Top-flight years: Fearless City show they belong in Premier League
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images
The 2011/12 season saw Norwich City back in the big time as the Paul Lambert rollercoaster ride continued. Mark Armstrong looks back
The Lambert era
Rather a lot has changed since, but going into the 2011/12 season Paul Lambert was the king of Norwich.
He could do no wrong in the eyes of City fans – the Scot had taken over the club at its lowest ebb and taken them back to the Promised Land of the Premier League.
Lambert had shed the club’s inferiority complex, bringing in hungry players with a point to prove.
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And boy did it work. Successive promotions were achieved using a fearless approach and it would continue in the top-flight.
There would never be any sight-seeing on Lambert’s watch – Norwich were there to survive in the Premier League and they achieved this with relative ease.
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What a season
The campaign got off to a sticky start. A draw on the opening day at Wigan thanks to Wes Hoolahan’s equaliser was followed by the disappointment of conceding a last minute equaliser at home to Stoke as Kenwyne Jones struck.
Norwich gave Chelsea a fright at Stamford Bridge as Grant Holt equalised early in the second half before the Blues eased to victory. But defeat at home to West Brom really had supporters concerned as Peter Odemwingie’s third minute goal separated the two sides.
It prompted something of an inquest at the time – pressure started to build and a trip to Bolton was seen by many supporters as hardly the ideal fixture for City to turn around their season.
But this was the kind of situation Lambert’s Norwich thrived. City raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Anthony Pilkington and Bradley Johnson and suddenly the Canaries were in flight.
Wins over Sunderland and Swansea duly followed and then belief this campaign could be more than merely a relegation fight took hold when City drew 1-1 at Anfield. After old boy Craig Bellamy opened the scoring, Holt struck with the most delicious of headers in the second half, getting on the end of a perfectly flighted Pilkington cross ahead of Pepe Reina.
There were still bumps in the road – Norwich were outclassed at Manchester City in a 5-1 defeat and hammered 3-0 at Sunderland.
But more often than not, Lambert’s City would respond after a disappointing result. Fans will remember the 2-1 win at QPR at Loftus Road when Joey Barton was sent off and later that evening at the darts Bradley Johnson showed a placard saying the midfielder’s ‘breath stinks’.
Arguably the two highest points of the season took place in capital, both in North London.
Elliott Bennett produced one of the goals of the season with the winner at White Hart Lane against Spurs and the 3-3 draw at Arsenal epitomised the rollercoaster ride under Lambert. Steve Morison famously grabbed a late equaliser before shushing his own supporters, who never truly took to the striker signed from Millwall.
City ended the campaign with an impressive 2-0 win at home to Aston Villa – a match made more memorable with the away fans imploring Lambert to join them in the summer... he duly did.
Grant Holt – captain, leader, legend
Grant Holt scored 15 goals in the Premier League that season yet still somehow it wasn’t enough to earn a call-up to the England squad under Roy Hodgson... you perhaps feel that wouldn’t be quite the case currently.
Holt epitomised this Norwich side – strong and fearless in everything they did together. Holt proved he was much more than a physical target man and established a decent partnership with Morison both on and off the field when many thought they would clash.