Jens Berthel Askou on Lambert’s rise and fall, promotions galore and feeling the Canaries love
Jens Berthel Askou didn’t play a lot of football for Norwich City. The majority of his appearances arrived in League One as the Canaries looked to rebuild after reaching their lowest ebb in decades.
Club legend Bryan Gunn was in the hotseat and the expectation levels were suffocating. This was a fanbase that expected a response to years of decline, and Askou was one of 11 first-team additions in the summer of 2009.
Prior to his Carrow Road move, Askou had been operating for Kasimpasa in the second tier of Turkey - and had a former Canaries player to thank for recommending him to the club.
JOINING CITY AND BRYAN GUNN
“The connection was already there maybe a year or two earlier. Steen Nedergaard was scouting and doing some agency work and he’d already been in contact with the club on my behalf, trying to get me in.
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“It’s always a coincidence when things happen, there has to be a spot and it all has to fit in. Suddenly, there was an option. They asked me if I eager to go and show myself for a few days and of course, I was ready to do that.
“My luck was, at that time, the team had just come for a long summer holiday. Maybe four or five weeks. That was one of my biggest assets as a player - I was really hard working.
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“I was always fit and I always worked harder than the other guys in the break because I needed that bit extra. I was fit when I arrived and I could show myself from a good side.
“Maybe some of the players weren’t really that fit, so I had a little head start. We were in Scotland in a week for a trial with Bryan Gunn and I was lucky to play a few good test games and score a goal. Luckily that was enough.
“He didn’t deserve the exit after everything he’d given to the club. He was such a nice guy and that job he had was just too difficult to him.
“Taking a club that’s been knocked down and trying to pick it up with no experience, it’s hard. After the 7-1 defeat in the first round, how do you rise from there if you have no experience of managing at all?
“I felt bad because he had brought me in. He gave me the chance and he was such a nice guy, the whole staff were. They didn’t deserve the exit but that’s just football.”
PAUL LAMBERT’S ARRIVAL
“He didn’t have a lot of long, inspirational speeches. He was more short and sharp. You could sense an aura, he didn’t talk b******, he just gave it to you straight.
“Pretty much everyone had a British background and then there was me and this Serbian striker (Goran Maric), he left the club quite fast. My mentality wasn’t far from British and it worked really well with him being really tough and really direct.
“He was a real leader. A winner. I didn’t learn a lot of football in the two years I was there. Tactically, we didn’t do a lot of work on how to build up against certain systems. We played the same and focused on mentality and performance. “Ian was always in charge of the coaching. Almost all of it. The gaffer came in if he wasn’t happy with the performances.
“The training was good. Ian was a great coach, he was fun, he was energetic, well-prepared and a nice guy. You could see he cared about the players and put an effort in.”
LAMBERT GOING TO IPSWICH
“I don’t know if I’m surprised. I stumbled when I saw the news he’d signed for Ipswich.
“I think his legend status at Norwich has probably got a few little cracks in it.
“I think today, you need to be able to do so much more than being ruthless. To be at the top, the very top, you need to be tactically clever, curious and be very detailed in everything you do.
“You need to be an inspiration to all your players. When you come from a background as a top player, you can live on that for two or three weeks. But after a few weeks, your background as a player doesn’t inspire them anymore.
“What you do everyday in training or everyday, how you manage them, that’s what they look for. Then they don’t care who you played for or what level you played 10 years ago.
“A lot of players I coach ask me ‘did you play?’ and it’s been 4 years since I retired!”
THE SURGE IN LEAGUE ONE
“It’s by far the best time I’ve had as a football player. It was amazing. I get goosebumps everytime I think about or see pictures from that time. It reminds me of how lucky I was to be apart of it.
“I was lucky to come in at a time to come in at a time when we began to turn it around. I played 27 games in three and a half months. I’ve never played that amount of football before.
“It was honest football. A lot of teams we played just hoofed it up and I just had to head it back to Wes or to Holty and they’d score a goal.
“At the end of November, I was really tired. I didn’t play the best games at the time and then I got injured and the last expression is always what you remember as a coach. It was hard for me to get back into the team.
“I never really got back in because players were playing so well. But I still enjoyed it.”
LEARNING VALUABLE LESSONS AT NORWICH CITY
“For me personally, it was really difficult but I also learned an important lesson about being part of something that’s bigger than you. Contributing something to the team that means they get the result that we all benefit from.
“I knew my contract was up in the summer and I knew it wasn’t going to renewed and I wouldn’t get to play in the Premier League. So why not finish with helping as good as I can by helping the team and the club win promotion?
“Why would I hope for the players to play bad? I knew I wasn’t getting in the team anyway. I learned a lot from that period, it was good for me.
“I’ve always been realistic, that’s helped me a lot. Was he right not to put me in the team? He was. The other guys were better. It was fair enough.
“I’ve always said to players complaining about getting into the team when they keep winning that it always looks better when you’re not playing in a team that’s winning than if you’re not playing that’s performing s***.”