On the eve of Goodison battle, City boss Paul Lambert today went out of his way to salute the achievements of Toffees’ boss David Moyes.
The 48-year-old Everton manager will celebrate ten years at the helm of the blue half of Liverpool in March – no mean feat in the current hire-and-fire climate. Particularly given the woeful lack of finance he has been able to work with in comparison with many of his Premiership peers.
Whether it was a case of the ‘Glasgow Mafia’ sticking together, but it was clear that Lambert held his managerial counterpart in the highest regard as the Canaries prepared for two big, away days in the space of four days – Wolves (a) follows on Tuesday night.
“What he’s done up there has been remarkable,” said Lambert, with Moyes’ only rivals in terms of managerial longevity being the Godfather of Glasgow managers, Sir Alex Ferguson, and Arsene Wenger at The Emirates.
It will be Lambert’s first trip to Goodison; he is clearly relishing the opportunity to both sample life in the blue corner of Stanley Park and to pit his wits against another of Glasgow’s finest footballing minds.
“I’ve never been there before,” he told BBC Radio Norfolk. “But looking from the outside, the atmosphere looks as if it should be brilliant.
“It’s a traditional football ground and they’ll [the supporters] will be right on top of you. We just have to try and quieten them and get ours going.”
The big question for Lambert is whether or not he viewed last week’s City line-up as a horse for a particular course – or whether throwing both Steve Morison and Grant Holt into battle again together could bear the kind of fruit that it did against Newcastle.
United were, of course, short of both height and experience at the heart of their defence – a position that both club and manager exploited to the full. And with Wes Hoolahan tucked into that little hole behind the free-scoring pair, it was a very attack-minded outfit that entertained the Carrow Road masses so royally.
But will Lambert risk such thinking away from home in a game that Moyes will like to keep tight?
“It’s something that I will decide tomorrow,” said Lambert, when quizzed about whether he was in a mood for a change.
His other option is to re-visit Leon Barnett at the heart of that City defence – at, potentially, the expense of the Texan, Zak Whitbread.
As much as anyone can ever second guess the Canary boss, he didn’t appear to be ready to hang Whitbread out to dry for his role in handing Newcastle their second goal. After all, he is not the first City centre-half to be caught fatally in possession on the half-way line.
Ideally, however, he might be the last.
“I thought he did great,” said Lambert. “He hasn’t played at all of late, but I thought he was excellent. He tired towards the end, but that was only to be expected.”
Back on Merseyside and Moyes was already strengthening his own hand for January – finalising the return to Goodison of US international striker Landon Donovan.
Tomorrow’s home clash comes a fortnight too soon for Donavan to make an impact.
“He will give us some good experience over January and February,” Moyes told the Liverpool Echo, as Lambert ponders his own options for the January transfer window.
At least Donovan is a ‘known’ quantity having already enjoyed one successful spell with Everton – a logic that could, for example, equally apply to Liverpool’s Dani Pacheco in Norwich’s case.
“He did well for us when he was over two years ago and hopefully will return with those same qualities,” added Moyes.
“His season has just finished and like last time we need him to hit the ground running because the games come thick and fast at this time of year.”