Lambert and Rodgers revel in tale of unexpected

Young managers of Norwich and Swansea who meet today are giving the League a welcome surprise

There is more than one path to unexpected success. Brendan Rodgers and Paul Lambert have this season set about similar tasks in different ways and no Premier League managers, with the possible exception of Alan Pardew, can claim to have routed what was predicted in quite the same way.

Newly-promoted, Rodgers' futuristic and refined Swansea City and Lambert's brave and tireless Norwich City were expected to battle to stay up. Both clubs have been in the third tier recently enough to bear its mark. But this season they have excelled.

The teams meet today at the Liberty Stadium, separated by just two points in mid-table. Norwich are ninth, Swansea are 10th and the surface of the relegation zone is a good 10 points beneath them. But the managers owe their impressive records to different approaches.

Swansea's passing has thrilled those who are used to promoted sides playing dour percentage football, desperately hoping second balls and hustled throw-ins will keep them afloat. Playing 4-3-3, valuing possession more than almost any other side and trusting their techniques and their plans, Swansea have shown up a lack of ambition in better-resourced rivals.

Rodgers is proud of the recognition his team have won. "Look at the shift in mentality during our time in the league," he said this week. "In the first couple of months I was asked in every press conference and media interview, 'Can we play this style of football and be effective?' Now there is a sudden change and it's worth noting. Now in every press conference it is asked, 'Why doesn't everyone else play like Swansea?' It's been a pleasure to watch."

Of course, success is important. Attractive relegation football is still relegation football: ask Tony Mowbray, Ian Holloway or, possibly, Roberto Martinez.

"The game is about winning," said Rodgers' friend and rival, Lambert. "[Swansea] are getting lots of plaudits, rightly so, but if they were playing the way they have been playing and hadn't picked up one single point, I think [Rodgers] would be pretty sure to change his philosophy to pick up points as quickly as he can."

Lambert's approach is certainly different. While only Arsenal have had more possession than Swansea this year, only Stoke have had less than Norwich. That is not to say that Norwich are not exciting, but that their successes are built on Lambert's remarkable ability to motivate his players, and on his instinctive pragmatism. The winning of the game, rather than any theory, is Lambert's guide, and he is rather good at it.

"We have had to come from the lower reaches of League One," Lambert said. "The only thing that was keeping Norwich off the bottom was Southampton's deduction. That is the way the club was. We had to come up from the third tier and go again." To secure a team in the top flight after consecutive promotions would be quite something. "If Norwich stay in this league that will surpass anything," Lambert said. "It will beat winning League One, it will beat promotion."

Lambert is keen to buy hungry players. Last summer he signed Elliott Bennett and Anthony Pilkington from League One and Bradley Johnson and Steve Morison from the Championship. In a 2-0 win over Bolton last Saturday, Bennett, a winger, played most of the game at right-back and the right-back Kyle Naughton played in the middle.

"[Their style] has still been effective in terms of winning games," Rodgers said. "Paul won't care as long as they are winning games and that is the nuts and bolts of it."

Beyond the differing approaches is a genuine personal warmth, an acknowledgement of shared goals and obstacles and a shared intensity of focus. "I'm delighted for Norwich that they are also doing well," Rodgers said. "Paul is a good man and I enjoy his company."

The sentiment is repaid. "I have a lot of time for Brendan Rodgers, I really have," Lambert said. "I think he is a terrific guy, and the way he has done it. He is a really humble guy but he has had a lot of success."

He has, certainly, but no more than Lambert.

News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

Sport
Aaron Ramsey made his return after 14 weeks out in the 3-0 defeat to Everton
sport
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
football Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
news Sprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Charlotte Brontë, the English novelist, poet and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters who lived into adulthood, has been celebrated with a Google Doodle depicting her most famous novel, Jane Eyre.
arts + ents "Reader, they doodled her".

Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Oxegen in Ireland has been axed as promoters decide it is 'no longer viable'
arts + ents Promoters have axed the event as it is 'no longer viable in current form'
News
The troubled star is set to give fans the biggest insight into her life away from the headlines
people Star made the announcement during the final episode of the programme, entitled Lindsay
News
YouTube clocks up more than a billion users a month
mediaEuropean rival Dailymotion certainly thinks so
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents
Arts & Entertainment
‘Self-Portrait Worshipping Christ’ (c943-57) by St Dunstan
books How British artists perfected the art of the self-portrait
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players