Culverhouse: Norwich City management is still learning

Ian Culverhouse has acknowledged it is not only Norwich City’s players learning to deal with life in the Championship.

The Canaries assistant manager believes the same goes for the management team at Colney.

Former City playing hero Culverhouse and Canaries boss Paul Lambert are managing in the second tier for the first time after spells in the lower leagues with Wycombe, Colchester and a League One title with City last term.

Norwich’s subsequent Championship return has gone better than many would have hoped, with City third after nine games and only stumbling at home to Watford, Hull and at Doncaster.

But Culverhouse admitted he and Lambert have made mistakes this season – despite City’s Championship rehabilitation appearing to be seamless.

“Yes, we are (learning) too,” said Culverhouse. “We looked at it after the first game and you question yourselves and say, ‘Right, hold on, was the preparation right?’, and I don’t think it was right at the time. It was a little jolt to the system and we learned from that.

“You tinker here and there during games and see if you can throw a little problem for the opposition, but we’re thoroughly enjoying it. It’s great to come up against these big teams and we’re holding our own at the moment.

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“We tinkered with the system at Doncaster because they’re a fantastic football side with an excellent manager, and I think we looked at that afterwards and changed it back to what worked and what the players were comfortable with.

“So that was a little learning curve as well, and where you just thought we’ll stick to what we’re good at.

“But there’s not a lot you would change at the moment.”

Win number five came in a seven-goal thriller over Leicester on Tuesday – a night neither defence shone, especially given the Canaries conceded within 78 seconds.

“The players know we were too expansive and we can’t go into games like that, but when you concede so early on you’re chasing the game and it’s hard because of the system we play,” said Culverhouse.

“The naivety we did show a little bit was when we went 3-1 and 4-2 up, and we were still chasing the game and getting carried away with the euphoria of the crowd.

“We’ve got to be a little more calm-headed at times.

“We’ve been excellent ever since the first game of the season. We talked about it after that as well. We were making games like basketball games – they attacked, we attacked – and we were fighting that quite well as a team.

“Tuesday we just got carried away with it a little bit and at this level we’re going to get punished if we’re not tight all over the pitch.”

The Canaries’ more notable performances have come away from Carrow Road this season – and according to Culverhouse, that comes down to the opposition’s respect for Lambert’s diamond formation and the chance it gives Wes Hoolahan to shine.

“What we’ve found in this league – and it’s a huge compliment to the players – a lot of teams are coming to Carrow Road and packing the midfield, mirroring our system,” said Culverhouse.

“Then away from home we are finding – and Wes is finding – a lot more space, and we can get him on the ball to be more influential.

“At home it just seems a little tighter. We found it a lot easier against Leicester when they went to 4-4-2, Wes got into the game a lot more.

“It’s definitely a technical one, and it’s a compliment.

“If teams come and change their shape to match ours, then we’re going along the right lines to producing a really good side here.”

Culverhouse believes the Championship table means little at this stage of the season: “Put it this way, we do look at it and it’s nice to be up that end rather than the other, but it’s far too early at the moment – it does just show what these players are capable of doing at this football club, it really does.”

Lambert’s assistant was on reserve team duty yesterday afternoon, as a City side featuring the likes of Stephen Hughes, Steve Smith, Oli Johnson and Anthony McNamee lost 4-0 to a Tottenham Hotspur XI at their north London training ground.

Spurs took control of the behind closed doors game after a after a goalless first half, and City are planning similar outings every month or so.

“The exercise has worked well because the players that we wanted to get minutes under the belt did, but the scoreline didn’t really go as well as we hoped,” said Culverhouse.

“They were very clinical, but on the fitness exercise, all our fringe players got 90 minutes under their belts, which was what was needed.”