A look at Paul Lambert’s record-breaking Canaries
PUBLISHED: 12:15 14 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:15 14 April 2020
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Your Posts is a new project which allows you to voice your opinions on the big sporting stories – Dave Major looks at Paul Lambert’s time as Norwich boss
If you were to look back over the last 118 years of Norwich City history, the last 11 seasons would take some beating for the drama that has unfolded.
The team of 2009/10 that started that off holds one of Norwich City’s all-time records – 11 straight home wins, during a season which transformed the Canaries from being a team on the periphery of catastrophe into the League One pacesetters; one that led to the title and ultimately the Premier League some 18 months later.
It was barely a month into Paul Lambert’s Norwich City tenure, but his tornado of change had already hit Colney. The likes of Goran Maric, Simon Whaley and Michael Theoklitos had been exiled, Darel Russell brought in from the cold. Two further high profile players had already felt the wrath of dissatisfaction. Wes Hoolahan had just returned to the side and the first of the 11 games brought the other back in from the cold. Gary ‘The Doc’ Doherty, stripped of the captaincy and having been told he could leave, was needed at centre half due to injuries to the likes of Michael Nelson. The Doc marshalled the defence to only its second clean sheet of the season, in a game which featured Micky Spillane’s goal of the season.
Second up was Bristol Rovers, suitably demolished 5-1, in a game I’ll always recall for Darell Russell running the show at the base of Lambert’s newly-formed diamond midfield, whilst the fearsome strike force of Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Hoolahan tore Rovers apart.
Swindon were then dispatched 1-0 thanks to a Chris Martin finish, just days after a heart-breaking 2-1 defeat at early pacesetters Leeds United – a Bradley Johnson goal that day for the hosts.
Tranmere followed, in a game which may not have turned were it not for a rather debatable penalty award. What would VAR have made of that? The Doc finished the scoring in a 2-0 win.
Game five saw some further future Norwich players beaten. Andrew Crofts and Elliott Bennett were in the Brighton side dispatched 4-1 at Carrow Road, in a game that saw the attacking trio of Holt, Hoolahan and Martin all on the score sheet.
By this time further tweaks were being made to the team. Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee signed on loan. The likes of Jon Otsemobor, Owain Tudor-Jones and Matt Gill were relegated to bit-part players. There was a level of talismanic status building around skipper Holt and the first signs of real magic from Hoolahan. Those two combined with the goals in 2-0 wins in games six and eight against Oldham and then Steve Morrison’s Millwall.
Sandwiched between those two, game seven saw a 3-0 win against Huddersfield, with second-half goals from Chris Martin, Hoolahan and the Doc.
By early 2010, Norwich City were on a roll and challenging the top spot in the division. Exeter were dispatched 3-1 with two goals from Holt and another from Chris Martin. Game 10 against Brentford saw an Oli Johnson-inspired substitute appearance for 10-man Norwich, after Grant Holt had seen red, Johnson playing the perfect through ball for Chris Martin’s goal.
The final game in the run saw goals from Cody McDonald and Michael Rose as Norwich beat Hartlepool 2-1 at the end of January. By this time, City were leading the way at the top of the division, a lead they never relinquished.
By then the diamond that would grace the Premier League was established, the on-field leadership of Holt; the magician Hoolahan just behind. Russell Martin signed on full time and a list of potential transfer targets for the years to come established.
All good things come to an end. Game 12 was a 2-0 defeat to Southampton, in a game that saw a Darel Russell red card early on. It didn’t deter the Canaries – the next game they came from behind and got a 93rd-minute winner from Johnson against struggling Southend.
It started off a roller coaster 11 years. Promotion and relegations were to follow, Wembley wonders from Nathan Redmond and the Farke-Webber revolution. Few periods in Norwich City history have been as eventful. Few have been as enjoyable.