canary chief executive David McNally has already confirmed that funds will be made available for Lambert to build a squad capable of lasting the Premier League course.
But when a squad delivers back-to-back promotions in the manner in which the Canaries have – in particular, the whole sense of ‘togetherness’ that the canny Scot has instilled in both club and dressing room – the danger is that one, ‘Billy Big-Time’ could rock the apple cart.
Right now, said Martin, the biggest names at Carrow Road sit in the directors box in the shape of the club’s principal shareholder Delia Smith and her fellow TV celebrity, Stephen Fry.
Suits us, was the word from the 25-year-old full-back and City vice-captain – likely to push skipper Grant Holt very close for that ‘Player of the Season’ trophy before Saturday’s final home game of the season against Coventry City on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got more famous directors than players but I think that’s been part of our success,” Martin told the Press last night – at least once he’d finally emerged from the scrum of joyous players and supporters that engulfed all concerned at the end of last night’s 1-0 away win at Portsmouth.
“We don’t have any big names, big egos. Before the game, the players were saying that none of us have known anything like it so let’s go and do it for each other. It’s life-changing for all of us.”
That special chemistry, the ‘All For One, One For All!’ bond that ties this group of players together is something that Lambert will be loathe to tamper with.
What is fascinating about the way in which he has gone about building this particular Canary squad is the fact that the vast majority of his buys have been players from the lower reaches of the Football League; he has not dabbled in the ex-Premiership transfer market – rather worked his knowledge of the lower leagues to bring in players that are both hungry and, above all, on the rise.
Players who may have been over-looked by Premiership scouts in their teenage years – or were released by certain top flight clubs at 16, only to then earn their spurs the hard way.
Martin has done his time at Wycombe and Peterborough; Andrew Crofts served his apprenticeship at Gillingham and Brighton; Grant Holt knows what it’s like to be a Shrewsbury Town player; Simeon Jackson has done the Rushden & Diamonds and the Gillinghams; David Fox was with Lambert at Colchester, before that it was Blackpool – having been released by Manchester United as a youngster.
Wes Hoolahan began to find his footballing feet at Livingston in Scotland, before the bright lights of Blackpool beckoned.
In fact, of the current Canary squad only three have any real experience of top flight football – the injured Leon Barnett from his spell at West Bromwich Albion, Andrew Surman from his time at Wolves in 2009-2010 and long-serving Canary defender Adam Drury from that 2004-2005 season.
Henri Lansbury is expected to be returned to his Arsenal sender this summer; should he return for another tour of duty, he will hardly have a rich history of Premiership games to call on.
Hence why Martin was quite right to label events of the last 24-hours as ‘life changing’ for all concerned.
They are, to a man, having the time of their lives. And given that most are still yet to hit their footballing peak in that 27-32-year-old age range, Lambert has a young, hungry and wholly ‘together’ squad to build on.
An argument that could equally apply to the 41-year-old manager himself; this is the team that Paul built – now let’s see what it can do away at an Arsenal or a Manchester United. A voyage of discovery now awaits all concerned.
“We’ve probably only got a handful of Premier League appearances between us, so there’s a lot to prove,” said Martin, whose watching brother is now the proud owner of his City shirt. Someone, likewise, now owns his shorts. Both disappeared in last night’s joyous melee.
“The gaffer wants to enjoy watching his team,” added the City vice-captain, clearly relishing playing the Lambert way – a simple approach to playing the game that, he hopes, will under-pin Norwich’s assault on Premiership survival next season.
That Lambert will stick as much to his first, footballing principles as much as his current group of players.
“He makes it really simple. Like he says, it’s not rocket science. Keep hold of the little white thing. I think we’ll stick to those principles.”