Lambert’s philosophy has paid rich dividends so far
Eight games remaining and City sit in second place in the table.
It’s tantalisingly close, isn’t it? Now then. If ever there was one particular clich� to relish right now, it’s the one that says, “Take it one game at a time.”
Because there’s no point wondering what the trip to fellow promotion candidates Swansea might bring next week while there’s an equally important game against Scunthorpe here at Carrow Road to take care of first.
Everything must be focused on beating Scunthorpe. Nothing else matters.
And pleasingly, it’s something that we can all be certain will be made perfectly clear within the home team dressing room tomorrow. Because Paul Lambert has said publicly on a few occasions this season that it’s all about being professional and solely focusing on the job in hand. He doesn’t set targets as such and refuses to look beyond the next game.
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It’s a wise philosophy.
Because many’s the time a team has hamstrung its chances of success in games that they might have taken for granted whilst focusing their attentions further down the line. Take Aston Villa in 1993, for example, when they were going head-to-head with Manchester United for the Premier League title.
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Both of the title contenders had two games remaining. Villa’s penultimate game was at home against us - little old Oldham. Everyone thought they would easily brush us aside and it would all go down to the last game of the season. But we beat them. Meaning that Sir Alex Ferguson became the first Manchester United manager to bring the title back to Old Trafford for 26 years.
Now I’m not saying that Villa showed us a lack of respect or approached the game any differently than they would have any other. After all, when you’re going for the Championship and there are only two matches left, you’re pretty much up for it!
But I’ve a sneaky feeling that Ron Atkinson and his Villa team might just have had one eye on their last game of the season at QPR before they met us that day.
An interesting footnote to that story is that a couple of days later after we’d finished training one morning we arrived back in the dressing room to find four or five cases of champagne waiting for us.
We thought that it was from our manager Joe Royle, as a little gesture of thanks for our efforts over the campaign.
When he walked in and someone thanked him he calmly replied: “Oh, no lads, they’re not from me. They’re from Alex (Ferguson) down the road. He just wanted to say thanks.”
Tomorrow’s game is as just as big, if not bigger than any other this season. So let’s get the Scunthorpe one out of the way, and then, and only then can we all move on to the next game.
• WHAT COMES FIRST, THE CHEERS FROM THE FANS? OR ROUSING PLAY FROM PLAYERS?
I thought the support that the team received in the last home game against Bristol City was absolutely magnificent.
It’s an often-broached subject at every club in the land.
Should the supporters raise the volume in the stands to maximum decibels in order to encourage the players to play at full throttle for each and every one of the 90 minutes? Or is it the responsibility of the players to start with a high enough tempo and with sufficient quality to their play to persuade the fans to back them more vociferously?
It’s the chicken and egg conundrum, so to speak. And it’s perfectly understandable that it’s difficult for anyone to get too excited when a game hasn’t exactly caught fire.
But what I can tell from experience, is that when the supporters are really up for it and backing the team with everything they’ve got, rightly or wrongly it undoubtedly spurs you on just that little bit more.
Now of course you could say that that shouldn’t be the case. After all, as a professional footballer, surely it’s your duty to play at your maximum anyway, regardless of whether there are 100,000 present and the noise is absolutely deafening. Or whether there’s only one man and his dog in attendance and you can almost hear a pin drop?
But players are only human beings.
And although every individual is different, they all respond to varying degrees according to the circumstances.
Some can ignore the reactions from the crowd better than others, granted.
But there’s yet to be a team that’s ever played the game that doesn’t respond in a positive manner when the crowd are backing them to the hilt and almost shouting themselves hoarse in the process.
So, if you’re reading this and you’ll be there at 3pm tomorrow. Same again as last time, please. The Canaries need you.
• DALGLISH HAS THE NOUS TO GET RIGHT MIX
In the modern game, there is a tendency for tradition to be frowned upon.
It’s all about technology now. The latest methods, sports science, new innovations. And rightly so.
Because time doesn’t stand still. You have to move on. Or you get left behind.
However, Kenny Dalglish’s return to Anfield, and more specifically the fact that he says that he doesn’t consider the past as something that should only be smiled about fondly and mainly confined to the memory bank is refreshing to say the least.
Dalglish matured into the brilliant player he was under the influence of the famous Liverpool boot room. Of course he then became part of it as Liverpool’s player-manager. And now he isn’t simply going to ignore the little rituals and routines and all the tricks of the trade that he learnt in there just because it was such a relatively long time ago.
I actually went inside the old Liverpool boot room after a game once. You had to walk past it on your way to the players’ lounge. The door was open, no-one was inside, and I couldn’t resist nipping in. It was ... well ... just a boot room with a couple of seats inside scattered around an old kit skip and an old battered filing cabinet in the corner (I didn’t dare look inside it). But it was so special because it was the heartbeat of the club that ruled world football at one time.
Now Dalglish is no mug. He knows that many aspects of the game are constantly evolving at a rapid rate of knots.
But he’s also astute enough to realise that football is still the same game as it always was. And always will be.
As everyone knows, it’s about getting the right mix.
• CAPELLO’S METHODS SPEAK VOLUMES
It was nice to not find myself nodding off for a change when watching England play in midweek.
Even though it was only a friendly and essentially a second-string England side that was on duty against Ghana, it was actually an entertaining and very enjoyable match.
But the best bit for me was beforehand, when Fabio Capello revealed in an interview that he only feels that he needs to use about 100 words to sufficiently communicate with his England team. Brilliant.
Now do we put that down to Capello’s excellent coaching manner and the way he keeps things simple. His genius is in his simplicity, if you like?
Or do you think that he feels that anything more than a hundred words might just be too much for some of his players to handle?