Three reasons to be cheerful
That's right, this week I'll be focusing on the sunny side as I provide you, most esteemed reader, with three reasons to be cheerful as we look to next season at the top table.
In the past Norwich have struggled in the same way that many other similar mid-sized clubs run by journeymen managers have. Figures like Roeder, Gary Megson, Aidy Boothroyd, Chris Coleman, Kevin Blackwell and Paul Jewell are distinguished only by the fact that their records are all so similar: one or two noteworthy successes in getting a club promoted or in ensuring their survival that are then traded on relentlessly as they tout themselves for every vaguely appealing mid-level position that becomes available.
Under Lambert Norwich seem to have definitively stepped off this merry-go-round of mediocre manager following mediocre manager following mediocre manager. Although the figures concerning Norwich's capacity to rally at the end of matches (these chaps put it at 21 goals scored last season after the 80 minute mark has been reached) and the fact that Norwich haven't suffered two successive league defeats under Lambert have rapidly become clichés for anyone discussing the Norwich success story, the stats do still tell a convincing story about a team that is confident of its own ability - and no-one needs to tell any Norwich supporters, ever mindful of that last day capitulation against Fulham in 2005, how important belief in the dressing room is.
This season will go a long way towards showing to what extent Lambert's early intimations of greatness are well founded. Based on his record at Norwich so far I'm confident that he can deliver survival at the very least and set himself apart from many of the charlatans he's passed on his journey to the top.
Wes Hoolahan and Grant Holt
Although the appropriate title for the story of more celebrated footballers would be 'Great Expectations', with these two a more apt one would be 'Middling Expectations'.
Following his previous spell in the Championship at basket case Nottingham Forest many indiscrete commentators doubted if Holt would be as effective last season as he had been for Norwich in League One. His response to such doubting jibes was emphatic with 21 league goals and 11 assists in 44 games, a tally that led to him being named in the Championship team of the season this year.
Similarly, for Irish fans of English football Hoolahan's performance for Norwich over the past two seasons has been a particularly gratifying story. Like other crafty talents like Kevin Doyle and Seamus Coleman who served their apprenticeships in the far-from-glamorous League of Ireland Hoolahan's current success is rendered that much sweeter by the fact that this has seemingly been earned largely through hard work, perseverance and intelligence.
Although neither are exactly Rocky Balboa in terms of their status as plucky outsiders (both have been pros for a long, long time) there is still undoubtedly something cheering in seeing them finally dine at the top table as they approach the Autumn years of their careers. Only to look at diminutive Hoolahan and portly Holt is to be reminded of how extraordinary they will seem when compared with their peers in the Premiership.
Again, as is the case with Lambert, questions will be asked of these two in terms of how they'll fare with the step up in quality that they'll have to deal with next season. Again though, their performances up to this point for Norwich suggest that this won't faze them. Seeing how their season unfolds will be interesting for all football fans who treasure the more subtle virtues of wit and intelligence in their idols.
Delia (and Michael)
To return to the subject of my last blog post one of the few things people generally know about Norwich City is that Delia Smith is one of its two principal shareholders (yes yes, most Norwich fans are aware of her 'Let's be having you' remarks). What a lot of people don't know however is that herself and Michael as a partnership are one of the more generous and patient financial stewards in English football.
As this gentleman makes clear Norwich are a very well run club in financial terms with no excessive risks having been taken as we went from gallivanting in the Premiership to toiling in League One.
Many of the errors that have been made in the past few seasons would seem to have been those concerning matters on the pitch. Indeed, as the wealth of stats in the above article make clear Norwich have suffered, in terms of performance on the pitch and in the marketplace, primarily because of the trust afforded to management and not due to any calamitous decisions concerning funding.
Granted, this opinion is subject to revision (and I am very interested to see if you agree with this analysis in the comments section) but the impression I get is that Norwich are a club that prides itself on doing things the right way in supporting their managers. Unfortunately for the owners this support has not always been well rewarded so the current state of affairs under Lambert must be particularly pleasing for them as their faith in consistently backing the club financially is finally vindicated.
As fans we can innocently enjoy the success that Norwich have had in the past two seasons. As investors Delia and Michael can be classed amongst the few people who can say without fear of being contradicted by anyone that they've actually earned this success.
This seems like an appropriate point to bow out on in this discussion of Norwich's hopes for next season. The club is well run with a promising young manager in charge and talented senior players in the dressing room eager to prove that they are capable of succeeding at the highest level.
In terms of drama alone next season should be a humdinger. In terms of surviving and thriving though, I for one am confident that next season will be one of the most enjoyable that we've had for many a year.
On the ball City!
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