Lambert Knows What to Expect From Norwich Fans
Thursday, 7th Feb 2019 17:57
Boss Paul Lambert says he knows what reception he’ll get from Norwich supporters when he returns to Carrow Road with the Blues on Sunday having been given a hard time on his previous visits with other clubs.
Quizzed on what sort of welcome he anticipates from Canaries supporters on Sunday, he joked: “Brilliant! It doesn’t faze me, it doesn’t bother me. The Norwich fans have always given me a hard time when I’ve gone back.
“Listen, half the city of Glasgow doesn’t like me and I managed that for eight or nine years. I know what’s coming so it doesn’t bother me.”
Asked if he feels it’s sad he gets such a negative reaction, given the success - back-to-back promotions including the League One title - in his three years at Carrow Road, he said: “It’s always been that way, so I don’t expect anything more.”
Reflecting further, he added: “The reception from the Ipswich fans is more important.”
Much of the focus ahead of the derby has inevitably been on Lambert but when questioned on his Norwich past, the Scot was keen not to get too drawn into the subject.
“Number one, I don’t want to answer questions about Norwich, I’m not there any more,” he said. “As Ipswich manager, I’m going there to win.
“You take all the stuff which comes with it, it’s no problem for me. But I go there and try and win and the team will go there to try and win.
“And they’ll be fired up and they’ll do all the stuff that we ask them to do. Whether it’s going to be good enough, I don’t know but we have to try and see.
“But I’m looking forward to going back as manager here. My job is here, my duty is here and I’ll go and try and win.”
He dismissed suggestions it will be harder going back with the Blues than with Aston Villa, for example.
“Not really, I don’t think so. It’s 90 minutes. And that’s why I brought Gilly [first-team coach Matt Gill, who was Norwich’s U21s coach before coming to Town], Gilly can take the stick.
“I’ve been involved in the game of football for a long time. I know the passion of the games and as I’ve said before, I used to play the game myself, you know. And I played in some helluva big derbies, that’s why I can handle it.”
Among those derbies was the small matter of Old Firm clashes during his eight years as a Celtic player.
“Loved them, absolutely loved them, thrived on it, thrived on the pressure of it. It’s ferocious but I thrived on the pressure of it,” he recalled.
“You tend to find that separates a lot of people from a lot of things. You step up to it, you meet it head on and you go for it.”
Given his history with Norwich, has he been surprised by how quickly Town fans have taken to him since he took over at Portman Road? “Yes, possibly, yes. You’re never quite sure, you know? As I said before, I watched the Middlesbrough game and it was really flat and I thought there was only one way the place could really go.
“The support has been unbelievable. For me it’s the first time I’ve encountered a team being bottom, not won many games and the support never turning its back on it.
“Normally you don’t get that, normally you get everybody not coming and protests and mayhem but since we’ve been here we’ve always felt really comfortable and part of everything.
“Whether we’ve generated that support [I don’t know]. I can understand what they’re going through at the minute, it’s horrible for them, so we can relate to that. But it’s an absolutely brilliant support and that’s what frustrates me because in my opinion the club doesn’t deserve where it is.”
He added: “The supporters have been brilliant with me, they really have. Not just me, but the players, they’ve been brilliant with the players, they’ve been great.
“They’ve given me everything the supporters and we have to try and win for them as well. They’ve come in their thousands to watch us and I think they’ve been a credit to the club the way they’ve supported it even though we’re bottom of the table.
“It’s not a normal situation that support when you’re at the bottom. They have been absolutely brilliant and we will try everything we can to win.”
Given his past association with Norwich, was there ever a moment of trepidation before he committed to taking the job at Portman Road back in October? “That’s why I brought in Gilly because I knew Gilly was going to take the flak before me because he only left Norwich about three minutes ago. He gets the stick!” he laughed.
“Was there any trepidation? When I spoke to Marcus, he was brilliant, he really was. I thought, ‘OK, let’s go, let’s see what happens’.
“There could have been that [trepidation] but as soon as I walked in the door, everybody made me feel welcome. Maybe football helped a little bit and people could see what happened in the past happened but we were trying everything we could to turn it around.
“What you do get from us is 100 per cent commitment, 100 per cent enthusiasm, 100 per cent fight, drive and I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I’m never in between, I’m full-on, I give it everything, I totally give it everything.”
As Matt Gill was at Norwich for the first few months of the season, has he been able to give any insights into Norwich?
“He knows the club better than I do, he was there longer than I was,” Lambert continued. “I was there at a time when the club was really low and things weren’t going well for the club, finances were nowhere near.
“We had a bit of success that stabilised everything. But the players were the ones that did it, nobody else, the players did it. They were the ones that galvanised it.”
Going back to his time at Norwich, could he have imagined ever going to Carrow Road as Ipswich’s manager? “I don’t know, I really don’t know. It would have been different if I’d gone back to Norwich and people had said, ‘How you doing, Paul’, things like that.
“Ever since I’ve gone back there’s never been anything [other than being given a hard time].
“I gave Norwich everything for three years. I was tired, absolutely tired, I needed a break. I gave them everything. Now, I’ll give Ipswich everything to win. Nobody can ever point the finger at me.”
Will there be any nerves in the minutes prior to kick-off? “Me? Nerves? No, I don’t get them. As I said before, I can’t explain how I feel, I know my emotion and my feeling about it. The only people who probably know deep down what I’m like are my staff, but I’ll be ready for it.”
Despite Norwich being top and Town being bottom of the Championship, Lambert expects a typical derby.
“I don’t think it’ll be any different from the ones previously,” he reflected. “A derby game, you could play on the moon and it would be brilliant.
“We’ll go there and there’s no fear, we’ll just do what we can to try and win the game. But any derby game, it doesn’t matter where you’re playing, it’s so vital for the supporters, absolutely vital. As I said before, I can’t predict the result but we’ll be ready for the game.”
Norwich fans will remember beating the Blues 5-1 and 4-1 under Lambert’s management, is he expecting there to be plenty of goals on Sunday? “How long ago was that? Eight years ago. I can’t remember eight minutes ago so I wouldn’t out too much significance into that. If there are goals, great, in our favour. If it’s 1-0 to us, great. It doesn’t matter to me.”
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