So, we’ve only gone and done it haven’t we? Back to back promotions to the promised land of the glory, fame and fortune of the Premiership. In a two year span, Paul Lambert has taken a team from the brink of administration to a team that has shot up the Football League ladder and back into the top flight for the first time in a 6 year absence. I was advised that roughly a thousand words would be a good guideline for this article, but I can actually sum up our recent success in just two words: GET IN.
So, if you were around the city centre of our fine city on Monday night, you may have stumbled across someone outside a pub who didn’t know what to really do with himself. He didn’t know whether to keep on cheering and punching the air in sheer delight after Simeon Jackson’s goal and the resulting three points had confirmed the Canaries fate.
He didn’t know whether to laugh about the sheer craziness of the journey his beloved club had been taken on over the past two seasons. He didn’t know whether to shed tears of absolute joy, basking in the overwhelming sense of happiness amongst other emotions as his yellow and green blood was given a huge shot of victorious adrenaline. He didn’t know whether or not to find whoever the heck that person on the Playstation was and give him a big wet kiss and beg him not to turn it off just yet, just so we could pretend this was actually happening.
That person was me. But then that doesn’t really narrow it down. If you were anywhere near a drinking establishment in our city on that night, be you of yellow and green persuasion or not, you’ll have seen hundreds of us around.
It’s strange, almost surreal now to even think of it, but I was at the 7-1 defeat by Colchester United on the first day of our League One campaign. On that day, I vividly remember the pre-match warm-up. Then managed by Sir Paul Lambert himself, Colchester looked incredibly sharp as they were put through their paces in front of the Barclay end. They were passing the ball in intricate triangles, taking powerful and precise shots at the goal, the defenders were practising dealing with aerial threats, and so on.
We, by stark contrast, resorted to light jogging and the odd yoga-esque stretch here and there. No wonder we got absolutely tanked by our fellow East Anglians, the swines.
This lack of proper preparation hadn’t gone unnoticed by new chief executive David McNally either. Despite a victory in the League cup a couple of days later, Bryan Gunn was given his marching orders. In a bizarre, yet ultimately heavenly twist, McNally then brought in Paul Lambert, the same man who had tortured us mere days earlier. Little did he know it at the time, but it wouldn’t be long before he’d be laughing all the way to the Premiership piggy bank.
We’ve made some brilliant singings over the past couple of seasons. Grant Holt, ironically a Gunn recruit, will obviously get most of the plaudits. Deservedly so too, for he has been exceptional for us in terms of effort, commitment and goals in his time with us. But ultimately, I think Delia getting McNally on board is the best thing that has happened to the club in a long, long time. Without his guidance off the field, and his acquisition of Paul Lambert, we’d probably still be struggling to break out of the third tier (And I say that with the absolute greatest of respects to those who support League One clubs, for we met some truly brilliant, passionate fans in our time there and it was a pleasure to visit so many new grounds).
I’m as passionate a Canary as they come, but I’m also very quick to do a double take before gloating to our foes too much. The 7-1 was a damning glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the coin. As blinding as our derby wins over Ipswich Town were this season and will be talked about for decades, I know what it’s like to be on the flipside. Losing a derby is horrible, and I couldn’t imagine the apathy they must be feeling to lose them in such a fashion. Personally speaking, though I cherish beating them, I’d actually like to see Ipswich follow us into the Premiership and boost the profile of East Anglian football as a whole. Plus, who wouldn’t relish two more brilliant derby matches in the top division?
So, what now? Now that her lordship Delia actually has some money in the kitty again, how do we go about spending it? It’s the first time we’ve actually had money in seemingly so long, will we even know what to do with it?
One thing is for sure, Lambert hasn’t been wrong many times thus far in terms of player recruitment. The Premier League is obviously a different animal altogether than the Championship, but just as he adapted to a higher division last year I think he’s got the stones and the know how to keep us up next term. We’ll need to invest heavily and strategically in the playing squad, but then who doesn’t to stay ahead these days?
Speaking of Lambert, will we be able to retain his services? He’s been rumored with other jobs before, most infamously Burnley back in the winter. Luckily for us, he’s always been quick to shoot down any suggestions of a possible departure. But now he’s in the Premiership, there’s a good chance that some bigger names will come calling. Will the lure be too grand? And should he go, will McNally be able to find a suitable replacement to keep our good fortune going?
The only thing that has ever been certain about Norwich City…is that nothing’s for certain. Though I’ll go ahead and make some predictions for next season:
- When the fixture list comes out in June, we’ll have been pitted against one of the big four on the opening day.
- We’ll have a great pre-season, not losing many games and getting well prepared for the new season.
- We’ll lose, because we always seem to lose on opening day, and then many of us on the supporter’s forums will moan, groan and question whether we can actually stay up.
- We’ll then go on to do quite well, having a good initial run of form and everything will be hunky dory again.
- Then we’ll get a seemingly easy draw in the third round of the FA Cup, only to bow out at the first hurdle.
- We’ll stay up, Lambert will stick with us, Grant Holt will outscore Wayne Rooney and this time next year, we’ll all be down in the Riverside Wetherspoons toasting another successful season, I hope.
By Nick Sellers – Norwich City fan