City boss Paul Lambert all-but confirmed that Grant Holt will once again lead his troops into battle next season as the City chief collected his thoughts after last week’s goal-strewn pre-season tour to Germany.
It ended on Saturday afternoon with something of a 11-0 walkover over a regional representative side in which Lambert continued to bed new faces and fresh systems into his thinking.
City’s preparations for their opening Premier League game away at Wigan step up several more gears this week with back-to-back away friendlies against Crystal Palace, Southend United and Coventry City.
Signing No7 of the summer – Spurs defender Kyle Naughton – was not at Colney this morning having only just flown home from their own, pre-season tour. In every likelihood his first appearance of the summer will come at Roots Hall if tomorrow night’s trip to Selhurst Park is deemed all a little too soon for the England Under-21 star.
Quizzed this morning as to whether Holt would be granted the captain’s armband for the third successive season, Lambert appeared wholly at ease with that prospect. It looked very much an easy decision made with the responsibility of captaincy seeming to sit very easily on the 30-year-old’s shoulders.
“He’s been the captain here for the last two years and nothing’s changed since then,” said Lambert, well aware that his free-scoring skipper will have more questions to answer next season.
As, indeed, will all concerned. Thus far, Holt has always delivered the right answers.
“I think people asked questions of him last year – could he do it in the Championship? And he did fantastically well. And this is another step up for him as it is for everybody. And he’ll be up against world class footballers. So it will be a test – but it’ll be a test for everybody.”
Germany had proved a useful exercise – on and off the pitch, his squad continued to gel.
“The lads worked really hard and it was just a case of trying to prepare for what lies ahead,” said Lambert, his side yet to concede a goal this summer.
That he was mixing and matching systems as well as players was obvious – and nothing new. Lambert’s teams have always demonstrated great tactical flexibility; now he has a new crop of players to extend such thinking even further.
“We have to have another way of playing – that’s important for us,” said the Canary chief, well aware that his famed ‘diamond’ formation with Wes Hoolahan at its head might not always sparkle in the top flight.
“The level that we’re going to, I don’t think you can have it set in stone the one way that you’re going to play.
“We’re going to have to hang in unbelievably in certain games, but also we’ve got to try and win games. That’s the main point. You play football to try and win games. Whether you can do that by playing great all the time – I’m not so sure you can keep on doing that,” said Lambert, adopting a typically pragmatic approach to Premiership survival. You do whatever it takes. End of.
“It may be that you have to win ugly – which I’ll take. I’ve been in the game long enough to know that you have to win.”
He wasn’t taking huge notice of the 19 goals the Canaries racked up against their German opponents; nor the fact that they had yet to concede. Bigger tests of their pre-season resolve were to come.
“The games in Germany were structured in the way that they were going to be really hard for us; it was just to get us out there; get us used to each other; getting the new lads used to the way that the team plays; to play different formations and different ways.
“The scores were irrelevant. It was just about getting lads fitted in.”
The likes of Cody McDonald and Owain Tudur Jones had stayed in Norfolk; there they will remain until their representatives get them away this summer. It has, it appears, long been made clear that there will not be room for them in Lambert’s final, 25-strong squad.
“I think a few of them have had chances to go, but they’ve not took it so they’re still here. But the lads know the situation – they haven’t been disruptive or anything. They’ve been fine. It’s up to them to get their agents to work for it.”
Nor, for now, did Lambert appear to have any plans to boost his goalkeeping department. John Ruddy would go into Premier League battle backed up by the two, Academy-bred youngsters Declan Rudd and Jed Steer.
“I don’t have any problem with Declan at all,” said the City chief. “But then you don’t know until anything happens to John whether I’d need to go and get someone. But, at this minute, I don’t have any problems.”
Injury-wise both James Vaughan and Marc Tierney missed Saturday’s final outing with ‘slight knocks’; new-boy Anthony Pilkington continues to make good progress having joined in in light training with the squad. Adam Drury has a slight calf strain.