Lambert is baffled by criticism of high-flying Canaries

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 February 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 10 September 2010

Paul Lambert shows his frustration during Tuesday night's below-par display against Southend – but the manager insists recent performances have not worried him. Picture: Antony Kelly

Paul Lambert shows his frustration during Tuesday night's below-par display against Southend - but the manager insists recent performances have not worried him. Picture: Antony Kelly

Chris Lakey

Paul Lambert says criticism of recent Norwich City performances is "bizarre". The City boss has masterminded a stunning transformation of fortunes at Carrow Road, but two recent defeats had fans worrying that a Charlton-style blip was on the way.

Paul Lambert says criticism of recent Norwich City performances is "bizarre".

The City boss has masterminded a stunning transformation of fortunes at Carrow Road, but two recent defeats had fans worrying that a Charlton-style blip was on the way.

The swashbuckling performances of earlier in the season set up the automatic promotion challenge - and now City are at the top, there is a steely determination to stay there and concede nothing to the chasing pack.

But Lambert appears to be surprised at pockets of disapproval of late.

"We have set an unbelievably high standard of football," he said. "There have been matches where we've won four or five threes, and as soon as you win 2-1 people think they're not playing well.

"Honestly, I hope it never happens, but if we don't play well or we really get a doing from somebody, God knows what you'll write - and that's us at the top of the league.

"So, top of the league and people still have a go - it's a bit bizarre, because we're playing really well and we're up there on merit. We have had a great run and we will keep on going.

"The thing that annoys me is the lads have turned an unbelievable season around really, really quickly. When was the last time this club was top? So people forget what it's like up there - except us, because I know what it's like."

Lambert was bemused at criticism of his decision to leave midfielder Korey Smith on the bench for the midweek win over Southend - which made it eight wins and two defeats in 10 games since the turn of the year.

"He had a hamstring problem - and he's only 18 and it is my prerogative to do what I want with him," said Lambert. "And he's only a kid and it is up to me. If I make a story in this club it's my decision who I play and who I don't.

"Pressure is part of the game, you have to be able to handle it and don't read your own press because somewhere along the line it comes back and bites you. The only one they have to please is myself. It's my opinion who I think can play and if the lads do that then great."

Lambert clearly hasn't "lost" the supporters, who raised the roof on Tuesday as City came from a goal behind to beat Southend 2-1, with substitute Oli Johnson bagging his second of the night deep into time added on.

The double won't guarantee Johnson a start at Oldham today - because Grant Holt, Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan have stolen the goal-scoring show this season.

"You find me another three who can score 50 goals, then I'll play them," Lambert said. "Oli has been brilliant. He is only a young kid who came out of non-league not that long ago and the impact he's had at the football club has been huge. But the impact of Holt and Hoolahan and Martin has been incredible, absolutely incredible."

Anthony McNamee is also hoping for another start after making an impressive full debut against Southend.

"I thought he was terrific," said Lambert. "He delivered the ball, he made it exciting for the fans and he did great. I know what he can do, and he has had to wait his time to get in, and the rest is up to himself."

So does he start with the attacking winger - or does he tread a little more warily away from home?

"I don't want to go there and sit and wait for Oldham to do something," he said.

"We have to go and try and win the game and that's what we will try to do.

"I am delighted with what's happened at the club, delighted at the lads' contribution, whether it's the lads on the bench or the lads playing. I get everything out of them and that's all I can ever ask for - giving me everything you've got."

With 33 games played, the 46-game season is fast approaching its final quarter. Teams are jostling for position. Some are rocking, some are rolling. For Lambert, it's not about Leeds, nor Charlton, nor Colchester.

"You can only concentrate on your own club," he said. "We can't influence what happens elsewhere. Yes, you respect other teams, but we can't influence anything that goes on anywhere else. All we can do is try and win our games and if we do that hopefully we won't be far from doing something. Just be focused on our own job and we will try our best to win as many games as we can.

"We cannot influence outside influences - all you can do is concentrate on your own house. I'm never one for reading and saying things. If people want to tell me things then great, but as long as the lads just concentrate on their job that's all I ask them to do, just be focused on what they're doing."

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