Soccer AM/MW - the home of lively and humorous discussion from the Football and Non Leagues

Monday, April 19, 2010

Norwich's Valley of Joy

After their 1-0 win at Charlton at the weekend secured promotion, Nobes reflects on Norwich City's instant return to the Championship under Paul Lambert.

Norwich players celebrate promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt

The irony wasn't lost on the 3,000 fans who had made their way from Norfolk. A man called Nelson scoring the goal which won their side promotion. You couldn't make it up.

In a day of ironies, twelve months on, and at the scene of their relegation to League One, Norwich's 1-0 win over Charlton sealed their return to the Championship at the first attempt.

Last May's 4-2 collapse at The Valley had consigned the Canaries to the third tier of English football for the first time in half a century. On Saturday, it was more of a Rainbow Valley than one of despair.

It's an achievement even more remarkable when you consider City began the season with a 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Colchester United. Carrow Road had just been given a rude awakening of life in the third tier.

It led to the brutally early dismissal of playing legend Bryan Gunn as manager. A decision which, in hindsight, appears ruthlessly effective.

The Canaries turned to Paul Lambert - the architect of their crushing defeat to Colchester to construct their own bid for glory, and a swift return to the Championship.

It has been an unmitigated success for both man and club. A run of nine wins from 10 games around the New Year saw them topple long-time leaders Leeds.

Since then, Norwich have blasted their way to promotion - scoring over 80 goals. Lambert has lost just five of his 40 games in charge, and only one at home - where the Canaries have been almost unstoppable.

A devastating front trio of Grant Holt, Chris Martin, and Wes Hoolahan have scored a combined 66 goals between them, with Holt becoming the first Norwich player in 46 years to score 30 goals in a season.

It's an impressive list of statistics that illustrates how Lambert has made Norwich a force to be reckoned with - and just a point from their final three games will secure the League One title.

The 40-year-old Scot is a rising star in the managerial game. After a brief spell north of the border at Livingston, the former Celtic man dropped into League Two at Wycombe.

He then moved onto Colchester before making the transition to Carrow Road. Now, with Celtic looking for a new manager of their own, Norwich will be desperate to hold onto their man.

However, a move to the high-pressure stakes of the Old Firm at this stage of his career would be a dangerous move for Lambert.

The failings of Tony Mowbray at Parkhead- someone who had achieved success at a higher level than Lambert - should provide ample warning as to the expectation levels on the Celtic manager.

Boss Paul Lambert has been a revelation as Norwich have stormed to promotion

Although he has strong emotional links there as a player, with all due respect to Celtic, Lambert could be destined for bigger things in England.

Instead of returning to the Bhoys, he must continue his education and tackle the Championship.

Norwich will always attract very good crowds - 25,000 have turned up for home games this season - and, given the right additions in the close season, could challenge at the top end next term.

The fortunes of last term's League One winners - Leicester City - should serve as inspiration that a team that has a winning habit, momentum, and strong support behind it can challenge for successive promotions.

Indeed, the quick turnaround for both the Foxes and Norwich should also provide comfort for fans of Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace - should one of those two former Premier League sides drop into League One next season.

Granted, it wouldn't be a new experience for the Yorkshire side who spent two seasons in League One between 2003 and 2005. However, for Palace, it is proof that relegation to the third tier need not be the end.

In fact, for Leicester and Norwich is has led to a season of enjoyment - visiting new grounds and winning lots of football matches. They have both bounced back looking stronger for being relegated.

For the club from Nelson's county, a campaign which began in misery has concluded only in Victory.

No comments:

Post a Comment