Prospects for 2012/13 - 2nd Season Syndrome?
Spare a thought (or not!) for Bolton and QPR this weekend. Whilst Norwich are safe, and have been for some time, these two are still battling for their league status. I already alluded to similar points before the Blackburn away trip, but we must consider ourselves very lucky not to have wound up in the same battle to beat the drop.
It`s been an extremely positive 2011/12 campaign for City. We haven`t ever been in any serious danger of going down and there`s been some lovely moments and cracking games along the way. Holt silencing the Kop, in addition to scoring against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Newcastle and Everton to name a few. Bennett`s rocket against Tottenham. The 4-2 victory over Newcastle. The epic 3-3 draw with Arsenal. Those are just a few moments from a splendid top flight return.
But the club are already looking forward towards next season. Rumours are already surfacing about potential recruitments to the playing staff in addition to some of the current crop heading out to pastures new.
So what should we expect from next season? Why, I`m glad you asked.
One thing we need to be wary of is the infamous "second season syndrome." Surviving the honeymoon period of your maiden voyage in England`s top division is one thing, but you`ve got to adjust and grow in order to keep surprising the opposition, and crucially don`t allow yourselves to be 'found out` by them. Our good friends in Suffolk learned this lesson a few years back, after finishing 5th in their first season, only to be relegated the following term.
In the past the likes of Hull, Birmingham and Reading have been relegated from it, while others such as Wolves have never managed to progress as a club, constantly looking over their shoulders and eventually succumbing to the bottom three spots.
To avoid this, we simply can`t afford to rest on our laurels. Lambert will have to keep re-arranging the team sheet in order to keep opposing managers out of the loop.
With that being said it`s worked a treat so far and due to PL`s versatility, I`m positive he won`t let such a syndrome take hold.
Whilst we`ve been very comfortable this season in terms of the points gap from the bottom three, a top half finish was sadly just beyond us.
We were obviously never expected to reach such lofty heights, and I think if we were offered 17th at the start of this season, we`d have definitely taken it. But a top ten finish is surely on the cards in 2012/13 if we keep up the hard work from this season.
We`ll obviously need to make sure we bring in the right players and have a balanced enough squad to improve from this year, but if all the stars are aligned this is a very realistic goal that the club can achieve.
By achieving this, it virtually assures that we can add some more seats into our famous old ground, not that`s it looking too shabby as it is, and we`ll become further entrenched and established in the division in a similar manner to how the likes of Stoke City have done. In future seasons it could also mean we have better chance of bringing in bigger name players on higher wages.
What`s next for Lambert?
Assuming we continue to do well, the speculation about PL is only going to increase.
And weirdly I`d be temporarily pleased that he`s getting talked about in such a way, because it`ll mean that we`re making people take notice of us as a club and that we`re going in the right direction.
On the flipside, if a bigger club comes calling for him, it might be hard to keep him on board.
You would assume that if Lambert did go, heaven forbid, he`d likely take his coaching staff too, including Ian Culverhouse who has been just as vital for our recent successes as PL.
The key will be Delia and co matching his ambition. Lambert isn`t stupid, he knows they can`t afford to completely empty their pockets and contribute any sum too ludicrous, but he`ll want to be given a fair amount in order for his squad to be able to maintain their upward momentum.
The first thing I`d do is offer him a new deal, one that would keep him with us for a bit longer but also see our compensation fee dramatically increased should he be approached from elsewhere.
Actually, never mind any new players coming through the revolving doors at Colney, Lambert could well be our most important signing this summer.
I`ve given up making pre-season predictions now. At the time of putting this piece together we haven`t even played the Villa game to close out this season, so I couldn`t possibly comment on where I think we`ll end up next season. All I can theorize is that if we keep putting in the performances we have in 2011/12 and we can keep Lambert happy, then 2012/13 is going to give us Canaries plenty more to keep chirping about.