Norwich City at the time of writing this sit 9th in the Premier League. Paul Lambert has done an incredible job to get Norwich into this position, especially in regards to the players he has brought in along the way, the team work ethic and the never say die attitude he’s instilled in the team. But what about the players he has sold, where are they now and are any of them missed?
Part of any manager’s job is to rebuild the squad and when Lambert took over at Norwich City after his own Colchester team had won 7-1 at Carrow Road it was clear some serious rebuilding work was needed. The foundations might have been in place, but he needed to sort those who were able to push the club forward from those who weren’t. Quite simply who was up for the struggle ahead and had the ability to help the club tackle the challenges of his initial target, immediate promotion back to The Championship.
I find it interesting to look at the players who have departed Norwich City under Lambert’s tenure. There is an often muttered phrase among football fans, “I wish we’d never sold him” it’s a phrase you expect to hear with some regularity as for most managers it’s hard to get it right every time. You expect that in some cases the manager got it wrong, he misjudged a player and that player may come back to haunt him, hammering home the mistake with an “up yours” goal. This simply isn’t something Paul Lambert has had to suffer.
Here is the side from that now infamous 7-1 game:
04 Gill (Adeyemi 59)
16 Martin (McDonald 58)
Looking at that team, the immediate focus is drawn to Holt and Hoolahan who are still crucial to the side today. Take a look at the ever dependable Simon Lappin sitting on the bench in contrast with the one and only Michael Theoklitos starting in goal, perhaps the worst signing in the club’s history. Colchester boasted the likes of Marc Tierney and David Fox in their side and they absolutely hammered us. I’m sure if you’d told Lambert after that game where he would be now, he would have looked you as if you were telling him Elvis Presley was found to be alive two years in and a bit years into the future and was playing in midfield for Stockport County.
Upon taking over, Lambert’s first job would be to sort through the squad he had inherited from Brian Gunn. The name of Simon Whaley leaps from the page as a player I had totally forgotten had ever existed let alone worn a Norwich shirt and been part of what must be considered the lowest ebb of the club’s history, he was quickly despatched out on loan to Rochdale and never heard from again.
Owain Tudur Jones, Jon Otsemobor, Gary Doherty, Michael Nelson, Matt Gill all started the game but only Nelson would make it as far as to feature for Norwich after their promotion to The Championship the following season. However Nelson only lasted until deadline day in January when he was sold to Scunthorpe. But his story is a positive fairytale in comparison to Goran Marić who was on the bench for the 7-1 but never got as far as making a league appearance. He featured in the Carling Cup and started in the Johnson’s Paint Trophy but only made it as far as December before Lambert decided his time was up and terminated his contract.
Although it doesn’t seem particularly likely, Cody McDonald may yet prove to Lambert’s first real error in letting a player slip through the net. He accounted for Norwich’s 1 against Colchester but in his time at Norwich was never able to displace Holt or Martin for a regular starting place. He went on loan to Gillingham in League Two where it might be fair to say he found his level, after a hugely successful season netting 25 league goals. This prompted Coventry to make a move for him paying Norwich one of those incredibly irritating “undisclosed fee’s” that are becoming increasingly popular. Sadly his chances at Coventry have been hampered by injury, so he’ll have to wait for his chance to prove Lambert wrong as his Coventry slide towards the League One.
Other names have come and gone, the latest of which is Oli Johnson, but we’ve seen Stephen Hughes, Anthony McNamee, Jens Berthel Askou, Steven Smith, Luke Daley and every deluded Norwich fan’s great hope for the future Michael Spillane leave, neglected from Lambert’s plans. Jamie Cureton’s dream was ended by Lambert, he has no space in his team for sentimentality. Gary Doherty was released in the summer after coming third in the player of the season vote, in hindsight it seems like just the right time to have moved him on.
I have to say a player I miss is Darel Russell, the exact circumstances surrounding his departure aren’t clear but his decision to sign for Preston North End certainly didn’t work out and hopefully he can find a new lease of life at Charlton. Still, you’d be hard pressed to convince me that Russell would still be featuring for Norwich in the Premier League, although if Simon Lappin can get a game you never know. How players like David Marshall and Sammy Clingan must wonder about what might have been, had they not been so quick to jump ship upon relegation to League One, I’m minded of the saying sometimes you have to take a step backwards to take two steps forwards.
There are always two sides to every story, in Paul Lambert’s case it’s important to not only look at the players he’s brought into the club, but the players he has let go. I’ve never had such confidence in a Norwich Manager as I have in Lambert. Not just because of the results he’s produced, not only because of the players he’s signed, but because of his entire approach to managing the club. It’s meticulous planning and impeccable judgement that have helped take Norwich City to where they are today and long may it continue.