Against Tottenham, all of the starting 11 for Norwich were born in and were eligible for England. Perhaps they could go to the Euros? On the surface of things this would reflect well on the club’s youth policy, except that only 1 of Norwich’s match day squad was actually trained at the club. This needs to change and hopefully it will.
The club have set out plans to invest more in youth development, this is on the back of a rule shift which allows the club to recruit from further afield in exchange for spending more on training and facilities, a lot more. It’s somewhat of a gamble, but go back to before the rules were introduced restricting where Norwich could recruit from and the youth system regularly produced players who broke into the first team, so I’m not all that worried.
It fits with what Paul Lambert is trying to do with the senior first team squad, which is create an atmosphere of hunger. An eagerness to improve and a desire to prove yourself at the top level, characteristics that he displayed as a player which are reflected by his teams. It’s obvious that Paul Lambert has a domestic player bias when it comes to signings. He knows who he likes working with and who he can get the best out of, although he has suggested he might start to look abroad in future his first port of call has always been the lower leagues close to home and the players he has brought in have blossomed under his tutelage.
All this is encouraging. Football club’s run like businesses and for a business to be successful it has to have a clear idea of where it wants to go. Norwich tick that box. It also needs to understand how it wants to get there, David McNally’s 7 year plan came to fruition quicker than anyone could have hoped. The club is healthy on and off the pitch and this bodes well.
If I was a promising young player (and I was once, a long time ago) and I had the choice of where to go and play my football there would be certain factors I’d want to consider. Sure you could go to a big club but the chances of breaking into the first team are slim, even if you do break into it, there is no guarantee that come the summer the manager won’t spend £30 million buying a player who plays in your position. Then you look at Norwich…
At Norwich young players get a chance to prove themselves. If you’re not involved you get loaned out, if you are involved, you are involved. That may sound silly but nobody can predict Lambert’s team selection and if I were a young player looking for a break, those surprises would always keep my hoping that the next game might be my game.
This to me is why Paul Lambert has done such an impressive job. Yes he’s improved the team which is obviously the function of any good manager, but he’s not done so at the expense of the club’s future, he’s actually done so AND improved the outlook of the club’s future. We’re not going to turn into Portsmouth a few years down the line because of what Lambert has done here and he has instigated the changes.
There are always comparisons drawn between Lambert and Brendan Rodgers and I for one am happy that for the most part Rogers has got more credit from the national media. Everyone in Norwich knows Lambert is a better manager but let’s try and keep it a secret shall we? Rogers built on an already good team, took the seeds sewn by Roberto Martinez and harvested the yield at just the right time. Lambert planted his seeds then used his own brand of miracle grow to bounce them up two divisions in next to no time.
All of which means that if you’re a football club chairman and you want someone to revitalise your club there is simply nobody I can think of who would do a better job at turning around a club’s fortunes than Paul Lambert. If you have a problem, if no one else can help and if you can persuaded him to leave Norwich City, maybe you can hire…
Of course all this is yet again dependant on Lambert. He is very much the linchpin to all of this, but we knew that already. However, if he can establish Norwich City in the Premier League for the next two seasons, if he can build up a productive youth system, bringing players through and demonstrating how you can make a name for yourself at Norwich City, if he in conjunction with McNally and the back-room team can keep the club moving forward, dare I say it that there might be a time when we could cope with losing him to a bigger club. I’m sure that day will come, but hopefully, it won’t be too soon, because I don’t think there is another Paul Lambert out there.