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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ambitious Lambert accepts Norwich challenge

Norwich City, it seems, are determined to make this season a memorable one. Just two weeks into their first campaign in the third tier for 50 years, and Carrow Road has witnessed another remarkable twist.

After a 7-1 opening day defeat to Colchester, and the sacking of boss Bryan Gunn, his replacement is Paul Lambert, the man who led the Essex club to that resounding victory. A funny old game, indeed.

Forgetting whether or not the result was the catalyst for Gunn's departure, the question surely must be asked, had Colchester not beaten Norwich on the opening day, or even only won by a single goal, would Lambert be taking over the reins at the Canaries?

Rarely in the history of the game, it could be said, can one result seem to have had such incredible consequences.

Perhaps that's harsh on the 40-year-old though, who has so-far shown an increasing capability as a manager. After a spell at Livingston, the former Celtic man joined League Two side Wycombe in 2006 where he led the club, unsuccessfully, to the play-offs.

After resigning his post at Adams Park, he returned to the game in October last year to replace the sacked Geraint Williams at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Lambert will be expected to win promotion with Norwich

The U's, who were 20th in the division when he took over, eventually finished the season in the top half, and currently top League One after two wins out of two this term. Lambert's stock has never been higher.

His relationship with new City chief executive David McNally, whom the Scot knew from his time at Parkhead, is also crucial in this move. McNally, who was influential in the removal of Gunn, always wanted his own man in charge.

The move is a gamble on a young manager who has never won promotion in his managerial career though. And, with the Canaries needing to return to the Championship as quickly as possible, the pressure will be on Lambert from the off.

Unlike his predecessor, and Peter Grant, who also suffered a torrid tenure in Norfolk, Lambert does at least have experience of management. Crucially too, he knows the lower divisions and what it takes to get a side challenging at the top end.

Also important is a sign that he is learning as a manager. In his first season at Wycombe they finished 12th, the next season 7th. And it's difficult to imagine he would have led Colchester to a lower position than last season.

As for Colchester, this represents a huge blow for the club, who appeared to be in for a season of challenging for a return to the second tier they were relegated from in 2008.

Challenging at the top is now what will be expected from Norwich. And, should Lambert's career continue on its current upwards trajectory, then both him and City can look forward to bigger and better things in the future.


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