It’s all about the players, not the managers – Lambert
Norwich City boss Paul Lambert played down the significance of the manager’s role as he prepared to pit his wits against Chelsea’s new man in charge at Stamford Bridge today.
Lambert, who has led the Canaries to successive promotions and at 42 is still relatively young in managerial terms, was set to shake hands with the Premier League’s youngest boss in 33-year-old Andr� Villas-Boas before this afternoon’s top-flight fixture.
But he insisted it was the teams and not the managers who would determine the result.
He said: “It’s not about me and it’s never about the manager. It’s about the players. If our team does it and goes out and performs, that is all I can ask for.
“The game is about players. The better players you have, the easier the game becomes.”
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Unusually, Villas-Boas has no background as a player but began his coaching qualifications at the age of 17 and was an assistant to Jose Mourinho at three clubs, Chelsea included.
“He has done brilliantly,” said Lambert. “He did an amazing job at Porto – fantastic.
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“He has taken a huge job on with big players and done really fine at the start. I don’t know him but he seems a nice guy.
“Whether managers have been top players or not there is nothing set in stone that makes you become a manager. It’s about getting players who want to play and run for you and a player’s own personal pride will drive that on as well – if they are hungry and have the desire and they want to do it.
“You can have all the ability in the world but if you don’t put the other side in that is when it becomes a bit of a problem. If you have desire and hunger in a player with a little bit of ability then you have a chance.”
Apart from the knee injury suffered by defender Daniel Ayala, Lambert was also waiting on forward Wes Hoolahan, withdrawn with a hamstring problem during the 4-0 Carling Cup defeat by MK Dons on Tuesday night.
“This is a different game, no one expects anything of us,” he said. “There will be a brilliant atmosphere and we are up against one of the favourites to win the league but like any other game we will go and try to win.
“They have a new manager but the players who have been there drive that club. They know what it is like. I know the magnitude of the task but we’ll see. It is our job to try to do something. I won’t go there and be frightened. We have to go and enjoy it. We are up against world-class players but that is the nature of it. We’ve waited two years to play these sort of sides.”
Lambert said he was confident his players would not be daunted by the occasion.
“I think the atmosphere will ensure they raise their game,” he said. “The adrenaline will be really high. As long as they can go and get a foothold and see it through the first 15, 20 minutes then we’ll be fine. I don’t think they’ll be overawed by the personnel they’re up against. I don’t think they have got that in their heads.
“We know before we even go what to expect – you might have to weather the crowd and they will come at you. It’s not something to buckle under. Somewhere along the line you are going to get a chance. You always do.”