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.

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week