The Master, alas, did for his managerial apprentice tonight as Paul Lambert’s Canaries lost 3-0 to Martin O’Neill’s rejuvenated Sunderland side.
To this day, Lambert refers to his former mentor at Celtic as ‘The Gaffer’.
And as soon as O’Neill returned to frontline Premier League management at the Stadium Of Light, so Lambert predicted that the Black Cats would swiftly return to form and fortune under O’Neill and his long-time No2, Steve Walford.
Both of whom, of course, were about to take Norwich onwards and upwards before fate, finances and the then chairman intervened.
Tonight and Lambert’s own prediction proved all-too correct as the Canaries’ unbeaten start to 2012 came a-cropper and they fell back into the bottom half of the Premiership table as Sunderland powered onwards and upwards.
The returning Fraizer Campbell opened the scoring in the 21st minute with a fine volley beyond the restored John Ruddy.
Campbell would then turn provider for Stephane Sessegnon as his cross enabled the African midfielder to double the home side’s lead.
Any hope that the Canaries might have had of forcing their way back into the contest after the break all but ended in the 54th minute when a luckless Daniel Ayala saw Phil Bardsley’s whipped cross ping in off the underside of the bar and beyond a helpless Ruddy.
Afterwards and City boss Lambert had few complaints; ‘Marvellous Martin’ was sprinkling his magic dust on the banks of the Wear and Norwich, on the night, got what they deserved.
“We were well beat,” admitted Lambert, with City at least able to swiftly regroup and go again in the shape of Saturday’s home clash with Bolton Wanderers.
“You’ve come up against a team as resurgent as Sunderland and the one thing that you’ve got to do is to match their work ethic and their commitment – and we never. I just thought we were slow out of the blocks.”
Lambert opted to pair Steve Morison and Grant Holt together up top; both would gain a fleeting sight of Sunderland’s goal, but the visitors were pretty much on the back foot for most of the evening as the locals continued to enjoy a remarkable turnaround in their team’s fortunes.
For the travelling Canary support, it wasn’t a vintage Norwich away-day; not one for the scrapbook.
For Lambert – in his first managerial battle of wits against O’Neill – it must have been a galling experience not to have caused his former Celtic chief more of a headache.
“You’ve set yourself an extremely high standard and you don’t want to fall below it,” Lambert told the BBC afterwards. “And when you do fall below it, you tend to feel more disappointed.
“And if you’re not on your game things like this can happen. We’re not good enough to just turn up and think that we can win a game – you’ve got to earn the right to win football matches.
“But if it’s a case of just getting beat once in every eight or nine games, then I’ll take it.”
The visit of Bolton to Carrow Road this weekend was the perfect opportunity for the Canaries to bounce back and dig themselves ever closer to that famed 40-point mark and safety.
“Whether you win, lose or draw – you have to forget it,” said Lambert. “Yes, you mull over it for a day or so, but then you have to go again on the Saturday.
“We’re at home and we have to go and try and win a game.”
Stand back and 11th place in the Premier League come the first week in February is still a magnificent achievement.
And following last night’s arrival of Posh centre-half Ryan Bennett, the Canaries still have £6 million worth of new talent to unleash this spring once Bennett completes his one-month loan-back deal at London Road and ex-Leeds skipper Jonny Howson shrugs off his knee injury and comes fully ‘on stream’.
Equally, nick a win of any description against Bolton this weekend and Norwich will enjoy a real cushion between them and the bottom three.
Tonight was ‘one of them…’ And, in every likelihood, it’s no more complicated or alarming than that.