City boss Paul Lambert this morning saluted the achievements of his Canary players in defying the Premier League survival odds – and then warned anyone expecting a summer spending spree at Carrow Road to think again.
QPR’s hammering against neighbours Chelsea earlier this week ensured that Norwich will, indeed, be in the top flight again next season. With 43 points on the board, it is a case of ‘Job done!’ in Norfolk as City head off to The Emirates tomorrow before ending their season with the home clash against a still-threatened Aston Villa.
Lambert and his players can now relax and begin to plan for next season; the doubts and the uncertainties now lifted as the maths makes their fate certain.
“The lads have been absolutely brilliant for us – and they have earned the right to go again [next season],” the Scot told this morning’s Press conference at Colney. It has, by any stretch of the imagination, been an incredible journey over the last three years – from the depths of despair at the foot of League One to the first, major step in becoming an ‘established’ Premier League side.
“If you’re talking about fairy tales in football, this is probably it,” said Lambert, whose own managerial star has risen as fast and as high as his Canary charges.
“From the bottom of League One – and doing it. Doing it again in The Championship and then sustaining it in the Premiership, it’s been a fantastic time,” said Lambert, well aware that mentally – and, indeed, physically – the Canaries could now over-relax as Arsenal set their sights on that Champions League berth.
“You try not to take your foot off the pedal, but sub-consciously people might have thought they were safe for a few weeks now,” he admitted, with City heading into the Gunners’ sights on the back of three, straight defeats. Easter, he admitted, was where the job was done – the point against Everton and the glorious three away at Spurs a couple of days later.
“But it’s going to be a really, really hard game for us – but what an arena to go and play football. Two years ago you could have only have ever dreamed about this fixture. And we’ll not go there and try and sit back – we will try and go and win.
“And I have nothing but praise for the team. They have done the job that we all set out to do and for that, I thank them.”
The challenge, of course, was now repeat their feats again next season – to avoid ‘second season syndrome.’ To do that, Norwich will have to strengthen again. Which then swiftly returns club and manager to the debate about the resources that will be made available.
Lambert knows the landscape he will be working on; nothing will have changed from last summer was his feeling.
“The football club has to grow,” he said, well aware that the board have no intention of returning to the edge of the administration abyss – now that they have another season of Premier League riches at their disposal.
“The club was in a dangerous position a couple of years ago and they still have a debt hanging over them which they’re committed to paying off,” said the City chief.
“And I know exactly what’s going on. Norwich City had to survive this season – and they have to survive again next season. It’s simple. Do that and the job is done. And that’s what the club wants to do – to survive.”
The conversations that then follow – in particular with the clutch of players out of contract this summer – will only follow once the season is fully put to bed.
“I know what I’m going to do,” said Lambert, unlikely to stray too far from only recruiting those with the right desire.
“I’ve always said that about footballers – once you become ‘domesticated’, if you like, then you lose that hunger. And I don’t want players who are in a comfort zone – the club was littered with them when I came three years ago.”
Butlins, was his impression. “The only thing that was missing from here was the red coat,” he joked.
“But if people think that I’m going to be spending a load of money, then they need to get that out of their head right away.”