In common, I suspect, with the great majority of Canary punters, I’m pretty sure all will be well this season.
It will be the nature of this Premiership beast if City have the odd wobble; as has been mentioned before, I still believe that the fixture computer did the Norfolk club many a favour by not slamming back-to-back fixtures against, say, Arsenal (h) and then Manchester City (a).
It gave Lambert and Co a ‘breather’ in the shape of QPR (h).
The point of this piece is not to underline the importance of this weekend’s game. That is not lost on anyone.
And the fact that Rangers can go away to Stoke City and return to the Smoke with three big away points under their belt merely adds extra wariness to the occasion. The much-loved Neil Warnock may be finding his feet in the Premier League. And whatever else has been said and written about Joey Barton, the lad can play.
What the last two games have, however, demonstrated is the difference two, ‘Grade A’ players can make.
And why the Canaries – in their current guise and wage structure – will invariably find themselves playing second fiddle to certain Premiership combinations.
Because for anyone who caught the Match Of The Day ‘analysis’ of the Canaries trip to Villa Park and last Saturday’s visit of Champions League hopefuls Arsenal, the verdict was the same – or rather the feature bits were.
Agbonlahor’s pace matched to Bent’s finish; Walcott’s pace married to Van Persie’s finish.
The only difference being that one came down the left and made Kyle Naughton’s life a misery; the other piled down the right and left Marc Tierney playing catch-up.
Otherwise, it was the same one-two, ripping through Norwich’s best-planned defences.
One way to view it is, of course, a failing of either full-back; that it was their individual weakness that condemned City to that rarest of beasts under Lambert’s watch – back-to-back league defeats.
Personally – being a glass half-full kind of character – I would rather salute the individual abilities of the four players involved.
I wouldn’t seek to lay too much disgrace at the feet of either Naughton or Tierney; they’re just getting undone by players at the very top of their game; players who can all perform at a Champions League level – or, indeed, at a national one.
Be it for club or country, Messrs Bent, Agbonlahor, Walcott and van Persie are good, good players. Too good.
They are what this Premier League is all about – at that level. In those key positions; pace on the flanks and finish down the middle.
Fortunately, of course, not everyone is a stuttering Villa or a flying Arsenal – the challenges that a Wolves, a Sunderland, a Bolton or a Wigan will or have already presented Norwich are of an altogether different nature.
Nine times out of ten, it is a battle of mental wills – who wants this the more; who has the hunger, the desire; who hasn’t grown fat on too much Premiership living?
To those kind of questions I think Norwich have more than enough answers. There are at least three sides in this division who won’t have as many answers to those kind of questions as a Norwich under Lambert’s rule do.
Which is why they won’t go down – or, at least, not in my humble opinion. There will be three worse sides than Norwich in this league this year. There may well be four or five.
But the flipside is the kind of questions that an Agbonlahor and a Walcott pose; likewise a Bent or a Van Persie. To which Norwich might not have an answer.
And here’s the rub. To recruit and keep players that ask the questions that an Agbonlahor, a Bent, a Walcott or a Van Persie do costs more money than the Canaries can afford – possibly for the foreseeable future as long as the Champions League gravy train keeps flooding the top five or six clubs in the Premier League with extra riches.
Over and above what your American or Arab benefactors might deign to keep in the club coffers.
Van Persie could – comfortably – be on three or four times the wages of the best-paid Norwich player.
And as much as attitude can move mountains – and, almost, dig a point out of an Old Trafford or a Stamford Bridge – at some point proper ability kicks in. And makes all the difference.
Lambert – rightly – has made it clear that his carefully constructed wage structure is not about to fly out of the nearest January transfer window.
The team ethic that has got him this far is not about to be sacrificed on the altar of any one individual; nor are Norwich about to throw £12 million cheques about in the quest to bolt their own D Bent onto the front of their side.
All of which is perfectly good house-keeping and whilst such a philosophy exists in both boardroom and dressing room, the Yellow and Green Army have little or no reason to fear the administrators arriving en masse.
But, on certain days, be prepared for quality to count – the kind of quality that costs more than Norwich can ever reasonably expect to afford.
Like you work but please stop refering to everything in the third person. I think in this one article you’ve managed it with players, clubs AND grouds!