Terry Pierce - The genius of Paul Lambert
Published: 03 May 2011 - 12:00:14
Tracksuit bottoms and a sweater, sleeves rolled up and glasses fixed firmly below a slightly receding hair line, bounding about the touchline kicking every ball - Norwich City boss Paul Lambert is often referred to as the new Martin O'Neill, and it's easy to see why.
As Andy d'Urso blew the final whistle at Fratton Park last night, it signalled an incredible two-season journey for City, with Lambert at the helm.
Lambert was at Carrow Road on Norwich's darkest hour in recent memory. On the opening day of last season, following relegation to the third tier, Lambert brought his Colchester side to East Anglia and thumped the hosts 7-1.
The former Livingston boss then took over from Bryan Gunn, and the way in which he has turned around the fortunes of club is nothing short of miraculous. They romped to the League One title last year and enjoyed a strong start to the current campaign. And then, as the season reached its critical period, Lambert guided his side to an awesome run of form that has seen them seal a second successive promotion.
Lambert enjoyed a wonderful playing career, including a Champions League-winning spell at Dortmund. But he has put in the hours and learnt his trade in the lower reaches of the Football League at the beginning of his managerial career, bossing Livi before joining Wycombe, the club where O'Neill kick-started his managerial career.
And now he's all set to join Fergie et al as the Premier League's seventh Glaswegian boss. It is testament to the man that as Sky Sports thrust a microphone in his face just seconds after their promotion had been secured his first reaction was to pay tribute to his backroom team, most notably Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa.
He then went on to speak so highly of his side, as both players and people, and it is that team spirit, coupled with Lambert's tactical knowledge and creative approach, that has seen the current crop guide the Canaries back to the fop flight.
Simeon Jackson scored the decisive goal, heading home a superb cross in front of the travelling hordes, and the Canadian striker is typical of a Paul Lambert signing - great value, hard-working and not short of quality.
Jackson had a mediocre start to life at City, being overshadowed by the goal-scoring exploits of club captain Grant Holt. But the former Gillingham striker has found his shooting boots over the last eight weeks, scoring nine times in the last seven league games. With a supply line of Wes Hoolahan, Andrew Surman and Arsenal loanee Henri Lansbury, among others, and a well constructed back four, Lambert very quickly developed a strong Championship squad.
But he will be the first to recognise the job that he now faces in keeping the Canaries in the Premier League. It is very easy for picky pundits and green-eyed fans to roll out the "they'll come straight back down" line, but with Lambert at the helm they have as good a chance as anyone else. And, as Lambert has said, they would rather go up and come down than never have a go in the first place, and that's before looking at the debt-busting balance sheet post-promotion.
However, today is not about Norwich staying up, it's about Norwich going up. After winning League One, Lambert said it was the biggest achievement in his managerial career. Last night, he admitted that the incredible season this year topped it. But, as he takes his first steps into the top level as a manager, I've got a feeling there's much more to come for him.
- FOOTBALL.CO.UK BLOGGER:terry pierce
- Terry was born and bred in Wiltshire, and is a massive Swindon fan - travelling the length of the country most weekends to watch the 'mighty' Reds. He also manages a successful(ish) Sunday league side, and his life pretty much revolves around football. Five-year-old Terry was in the crowd when Swindon won promotion to the Premier League in 1993 with a 4-3 play-off win against Leicester. He cried after every goal. Read Terry's thoughts every week on life outside the Premier League. Follow Terry on Twitter @telpierce.
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