So, the time has finally arrived. We all knew it would come one day but it doesn’t make the imminent departure of Paul Lambert any easier to take.
Despite the current stand-off, with Lambert’s resignation being rejected by the powers that be at Carrow Road, one thing looks pretty clear – the Scot won’t be in the Canary dugout for the start of 2012/13.
The Aston Villa job appears to be sitting there waiting for him and it looks like Lambert believed he had taken the Norfolk club as far as he could. There are all sorts of theories flying about, from the threat of players being sold under his nose – something David McNally categorically denied yesterday – to there being a less-than-satisfactory transfer budget available to Lambert.
But whatever is the reasoning behind his decision to move on, I always felt this summer would be make-or-break. Quite rightly, after apparently hovering all-too-close to administration in the League One days, the club are said to be determined to clear the debt as soon as possible. And unfortunately, that means no extravagant spending for the time being.
But having proven himself as a Premier League manager by steering Norwich into 12th place in their first season back in the big time, the vultures were always going to circle. It was only a matter of time. And Lambert may feel that he wants a bigger transfer pot to play with; a chance of winning trophies or qualifying for Europe.
Lambert can rightly be proud of the remarkable job he’s done at City – two promotions and a mid-table top flight finish is quite something – and I don’t think many Canary supporters will begrudge his move.
There are some fans who believe Villa is a sideways step but he will surely now have an even bigger platform from which to showcase his talents. When the Claret and Blues are motoring, there are regular 40,000-plus crowds at Villa Park. And with expectations reasonably low after a very disappointing season last year under Alex McLeish, Lambert has the chance to build something in the West Midlands – to use modern manager-speak, it’s a ‘project’.
Whether he has more money to spend, who knows? But he probably has more chance of bagging one of THE jobs in English football – a Tottenham, Liverpool, Arsenal etc etc – by sparkling at Villa, rather than working miracles at Norwich. That’s just the way it works. It’s the football food chain.
Lambert has all of his career to manage one of the big boys – there’s no rush – and while I wish Brendan Rodgers well at Liverpool, it would come as no surprise to see that go pear shaped given what happened to Roy Hodgson at Anfield. Where would that leave Rodgers then?
But the Canary Nation will remember Lambert fondly and he will certainly go down in Norfolk folklore; after being in charge for only three years, that is some achievement.
When he was appointed back in the final knockings of the 2009 summer, no one could have imagined the impact he would have at Carrow Road. I’m going to throw some stats at you now and they make for interesting reading.
Under the former Borussia Dortmund and Celtic hero, Norwich played 142 games, winning 70, drawing 35 and losing 37. That represents a win ratio of 49% – not bad considering nearly a third of those matches were in the Premier League – one of the toughest divisions in world football.
He brought the pride back to Carrow Road after the relegation to League One and that 7-1 horror show against Colchester. It’s been some ride and that’s how we should remember Paul Lambert – for bringing the good times back to Norfolk.
Some people – mainly Ipswich fans probably – have said the club is now in ‘crisis’ with the managerial situation and the Grant Holt transfer request. Holty used Twitter to re-iterate his desire to leave the Canaries this morning and despite McNally’s insistence that he’s “not for sale”, it is hard to see a way back for the skipper.
But crisis was League One. Crisis was being reportedly close to admisitration. Norwich City are now a mid-table Premier League club in, as McNally said on Sky Sports News today, their healthiest financial position in 109 years. And for that – as well as paying tribute to the CEO and Chairman on the money side of things – we have to thank Paul Lambert.