City boss Paul Lambert vowed last night that it will be a completely different Norwich side that takes to the field against Premiership giants Chelsea on Saturday.
Fresh from taking the biggest defeat of his managerial reign at Carrow Road squarely on the chin with that 4-0 defeat by League One pace-setters MK Dons, Lambert was talking figuratively – that attitude and application-wise it will be a far different Canary side that greets City’s travelling army of support.
But, equally, it will be literally a completely different Norwich side that looks to hold the Blues tides at bay with the likelihood remaining that Lambert will make 11 changes again for the trip to Stamford Bridge.
Of those that featured last night, second-half substitutes Ritchie de Laet and Steve Morison look the best candidates for a possible start. Wes Hoolahan and David Fox might come into consideration depending on the way that Lambert sets out his stall for the biggest test yet of Norwich’s resilience under Premier League fire.
“I know when they come out on Saturday, they will give me everything,” said the City chief, with few if any positives to draw from last night’s events at a half-filled Carrow Road. That, for one thing, will be different come the weekend.
“It’ll be a full house, a different game, a different atmosphere, different pressure, different experience – they’ll be ready.”
The trick was to read into that the contrast with last night. And to recognise that when a similar – if less painful – experience befalls the two other Premiership new-boys, there might be a common theme developing.
Quizzed as to whether it wasn’t all-but impossible for the likes of a Norwich, a QPR and a Swansea to concentrate on the league, Lambert didn’t disagree.
“We have to,” he admitted simply.
“It’s taken us two years to get here and the Premiership is the best league in world football.
“It still doesn’t deflect from us wanting to do our best in the cup – and I’ve always said, that if you’re in something you go and try and win it.
“But whilst there’s a long, long way to go if you tell me you’d be knocked out of the Carling Cup, but we’re still in the league then I’ll take it.”
As, I suspect, would everyone else of yellow and green hue. And credit to MK Dons. They played the brighter football and – above all – delivered four, crisp and confident finishes as and when opportunity knocked.
“They played very well tonight – and we probably helped them by not getting going at all,” said Lambert, wholly realistic as to the way the night’s events panned out.
“I can camouflage it all I want, but listen – the better team won.
“And I’m pretty sure that as a fan, you wouldn’t be happy with that. And if they boo, then we have to accept it. Because we never performed and they play good money to come and watch – and we will try and rectify it.”
It had, he said, been a learning curve; defeat – on such a scale – has been such a rare occurrence under the Scot that it will be telling how all concern react.
“I’ve never had many of these experiences, but you learn more about yourself when you lose heavily,” he said. “As a footballer and as a manager, we have to take responsibility.
“I pick the side – so it’s my fault when we lose. When things go wrong it’s my fault. And the club’s been on an upward spiral for the last two years.
“So we’ve not had many of them and sometimes it can be a wake-up.”
The night did, at least, allow both Zak Whitbread and Morison to test their respective recent niggles. If both came through unscathed, both could go close to being involved on Saturday.
New-boy Daniel Ayala will be Lambert’s more immediate concern as the 20-year-old left the field all-too gingerly. He did, at least, decide he didn’t need a stretcher. But nevertheless looked at least a doubt for this weekend’s big trip to The Smoke.
Lambert’s hopes of bedding down a first-choice centre-half pairing, for now, look a little way off. He will, at least, have Leon Barnett back and available again after serving out his one-match ban last night.
In dressing room terms, it was a good one to miss.