A collective sigh of relief was audible right across the Canary Nation this evening as City chief Paul Lambert penned a new and improved Carrow Road deal thereby sending all suitors for his services packing.
West Ham United had led that particular pack – with Aston Villa reported to be not too far behind.
Back-to-back promotions had not gone unnoticed, surprisingly enough. Nor had that Champions League winners medal that still adorns the Lambert mantelpiece; nor the fact that he is still only 41; nor the fact that his Championship counterparts had seen fit to make him the League Managers Association manager of the year for the second flight of English football.
Put together and it made the name ‘P Lambert’ amongst the most wanted in English football.
But after City’s long-serving director Michael Foulger let slip at the weekend that ‘great news’ was a-foot on the managerial front, so this evening the Canaries duly delivered what Foulger had suggested – a new deal for their in-demand manager.
Breathe easy, was the command tonight. He ain’t going anywhere…
“What Paul, his staff and the players have helped the club to achieve since he joined the club has been absolutely incredible,” said club chairman Adam Bowkett, in the officially-worded statement delivered at 5.30pm.
“Therefore after protracted and professional negotiations, we are thrilled to report that we have a new deal,” Bowkett added.
One worth £1.6 million a year was the figure the Daily Mirror opted to quote last week as they had the newly-relegated Hammers sniffing around Carrow Road in search of a new manager.
Whether that figure headed north again as Lambert played his hand cannily is for Bowkett and Lambert to know, others to guess.
But it will leave West Ham with one less name on their famed ‘short-list’.
In fairness, to Lambert in both previous word and tonight’s deed he has never hinted at wanting away; that he and his close-knit team of Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa still wanted to test themselves against the best of the best with what they have already built in Norfolk.
Tonight and that same building process can carry on apace now that all concerned know exactly who will be in charge come August; City can build off a platform of certainty – it gives them a clear head-start in the race for summer signatures.
“It’s terrific for myself and Ian and Gary,” said the man himself, as Team Lambert prepares for the biggest challenge yet of their managerial and coaching careers.
“We came here together and we’ve never indicated that we wanted to leave at all,” added Lambert. “I’ve loved my two years at the club.
“And I’m delighted that everything has been sorted for the three of us and now we are working on bringing players to the club.”
German World Cup star Miroslav Klose is just one of the names that has done the rounds of late as Lambert uses his top-level connections – be it either with the likes of Kenny Dalglish here in England or his former colleagues in the German Bundesliga – to mount an ambitious challenge on the top flight of English football backed, as ever, by the joyous Yellow And Green Army.
“The fanbase here is tremendous and if you have got them behind you, then you have got a chance,” added Lambert, sights firmly set on finishing 17th or higher.
“We’ll try and do everything we can to get a foothold in the Premier League – and enjoy it,” he added.
A canny Scot, Lambert clearly knows his own value in the managerial market-place; he also knows a good thing when he sees one – in particular, the strength and solidity that the club enjoy through its boardroom and on into that famed fan-base.
There is an enviable sense of unity and purpose to the 109-year-old club right now – something that may just elude a West Ham as they try to right the sunken ship in double-quick time.
Given the nature of that Premiership beast, Lambert will also know that to follow successive promotion campaigns with top flight survival at the first attempt will merely cement his place among the brightest and best managers of his generation.
Staying with the devils he knows at Norwich ensures that he has everything to gain from tonight’s new deal; jumping ship to work with devils he knows only by rumour, would risk losing everything he has achieved reputation-wise over the last, two extraordinary seasons.
It always made perfect sense; the devil was always going to be in the detail of that new deal.
Tonight that detail has been put to bed and everyone can now sleep soundly this summer.