Norwich City fans have learned to expect the unexpected
If there’s one thing that Norwich City fans have learned over the last two seasons under the stewardship of Paul Lambert it must be to expect the unexpected.
As we sit here on the eve of the Premier League season several commentators have marked out their predictions with several taking the easy option and earmarking the Canaries to make an immediate return to the Championship.
Well, after witnessing City recover from numerous nigh-on impossible situations you will struggle to find a City fan who feels the same, such is the feelgood factor that has swept through the city.
You won’t find Lambert thinking that way either.
The Scot understandably steers clear of making any public predictions how he thinks his side will fare in the Premier League.
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When asked by several reporters at different times over the summer how the ‘diamond’ will adapt to the top flight or if a lack of experience at the highest level could hinder their cause, Lambert admits he simply won’t know until he has some experience of it.
But, at least privately, you get the feeling Lambert has a good idea of what his side are capable of and I would be very surprised if it was the bare minimum required to stay there.
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People will ask questions whether City have a squad capable of achieving 17th place but they won’t be questions the players are asking.
They have already all been convinced by Lambert and his management team they are good enough to be there. In his words they have ‘earned the right’ to mix it with the big boys.
The really interesting question for me, is just how lightly other teams will take the Canaries?
Of course, teams will have had their scouts out over pre-season to check on City but there may be an element of surprise to their capabilities in the same way Blackpool took the league by storm last season.
The current group of players have continually defied expectations and with Lambert stating that he has no intention of changing his attacking philosophy, a few “surprises” may be on the cards.
You certainly won’t find Lambert following Mick McCarthy’s example in fielding a fringe XI for Wolves at Old Trafford, effectively admitting defeat before the players have even taken the field.
Lambert has a lot more confidence, and indeed respect, for his players than that. He has got them believing that they can achieve anything they set their minds to and you can see why from the evidence of the last two seasons.
The perfect example is that of Grant Holt, who would admit himself how Lambert has helped him hit the heights he has achieved over the last two seasons.
Commentators have continually questioned whether he could make the step up every summer since he joined the Canaries from Shrewsbury.
But the belief the club have placed within him has spurred him on to become a Norwich legend in the making.
No City fan would be that surprised if Holt scored goals in the Premier League, in fact it would probably be more of a surprise if he didn’t.
Whatever happens, a John Terry or Nemanja Vidic will know within the first couple of minutes not to underestimate the big man.
Lambert will be more than happy for pundits to predict a short-stay at the top table – that’s just how he and the players like it.
But if Norwich do indeed ‘Do a Blackpool’ tomorrow at the DW Stadium and come away with a convincing win then expect a few pundits to be revising their predictions.
Just don’t expect Norwich fans to be surprised by it.
• SEVERAL TEAMS WORSE THAN CANARIES IN THE TOP FLIGHT
Right, it’s prediction time.
This may come back to haunt me in May but I’m confident that Norwich City have enough quality in their squad to stay in the Premier League.
In fact, I think there are at least five teams in the top flight who are inferior to Paul Lambert’s men, tomorrow’s opponents, Wigan, being one of them.
Roberto Martinez’s men came within a whisker of dropping through the Premier League hatch last season and, having lost arguably their best player in Charles N’Zogbia, they are bound to be down amongst the dead men once again.
Blackburn have not improved their squad either with the club’s owners, the Venky’s, apparently about as willing to entrust manager Steve Kean with their money as much as you would John Prescott to look after your cream bun.
I’m taking it as a given that Norwich will finish above the two sides they came up with.
QPR have made some very puzzling signings, notably Kieron Dyer, while City finished above Swansea last season and I haven’t seen them bring anyone in to change that.
The final team I think Norwich will finish above? The soap opera that is Newcastle United.
After owner Mike Ashley apparently pledged to give manager Alan Pardew all of the �35m pocketed from the sale of Andy Carroll, the Magpies have proceeded to shop in Europe’s equivalent of a Sports Direct store.
Pardew promised to sign players that would get the St James’ Park crowd off their seats...before signing Gabriel Obertan for �3.5m.
Well, at least Pardew can talk the talk...