Lambert urges Norwich to 'improve tenfold'
Tuesday 10 May 2011
Paul Lambert will enjoy milking the moment when his Norwich squad are honoured with a civic reception today, but knows the club will have to go again "tenfold" next season when they look to stay in the Premier League.
Norwich had secured their return to the elite of English football as runners-up to Queen's Park Rangers ahead of the final round of Championship fixtures, meaning there was a carnival atmosphere in Saturday's match against Coventry at Carrow Road, which ended in an entertaining 2-2 draw.
Lambert will take in the adulation of the supporters again this evening when the squad attend a civic reception at City Hall before an open-top parade to celebrate what has been a remarkable 20 months under the guidance of the 41-year-old Scot.
However, Lambert – a Champions League winner with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 – is already turning his attentions towards the most testing spell of his managerial career.
"We have been probably spoilt with what's happened to us in successive seasons, because these things you don't see very often and when you do get something like that you have got to enjoy the moment," said Lambert, who took Norwich from the bottom of League One to the title and on to successive promotions.
"I am pretty sure this will all live long in the memory of people. They have seen their team go into the Premier League, the best league in the world, with the best players and best stadiums – and we have earned the right to go and play against them.
"We will enjoy the civic reception, which I think will be absolutely terrific for us, but once all that is finished, that is it, it has gone, you have to go again – but the difference is you are going to have to go tenfold for what you are going to come up against."
Lambert knows Norwich will need some significant investment in his squad this summer if they are to stand any chance of avoiding a swift return to the Football League as the side did under Nigel Worthington after just one season in 2004/2005.
At Sunday night's Player of the Year dinner, an award which was collected by captain and 23-goal striker Grant Holt, chairman Alan Bowkett declared all of the cash injection from promotion – with the Premier League's bottom club guaranteed at least £37m from bumper new overseas television deals – is set to go towards transfers and player wages.
However, with Norwich also saddled by some £20m of debt, majority shareholder Delia Smith and her fellow board members will not put the long-term future of the Norfolk club at risk.
Lambert will no doubt have plenty of transfer targets in mind, having already been linked with a loan move for Manchester United's 22-year-old Belgian centre-back Ritchie de Laet, who spent this season at Portsmouth, as well Newcastle goalkeeper Fraser Forster, on loan at Celtic.
Club captain Holt certainly believes with a bit of added quality, there is no reason why Norwich should not extend their stay in the top flight.
"You look at even Blackpool this year the way they went about it, no one would have ever expected them to be up there and it is still in their hands if they stay up or not," he said. "We have got a bunch of lads who want to work hard and want to win for each other, so I am sure that stands us in good stead."
Wolverhampton Wanderers captain Karl Henry believes it will be a bigger achievement for Wolves to ensure their Premier League survival this season than 12 months ago. Mick McCarthy's side defied the odds to stay up in their first campaign back in the top flight after a six year absence. But they were aided by Portsmouth's financial problems and Burnley's dramatic slump.
This time no team has been cut adrift with everyone still in contention to climb out of trouble with two games remaining. Henry said: "It will be a bigger achievement to stay up this year. The league is more difficult this season. Newcastle and West Brom are certainly stronger teams than Burnley and Portsmouth – no disrespect to them – and also Blackpool as well.
"It's a stronger league, no doubt about it so it's a way better achievement if we can do the job this year."
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