Melissa Rudd: We can’t let Paul Lambert have the last laugh on City
PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:19 01 November 2018
I was devastated. When Paul Lambert emerged as the white-hot favourite to replace the departing Paul Hurst a week ago, I found myself having to explain to colleagues why I felt so upset.
He may have left six years ago, he may not have enjoyed any notable success at any of the clubs he’s ruled over since, but for a certain generation of City fans - those too young to remember the European adventure and challenging for the Premier League title - he was the man at the helm during the most enjoyable three years during that time. My time. Possibly your time.
Football managers, like players, come and go. But ones that had the impact of Lambert at Carrow Road don’t come along too often. The swashbuckling teams he put together, that fought off Leeds to the League One title, that recorded the biggest ever win at Portman Road on the way to clinching promotion from the Championship, that approached each Premier League game like they could win it style. Lambert assembled them and got them playing in a way that got Carrow Road rocking and rolling. We surfed that wave and hung a collective 10.
The 5-0 demolition of Colchester on a rainy Saturday in January 2010 sticks in the mind.
When Lambert walked out of the tunnel and saluted the away following, then proceeded to turn to each corner of the Weston Homes Community Stadium and wave at the booing Colchester fans. He revelled in playing the pantomime villain, and we loved him all the more for it. No doubt he will do so again when Ipswich return to Carrow Road in February.
The reaction of Norwich fans to the news of his appointment this week suggests not everyone feels that way. There are those who say his success at the club will forever be tainted. Those who feel betrayed. Others who pretend they couldn’t care less now he’s crossed the divide.
The thought of him running across the turf he had previously stood on while basking in the appreciation of his adoring fans, while sticking it to you-know-who enjoying their first derby win in a decade won’t sit well with any Norwich supporter though. We can only hope it doesn’t happen. It won’t happen.
On Tuesday night a national sports radio station opened a debate on whether fans of either club should care about Lambert’s history with Town’s fiercest rivals. After 15 minutes of debate they crossed to former Town captain Matt Holland, who was at the Vitality Stadium to co-commentate on City’s cup tie at Bournemouth. He said he could never have played for Norwich. It may be easy for him to say that now he’s a pundit and not a player but it was refreshing to hear such honesty. Case closed.
Much has been written about how City’s season fell apart this time last year following a Carabao Cup exit at The Emirates. There were many similarities between the performances, and if Arsene Wenger had been honest at the time he would have admitted - just like Eddie Howe did - that his side had been outplayed. Just like that night in north London, Daniel Farke’s side missed a host of chances that should have sealed a place in the last eight.
Only three players for each club retained their place in Tuesday’s starting XI from the weekend’s respective league fixtures, but it’s telling that City’s second string could push the Premier League equivalent all the way away from home.
It feels like Farke’s squad is an entirely different prospect 12 months on. It has strength in depth, an ability to come from behind and win games - and hold onto precious leads as Saturday’s 1-0 win over Brentford proved. A positive result at Hillsborough would put to bed any fears of a similar collapse.
While Norwich fans are getting increasingly giddy with excitement, we of course should spare a thought for our fellow members of the football family at Leicester City. They have endured an unthinkable tragedy and after the death of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the other four victims on board of last weekend’s awful accident, the outpouring of grief at the King Power Stadium has been sobering.
It was great to see that Kathy Blake from the Canaries Trust queued for hours to sign the book of condolences on behalf of all City supporters everywhere. May they rest in peace.