City boss Paul Lambert was under few illusions as to the task that faced his Premiership new-boys this weekend as the Canary boss prepared to bump into one of his footballing heroes – Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish.
The performances – if not the final results – at first Stamford Bridge and then Old Trafford have convinced many that the Norfolk side can walk the Premiership walk.
The they can pass beneath that famed ‘This Is Anfield’ sign without fear or trepidation – even if Dalglish appears to be sprinkling his managerial magic back across the red half of Liverpool second time round.
“It’s just as hard as going anywhere else,” said Lambert, speaking at this morning’s Press conference at Colney.
“And the magnitude of the task will be huge for us,” he added. “But I’ve said it before – and I say it every time and I get sick of saying it – we’ve earned the right to go up there and play them.”
The manner in which the Canaries tested the resolve of both Chelsea and Manchester United will spur all on; as will the knowledge that they head into Merseyside with nine points from their last 12.
“I know how hard it’s going to be – the club and the tradition that it’s got and the players that have played up there through this current era and the years gone by. So I know how hard it is going to be,” said Lambert, with his former director of football at Celtic back at the helm and guiding Liverpool back into those top four spots.
The respect towards the man in charge (again) in clearly huge.
“I know Kenny from working with him at Celtic and he’s the best player that I’ve seen coming out of Scotland,” said the former Bhoys midfielder.
“And he’s probably one of the best players that Britain has ever produced.”
He’s no bad manager, either. And, post-Hillsborough, led the club out of its darkest times with real strength and dignity.
“You can see by the status he’s got with the fans what they think of him as a player and a manager – they don’t come any bigger than him.”
Once again, however, Lambert senses no fear in his camp; they can walk out in front of The Kop with all to play for.
“I don’t think they’re frightened by it,” said the City chief.
“They’re not going up there with any fear or trepidation – they’ll go there to try and win a game the way that we did at Stamford Bridge, the way that we did at Old Trafford.
“Yes, we got beat. But we went and gave it a go. And we will give this one a go as well.”
Performance-levels and points tallies all bode well – if only in terms of the manner in which Norwich will approach the game from the off.
Whether that final touch of Champions League-esque quality will tell is another matter. To nick even a point – as they could so easily have done at both Chelsea and Old Trafford – would be another massive shot in the arm for Lambert’s troops.
“They are playing very well,” he readily admitted. With good reason. They are.
“We’re playing a high level of football at the minute and at this minute in time, we’re a match for most of the teams in this league, but we have to sustain that. There’s only a handful of games gone – we have to sustain the standard that we have set ourselves and, hopefully, the lads will do it.”
Team-wise and everyone could assume that Norwich will go into the game unchanged again.
Striker Steve Morison disappeared early last week with tiredness more than anything – following on from his heroics leading the Welsh line and then delivering a classic, hard-working No9’s performance in the 3-1 win over Swansea.
At the back and if it ain’t bust, don’t fix it. And with Zak Whitbread being nursed gently back to match fitness so the combination of Leon Barnett and Russell Martin look all set to start again.
It is, he admitted, rough on the likes of Grant Holt and Andrew Crofts who have done little wrong other than find the players in front of them in the form of their lives.
But that is exactly why the Canaries are hitting so many high notes – the competition for places is all-too genuine and all-too real. And it is working wonders for the Norfolk club on their return to the top flight of English football.
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