Norwich City boss is wise to rules of the game

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
1:03 PM

Paul Lambert is rapidly approaching veteran status in the managerial ranks.

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Such is the precarious nature of his profession, the 42-year-old’s on-going success with the Canaries continues to catapult him up another league chart. The hiring and firing hit list if you prefer.

Leicester’s decision to cull Sven-Goran Eriksson 13 games into a 46-game league season this week cut adrift a man who had won multiple honours in Italian club football before guiding England to three major tournament quarter-finals. The Swede had plenty of detractors during his tenure with the Three Lions, but given England’s abject failure under Fabio Capello at the last World Cup, Eriksson’s spell in charge of the national team should stand favourable comparison.

Leicester’s hierarchy felt differently. After a big-spending close-season recruitment drive, a weekend 3-0 home defeat to Millwall was the catalyst for change – with the Foxes five points from the automatic promotion spots. Enough said. Let him go out and splurge on the fixtures and fittings, then fire him before he barely gets a chance to put the footings in place.

The average lifespan of a Championship manager, according to statistics provided by their own League Managers’ Association, is 1.7 seasons. Just as well Lambert and his coaching team produced at the first attempt last campaign.

The Scot arrived at Carrow Road in August, 2009. Two manager-of-the-year awards later Norwich sit inside the top 10 of the Premier League. And Lambert is now the 25th longest-serving manager out of the 92 professional football league clubs in this country. A leap of nearly 70 places in just over two seasons. Madness. Norwich’s own hierarchy made the right appointment at a critical juncture in the club’s history. League One is now over-populated with clubs desperately searching for the same winning formula. Both Sheffield teams, Charlton, Huddersfield and Preston are scrambling for the exit route that Norwich, Leeds and Southampton found before them. All with large swathes of fans and no doubt directors still coming to terms with the fact higher level football is no longer a birthright, but something to be earned at less fashionable outposts.

You would be hard pressed to find a more cut-throat industry where the most important employee knows they are only ever a run of poor results away from votes of confidence and dissatisfaction on the terraces or the message boards.

Lambert and his cohorts know the rules of this particular game within a game. The rewards are great. So are the pitfalls. Lambert gets something wrong on a Saturday afternoon and he has 25,000 people ready to pass judgment. It’s the ultimate reality contest.

Which is why you’ll never see Lambert get carried away with defeats or victories. The post-match tone remains constant. The Scot’s Kiplingesque philosophy holds true as much after a 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford as it does a 3-1 win over Swansea or last weekend’s stirring 1-1 draw at Anfield.

Lambert learned that trick during his time as a player at Borussia Dortmund when he immersed himself in the German psyche. A glance at that particular nation’s success on the international football fields is all the testimony you need.

Rest assured, City’s manager can count on the unstinting support of both boardroom and terrace population in these parts. Every fresh managerial departure only raises his stock higher.

Norwich will inevitably lose their share of Premier League games along the way this season, but there will be none of the histrionics and short-termism that afflict other parts of the football fraternity in this country.

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