City star Adam Drury today paid tribute to the man without whom his big night out with the Bhoys would never have been possible – Canary chief Paul Lambert.
The Scot arrived in Norfolk at one of the lowest ebbs in the club’s 110-year history; certainly in terms of Drury’s own 11-year career in a Norwich shirt.
The 7-1 home defeat by Colchester United on the opening day of that League One season was pretty much the lowest of the lows; little did anyone know how far and how fast the club would rebound back into the big time under Lambert’s charge.
“After that you’re thinking: ‘Wow, can this get any worse?’” said Drury, as he looked back over his roller-coaster ride of late.
“And at that point you are thinking that, well, you’ve had chances to leave, did I make the wrong decision? But, thankfully, I didn’t leave and what’s happened over the next three years has been incredible.”
Given the various sub-plots that Tuesday night’s Testimonial Match contain, the drama is unlikely to lesson this week. Though it will always remain Drury’s big night, the names of Lambert, skipper Grant Holt and returning favourite Darren Huckerby won’t be far from anyone’s lips.
Drury has nothing but praise for ‘The Gaffer’ whose own, strong links with Tuesday night’s visitors can only have helped smooth the path to their arrival.
“He is special,” said Drury simply. He has, in fairness, seen a few managers come and go in his time in Norfolk. This one, however, is something else.
“I can see him going right to the very top – no problem,” he added. “He’s got the desire. He won’t settle for second best – and he’ll do it his way.”
And the secret? Honesty, it appears, is a big thing with Lambert. Everyone knows where they stand.
“Lads like that – and I think that’s a big part of it,” said Drury. “He’ll tell you what he wants and if you don’t do it, then you’ve no-one else to blame but yourself. It’s as simple as that. And, as I say, I think he’s got every chance of going right to the very top.”
As the speculation of late has merely proved, Drury is not alone in his assessment of Lambert’s qualities. Man management is another big string to his bow, it appaers.
“When you get to a certain level, every player can play. After that its man-management; knowing what makes every player tick and he’s got that down to a fine art.”
He also keeps everyone on their toes team-wise. “You can win 4-0 on a Saturday and you’ll think: ‘Right, that’s me in the team next week…’ but it doesn’t work like that. He will pick a team that he thinks will win a game. He has no favourites which is a massive thing.
“It doesn’t matter who you are – you’re not guaranteed to play which I think is massive.”
Put it all together and the Canaries have been on the same kind of roll that swept Nigel Worthington’s City side into the top flight in 2004. Norwich forgot how to lose games.
“It was the same feeling that we had when we got promoted to the Premier League the first time; we had that momentum; we had that feeling that we were onto something here. That we were going into games expecting to win, expecting to win… And that’s the way this Gaffer is.
“Even in the Premier League. He expects to win every game whether it is Liverpool or Manchester United. Or Arsenal. Or Chelsea. It doesn’t matter who it is – he sets out to win.”
It has not, of course, all been such plain sailing. Over and above the bitterness that comes with relegation, Drury has had his share of injury woes. And the bitter-sweet day out in Cardiff.
“I had a really bad injury which put me out for the better part of two years,” he said, with a serious knee injury being the root of the problem through 2007-2009.
“And at one point I was thinking: ‘That could be me done career-wise!’ So that was the horrific.
“And the Play-Off final was a weird one. It was a massive high walking out there – I still remember the atmosphere. It was probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever been involved in with the roof closed at the Millennium with yellow and green at one end and blue at the other.
“So it went from the biggest high to the biggest low with how it ended on penalties.”
What happened thereafter is, of course, history. Of which Adam Drury has been very much a part.
Tomorrow: Adam Drury on one special footballing friendship and his hopes and plans for the future.