City playmaker David Fox has revealed his debt of gratitude to Canary boss Paul Lambert as Norwich prepare to embark on this season’s Carling Cup adventure.
‘Adventure’ is probably too-strong a word. On previous form, the Canaries don’t tend to trouble the cup competition organisers for too long, though this season’s extended squad and fierce competition for Premier League places could put MK Dons in their place at Carrow Road this evening.
Given that he was one of the six changes that Lambert made amidst Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City, there is every likelihood that Fox will be back pulling the strings at the heart of that midfield tonight.
“It’s taken me a long time [to get into the Premier League],” the 27-year-old admitted, speaking before Sunday’s clash with the Potters as he reflected on another tortuous path to the top flight of English football.
“When you’re playing for Colchester Reserves, playing in the Premier League is a million miles away.
“So, it’s funny how it’s come about. It’s taken me longer than I’d have hoped, but now I’m here I want to try and make the most of it.”
Twice Lambert has helped him on his way – once plucking him out of Blackpool Reserves whilst in charge at Colchester and then, a year later, repeating the feat when at Carrow Road.
“I’m not the only one in this squad that has had this story. You can speak to anyone in the dressing room and they have all had unbelievable stories of how they have got to the Premier League.
“But I will always be grateful to him [Lambert]. He’s given me a chance twice in my career. I was not getting a game at Blackpool and he took me – and I wasn’t getting a game at Colchester and he brought me here.
“So that’s twice now where I have sort of been at the bottom and he’s had faith in me – and I try and pay that back every day, really.”
He was, by common consent, one of the most improved Norwich players last season; growing in confidence and stature with every pass and performance. When they do that diamond, Fox sits in there and sets the pace and rhythm of the side.
Quizzed as to whether that position at the base of that famed, if now dispensible, diamond was his favourite role, Fox was very much a fan.
“Yes, I’d say so,” he swiftly agreed. “I wouldn’t say that this team was built around me, but I’d say that was probably my favourite position.
“I like to get the ball off the defenders and pass it through, so yes – it suits me down to the ground. I think a lot of the lads look to me to get the ball and I think that position enables me to get on the ball as much as I can.
“And I do love that responsibility,” headed, offering another reason why Lambert might have twice rescued the one-time Manchester United starlet out of various reserve sides.
“The manager played that role himself and he tells me how important that role is,” said Fox. “So I try and take that responsibility into each game. And I know that if I can get onto the ball and give it to the likes of Wes [Hoolahan] and Surs [Andrew Surman] then I know we are a far better team.”
Lambert, of course, ran a much different horse for the course that was Stoke – genuine width on either side with Anthony Pilkington hugging one touch-line; Elliott Bennett, the other. In between Andrew Crofts and Bradley Johnson offered a more muscular edge in a flat, midfield four.
Tonight and one would expect to see the diamond return – as much as anyone can ever second guess Lambert’s best-laid plans.
The hope would be that against less ‘In yer face…’ sides than Stoke, the diamond might sparkle again in the Premier League. You cannot, however, afford to over-dwell on the ball against anyone.
“As soon as you start to take two, three touches someone is on you very fast,” said Fox.
“But if we can shift the ball quickly, then no-one can get near us. And it doesn’t matter what team it is – they can’t get near the ball because it is moving that quick. If we move it one, two touch we will be a match for anyone.”
As, ideally, MK Dons will discover tonight.