Culverhouse hopes to see Premier League backing
Ian Culverhouse admits boardroom and terrace backing will be key to making a success of Norwich City’s Premier League return.
Manager Paul Lambert’s assistant has helped steer the Canaries from their lowest ebb in almost 50 years back to top-flight football. Since then, chairman Alan Bowkett has pledged the club’s �40m initial windfall from rejoining English football’s big boys will go towards player recruitment, as City aim to bridge one of the game’s largest gaps.
But the Premier League can be a perilous place for managers – especially those with newly-promoted sides, given Roberto di Matteo and Chris Hughton were soon for the chop this season despite their good work at West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United respectively.
The stock of Lambert and Culverhouse is almost without parallel in Norfolk at present after historic back-to-back promotions – which makes the thought of them enduring a hard time next season unthinkable for some.
However, Culverhouse is aware how quickly things can change and he hopes both patience and backing will follow City through their first Premier League campaign in seven seasons.
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“We are under no illusions how tough it’s going to be and for Norwich City to survive in this league is going to take a hell of an achievement from everyone connected with the football club and the fans,” said Culverhouse.
“I think some people have got to realise the magnitude of it. It is an enormous jump for us, from League One to the Premier League. But these players have earned the right to give it a go.
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“I think the manager has already said we’re going to try and get some help in for them, but he is going to stick with the core that got us into this position, and rightly so because they deserve everything.
“We know how big a task we have got on our hands now, but if you can’t enjoy that – the best league in the world – then you are in the wrong game.
“It quickly changes – but we know that. You see Chris Hughton last year, Roberto di Matteo. They did fantastic jobs getting their clubs up and all of a sudden their boards are looking for a more experienced manager.
“So we know the pros and cons of it, but we do need help and backing, and in the next couple of weeks we will see how serious the football club is about trying to stay in that league.”
Culverhouse added with a smile: “But I can go on holiday with a smile on my face – and then come back to the realisation of the Premier League fixtures and think ‘oh my God’!”
Lambert has been keen to credit the Canaries’ “miraculous” achievements to players and fans – but Culverhouse is happy to point out the role of the boss in successive promotions.
“I have been with him six years now and his greatest strength is his man management,” said Culverhouse. “He gets players believing and he gets that last bit of effort out of them, that is his greatest attribute. And you ask any of those players in there and they will speak highly of him.
“They enjoy working under him and he does get the best out of them every time. They have huge respect for him and he has been there and played at the highest level – so as soon as he walks into the dressing room, he earns and demands that respect.
“They know where the line is, he’s approachable and honest, and I think they like that in him. And he’s good for me as well because he knows where my strengths are and that is on the training field.
“He just lets me get on with it and that is great for me because that is where I can benefit the team.
“He has played under some very good managers. I think he has taken little bits of everyone there.
“He speaks very highly of Martin O’Neill, and you can see where a lot of his man management skills come from. It’s very good working with him.”
The scenes that greeted Norwich’s promotion on the Fratton Park pitch earlier this month will live long in the memory of everyone – including Lambert, who was bundled to the floor by the majority of his players.
“I think he was more worried about his glasses,” joked Culverhouse, who cannot wait to take on the likes of Sir Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish and Arsene Wenger next season when some of Europe’s top players visit.
“It is great that we have got to this stage where we can battle wits against these people and I’m really looking forward to it.
“We’ve started work already, we are looking and planning, and we probably can’t wait for that set of fixtures to come out – then the serious work starts.
“But we’ve been planning for a little while and since Portsmouth we have been trying to get everything under way.”