Malky's delight at Norwich's Championship return

Paddy Davitt Norwich old boy Malky Mackay is ready to offer former team mate Paul Lambert the inside track on the Championship.

Paddy Davitt

Norwich old boy Malky Mackay is ready to offer former team mate Paul Lambert the inside track on the Championship.

The ex-City stalwart can now plan for league fixtures against his one time Celtic ally after guiding Watford to safety in his first full season at the helm despite the cash-strapped Hornets flirting with administration mid-way through the campaign.

“No one is happier than me that Norwich is back in the Championship again,” said Mackay, who was an integral part of the Canaries' last promotion-winning season in 2004. “We talk regularly, especially since he came down to England and we have spoken plenty of times this season. I know that he couldn't believe at the start just how many fans came along each week to pack the stadium.

“I had to tell him that was just a regular occurrence up there. To find themselves in that league and to get off to such a poor start in the first couple of weeks, but then turn it around and win the league comfortably, and by that I mean in terms of the points' total, is fantastic.”

Mackay believes it is inevitable Lambert will look to refresh his championship-winning squad during the close season.

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“It is possible to bridge that gap but you have to invest and you have to bring in players who can play in the league,” he said. “If you look at Leicester, they have invested heavily in players who can play in the Championship. I think there is a gap between all the leagues in this country. Certainly on a one off occasion if you pull a higher level team, say in the FA Cup, then you can have a real go.

“But teams in League Two realise there is a gap to League One and teams in League One will find there is a gap to playing with regular consistency in the Championship. You can't expect it is a given that all your players can step up to a higher league. It's slightly different if you have guys who are experienced and have played in higher leagues before.”

Mackay has warned the Championship remains an unforgiving place after the Canaries' recent struggles in the second tier.

“This season showed that, at times, on any given Saturday any team can be beaten,” he said. “The league winners by a country mile, Newcastle, end up going to Scunthorpe and getting beat and no one would have predicted that but really every week there would be a result pop up the opposite of what everyone might expect.

“That's what makes it a great league because there are no givens. You just have to look at the fact that the play-off positions and relegation positions go right down to the last few games. The workload is tremendous with 46 games in the league to fit in - plus cup competitions - and you end up going through periods like we have just done when you have to fit 12 games in over six weeks.

“The size of your squad is tested to the limit and everything must be planned in so much detail - but even then there are spanners that can be thrown into the works. It's a tough, tough league.”

Mackay was forced to offload his best players at the start of the Scot's tenure before the threat of a ten point deduction for entering administration was only averted in December.

“I think what happened here earlier in the season was well documented,” he said. “I've certainly had some experiences that people don't get in probably five years of management at a football club. We were near administration, we had to lose four of our star players in August and we had to bring in loan players to patch up the squad.

“We ended up with academy players on the bench in the last few weeks so the fact we managed to achieve our objective of staying in the league is testament to a lot of good people who have managed to work with me at this football club.”

Watford finished seven points clear of the relegation zone with two thumping end-of-season wins over Reading and Coventry and is looking forward to a special Norfolk reunion next season.

“It's great for people who have worked at that club for a long time,” he said. “And it was great for me to see Delia and Michael jumping around in the directors' box at Charlton when promotion was secured. I'm delighted for everybody in Norfolk.

“I missed not having the chance to go up there this season in the league and we avoided each other in the cups but I have a lot of fond memories from my time there. It'll be great to go up to Carrow Road and play and then meet up with the staff and go and see some pals again.”