Scruffy tracksuit attire, an accompanying hollow expression and a disliking for personal acceptance of one’s success; Paul Lambert represents much of the charm that English football has grown to forget in recent times.
With back to back promotions, the Glaswegian-turned-Canary has made himself at home in the English top division with as little trouble and commotion as possible. If a quiet mind really does cure’th all, then Lamberts calm expressionless demeanour is to thank for the clubs jolt from zero to hero in the past two years.
When quizzed over his clubs impeding Premier League six-year return and the stress involved during the summer, he responded to a journalist with a faint, ‘’ Nothing. None. It’s just the same.’’
Such an approach to life is something that has stuck with Lambert his entire career. As a player, he was renowned for his cool, casual ability to play effective football to an astonishing degree. A midfield maestro who never popped up for the goal or the defence piercing through ball, but a master with the all round intelligence to ensure that the job got done.
A man with an expert eye for noticing offensive threats and a cool head to comprehend how to deal with it. He only ever scored one goal in his forty-four games for Borussia Dortmund, yet his cool head and effective marking of a young Zinadine Zidane in the 1997 European Cup Final proved the crucial role in the German club’s success.
Applying such a philosophy to management has worked wonders for Lambert and Norwich.
The man exerts a dim air of confidence as if to suggest such success was always expected of his side, and anything less would be inappropriate or simply unfortunate. He doesn’t prophesy his club’s ascendancy like Mourinho, or purposely diminish the importance of such victory like Pep, but simply acknowledges the fact and moves on with things. There is no siege to breakdown in Carrow Road, and their certainly isn’t any form of total football either. To Paul, the press don’t need such stories because they just simply aren’t important in the grand scheme of his job. Necessary – yes, but not important.
But it isn’t just his hushed, modest media skills that Norwich have to rely on. The football isn’t too bad either.
This weekends excursion took them to Anfield – a place few teams enjoy – were they happily walked away with a hard earned point. On the face of the result, it would be easy to write it down as one of those days for Dalglish’s boys, but under the microscope the symptoms are there of any Norwich performance.
With every Luis Suarez volley, there was a John Ruddy hand to push it safe, with every Steven Gerrard through ball, there was a Russell Martin following the run, and after a second half of perseverance from Lambert’s side, Holt grabbed the equaliser. A result that few fans would be willing to admit surprised – it echoed of similar battles at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge. Such performances have done well to fit in like the furniture at Carrow Road.
The club sit pretty in eight spot – bang in the middle, no fuss, no commotion. With every eyebrow raising performance at Old Trafford, there’s a misleading home slump to West Brom. While the papers scoff at the Blackburn experiment and swoon over a Geordie renaissance, Paul’s Norwich have done well to camouflage in to the background and sit cosy for the winter.
A club that were heralded as a naïve Championship side who would prove nothing more than a novelty amongst the big boys, with their open passing style, relaxed defending, and small-town image. Yet despite all these things coming to fruition, the Canaries sit one point beneath Arsenal with only three defeats – two of which against Chelsea and Manchester United – in their first nine games.
Whether Lambert does keep Norwich from the grips of relegation is something that we’ll have to leave to time. But the mentality and ethos within the club, more so than the individual players, are what keep it afloat and the envy of their rivals. Perhaps the more appropriate question shouldn’t be ‘Can Lambert keep Norwich up?’, but ‘Can Norwich keep Lambert, to keep Norwich up?’