So, Classic FM.
Bear with me.
Classic FM. It was, for me, the radio station of choice a few years ago if I wanted some comfortable and relatively easy going listening in the background. Bland voices, familiar music. Background noise to work to.
Not anymore. The aforementioned station has, in recent years, become so self-congratulatory and up itself, I’ve taken to referring to it as Smug FM. And the funny thing is, whenever I mention ‘Smug FM’ to anyone in conversation, they immediately know what radio station I’m referring to.
No further explanation needed.
Some of their promos are now so over the top, grandiose and epic in both length and production, you get the feeling they are trying to convince their listeners that they, Smug FM, invented classical music.
And that we, the ever so ‘umble listener, should be forever grateful to them for their greatness.
It’s not unlike Sky Sports and the stations avowed intent to convince everyone that if it wasn’t for them, there’d be no top class football in England.
I caught one of their promos last night. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d recruited Steven Spielberg to direct it and Hans Zimmer to write the soundtrack.
It had the lot. The slo-mo, the close ups, the sweat, tears, cheers and despair. Great sweeping shots of 22nd century stadia full of identikit fans with their face paint, bright smiles and perfect teeth. The crowd roars, Harry Kane scores, subscriptions soar. A production so epic, it made the Battle of Helms Deep in LOTR: The Two Towers look like an episode of Bod.
But well worth it as far as Sky are concerned, if it convinces people to sign up for another season of the game that they invented.
It seems to be a standard marketing ploy these days. Don’t just try to sell your product. Convince the customer that it only exists because of you and if they don’t subscribe, watch and listen, it’ll be gone forever.
And it’ll be YOUR fault.
“Premier League football on Sky. Subscribe now. Or it’ll go to China”
But we’re all guilty of drawing those little lines in the sand really. We all claim to know or believe where things stop or start. Smug FM and Sky define their products by their involvement with them and we our own lives by jobs we have had, partners we have loved or endured, cars, homes and myriad other things.
If anyone asks me why I got into writing, I trot out a well-worn but true story that starts on its very own line of sand in the past.
So I guess I can’t really blame Sky for doing the same with football and the 1992/93 season.
For many Norwich fans, the clubs modern era, the one that, maybe, we are still existing in today, began with Paul Lambert.
He has become a point of reference in many a debate or argument; it’s something you’ll hear time and time again when someone is making a point about the club, good, bad or indifferent.
“Since Lambert…” and it’ll proceed from there. Or, on the contrary, end there – as in “… since Lambert”. You get my drift.
Each of his four successors as Canaries’ manager have had to operate with the shadow of Lambert hovering over them in manner a buzzard might predate and strike at a rabbit.
Chris Hughton certainly felt it. As did Neil Adams. Whilst, in the aftermath of Alex Neil’s departure from Norwich, Lambert was, at one point, one of the frontrunners for the job as far as some bookies were concerned. Which means there were people out there putting money on his coming back as Neil’s replacement.
Something that they must have done out of wishful thinking rather than in response to any evidence to suggest it was even the remotest of possibilities.
But then his pull on our affections was, and continues to be, a very strong one.
So, with that in mind, here’s a question.
Is he, even now, worthy of the popularity and pulling power that he still has amongst many Norwich fans?
And, if so, what was, what is, his Canary legacy?
What, for example, about the squad of players he left us with?
Norwich used a total of 30 players during the 2011/12 season; our first and only in the Premier League under Paul Lambert. That’s 30 players who made at least one league or senior cup appearance at some point during that season.
Given then, that we spent that season in the Premier League and were good enough to end it in 12th place a little over five years ago, you’d expect quite a few of those players to still be playing at that level today?
How many then?
The answer may surprise you. Because, of all the players selected by Lambert for Norwich during the 2011/12 season – his first and last with us in the Premier League – just two of them are still playing at that level today. Namely Andrew Surman at Bournemouth and loanee Kyle Naughton, who is now with Swansea.
Two. Out of thirty.
It surprised me.
Hardly surprising, people will argue. Football is, by its very nature, a transitory process and we’re no different to any other club.
Well let’s look at one that has, for a long time, been considered as one playing and competing at a similar level to us.
Back in the 2011/12 season, the one that saw us achieve a mid-table Premier League finish, Southampton were still in the Championship, winning promotion at the end of that season. The one prior to that, which had seen us miss out on winning the Championship by just four points whilst the Saints were still a division below us, winning promotion back up to the Championship as League One runners-up.
Interestingly, out of the six clubs that made up the promotion and play-off places in League One at the end of that 2011/12 campaign, four of them (Brighton, Southampton, Huddersfield and Bournemouth) are now in the Premier League – and it isn’t even as if one of those were play-off winners that campaign (that honour went to Peterborough United).
Four clubs with a plan, a plan that took time and had, certainly with Brighton, as many ups as it did downs. But they got where they wanted to be eventually.
But back to Southampton and, to draw a parallel between them and us back then, the players they used during the 2011/12 season. In total, they used a total of 32 players during that campaign but of that total eight are still Premier League football today; namely Jack Cork, Jose Fonte, Adam Lallana, Morgan Schneiderlin, Jason Puncheon, Luke Shaw, Jack Stephens and James Ward-Prowse.
A happy accident or a consistent recruitment policy that has paid off? If it is the latter then you’d half expect most Southampton fans to hold Nigel Adkins with the same sort of dewy eyed affection that Norwich fans have for Lambert.
But they don’t.
Both Adkins and Lambert were good for the respective clubs. Very good in fact. But their chapters at St Mary’s and Carrow Road respectively have now come to an end and will not be revisited by either club.
They do, incidentally, as well as both getting back to back promotions with their respective sides, have one other thing in common.
Which is that both are currently out of work.
If it seems that I am simply writing Paul Lambert and his contribution to Norwich City off here, then that is not the intention.
He was, at the time, a breath of fresh air at the club. He shook up the club, the players, the staff and, if some of the stories that still float around the corridors of Carrow Road and Colney are true, then he wasn’t beyond occasionally shaking up the owners and the board of directors either.
But it did the trick. Yet, at the end of the 2011/12 season, he knew he’d taken us as far as he could and that, with his managerial stock high, he’d never have a better chance of managing a big club which, despite their current status, Aston Villa certainly were at the time.
And no-one should blame him for that.
He left us with some wonderful memories and a squad of players that fought, scrapped and ran themselves into the ground for him.
Great professionals like Simon Lappin, Andrew Crofts, Marc Tierney, David Fox and Grant Holt; players who will, alongside quite a few others, count their moments in the sun alongside Lambert at Norwich as the standout time in their careers.
Right time, right place, right manager and right players. But something that was only ever going to work in the short term.
So yes, Lambert has left one legacy at Norwich. One of good memories. But little more than that.
As a football club, we can’t live forever on good memories. It’s not something you can build a solid future upon or something that, if experienced once, will necessarily come about again just because it did before. And we only have to look down the road to see what becomes of a football club that has lived on past memories for too long.
And where it has left them for an achingly long time.