Norwich City can do more than just survive

Norwich City can do more than just survive in the Premier League – according to the manager who once guided the club to fourth place in the top flight.

Dave Stringer was in charge when the Canaries narrowly missed a top three spot in the former Division One in 1988-89, after leading the table for much of the season.

It was the highest finish in City’s history until Mike Walker’s team, including many of the same players, came third in the FA Premier League four seasons later and qualified for Europe. And while it is beyond most fans’ wildest dreams for Paul Lambert’s men to match that kind of achievement, Stringer believes they can aim high. “No one expects Norwich to win the league but they should be setting their sights higher than just staying in the division, and I’m sure they are,” said Stringer, who will watch City as a guest at today’s opening pre-season friendly at Gorleston (3pm). “Every club wants to get up to the top end of the league and that’s what they should aspire to and I hope they will get enough points to do that.

“They may not have the outstanding individuals in some of the Premier League sides, but that is not necessarily a bad thing because they play well as a unit. I look back to when we first went up and we were a team and a unit and got on well together. If you keep together, you will get setbacks, of course, but it’s how you react to them.”

Gorleston-born Stringer has only a short journey to Emerald Park today to see Lambert’s summer signings in action alongside the players who won promotion from the Championship in May. “I’m looking forward to seeing all the new players. I’ve not really seen many of them play but they seem to have been on the manager’s radar for a long time,” he said. “It’s important for new players to bond and get used to each other’s game. From time to time you may want to change the system and it’s important to know what’s needed.” With just four weeks to the opening Premier League fixture at Wigan, Stringer knows from his experience as player and manager just how crucial the pre-season period can be. “It’s very important because it provides the groundwork for the season in terms of fitness, getting plenty of games in before the season starts.”

“The main thing is to get your match fitness back. The players have not been back in training that long so they will use it to give everybody time on the pitch. When I first played we only had one game before the season started and that was the probables against the possibles. But we soon realised we needed more games to get acclimatised.

“We would play local teams like Southend, but when I was manager we did a pre-season trip to Scandinavia because they were in the middle of their season and playing matches over there proved to be a valuable way of getting players together and building their match fitness. Now some clubs play in pre-season tournaments because they tend to be a bit more competitive.

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“Even then it can take one or two games to get back into the swing of things, mainly through the intensity at which league games are played compared to the friendlies.”

Stringer is pleased to see one of his former players performing such a key role in City’s success – Lambert’s assistant, Ian Culverhouse. “I’m absolutely delighted to see Ian doing so well. He’s clearly got a talent for it and works very well with the manager,” he said.

The Canaries are taking their first team squad to Gorleston and are expected to ring the changes during the game.

Fans will be keen to see if defender Leon Barnett returns to action five months after suffering a hamstring injury, but are unlikely to get a look at winger Anthony Pilkington, still recovering from a broken leg and dislocated ankle.

City will also be giving their new kit its first outing against last season’s Ridgeons League Division One champions. A limited number of tickets will be available on the gate at �15 (�10 concessions).