Paul Lambert and the seven-year itch at Norwich City

Chris Martin celebrates his goal against Brentford at Carrow Road.
Photo: Nick Butcher
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Chris Martin celebrates his goal against Brentford at Carrow Road. Photo: Nick Butcher .

Archant © 2010

There is a danger that today could be more about Paul Lambert than Alex Neil - depending on the time of day.

Pre-match I suspect many will be wondering what might have been had a) Lambert stayed at Carrow Road or b) Lambert had ever returned to Carrow Road. Post-match it could be Neil, for all the ‘wrong’ reasons.

Hypothetical, yes, but genuine points of debate. Cast your minds back to January seven years ago. As near as dammit it was Lambert’s first (not quite full) season in charge. City beat Brentford 1-0, thanks to a goal from Chris Martin in a match which saw Grant Holt sent off.

The team was: Fraser Forster, Michael Nelson, Russell Martin, Adam Drury, Gary Doherty, Darel Russell, Wes Hoolahan, Simon Lappin, Korey Smith, Martin and Holt. Subs: Zak Whitbread, Anthony McNamee, Matt Gill, Declan Rudd, Stephen Hughes, Cody McDonald.

Would that team beat today’s Norwich City (disregarding the couple of overlaps)? I don’t bet, but I’d have a tenner they would, and not just because the 2017 version is in such poor form.

Lambert had the ability to extract hitherto unknown levels of energy and ability out of players. He was able to bring players to a peak, for his team’s benefit. It’s become a little repetitive to go on about his ‘young, hungry players’, but that is exactly what he had and what helped bring him success.

The current players may well have a similar hunger – just because they aren’t playing well doesn’t mean to say they aren’t trying, that they don’t care. The art is being able to recognise it in a player and use it. It’s what Lambert did and it is what Alex Neil must do to get the club back to where the fans believe it belongs.

On paper, the current side should be better, but in January, 2010, even in the depths of League One, I’d have Forster over Ruddy, I’d have Adam Drury over whoever gets the left-back job today (and would have preferred him to Martin Olsson anyway). I’d have Holt and Martin and Smith and Russell.

I wonder what Lambert would make of Norwich City, 2017. This afternoon might provide the answer. Mincemeat comes to mind.

Back in the last century when I attended Wisbech Grammar School we were fortunate to have as a common room part of the beautiful building’s old house – the ‘Downstairs’ quarters. to be precise.

It was a bit of a maze, but in a small room, complete with servants’ bells, we put up a dartboard, and every spare moment not spent studying Latin, Greek (my most fancy and fruitless studies) was spent playing.

Whether it is a sport or not is open for debate, but it is most definitely a useful learning tool. There’s nothing better to keep your brain sharp than holding a piece of chalk whilst fellow pupils watch beads of sweat form on your forehead as you attempt to subject 26 from any given number.

Hobart High School in Loddon started running a darts club at lunchtimes three years ago, and now 14 youngsters from Years 7, 8 and 9 meet up twice a week.

Club founder Helen Linger said: “The aim was to improve their mental arithmetic and it’s been a joy to my ears when I hear them saying ‘my maths is getting better doing this’,” she said.

Trust me, it works: it makes maths enjoyable.

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