Former Norwich City boss Paul Lambert seeks up to £2m in compensation
Former Norwich City boss Paul Lambert is taking the Canaries to tribunal for £2m in losses over alleged breach of contract.
Lambert, one of the most successful bosses in the club’s history, is already the subject of ongoing action by City over his departure to Premier League rivals Aston Villa in the summer.
And City chairman Alan Bowkett, speaking at last night’s supporters’ forum at Carrow Road, revealed to 130 fans in attendance Lambert was seeking compensation from the club he walked out on five months ago – news greeted by stunned silence.
“He walked out on us – Aston Villa said he was a free agent so they are not paying us compensation, which we take issue with,” said Bowkett.
“However, interestingly Paul Lambert is taking Norwich City to an industrial tribunal for unfair dismissal and breach of contract, and he wants £1.5m to £2m from us. So we look forward to those tribunals.”
It was Lambert who took City from the depths of English football’s third tier to the riches of the top flight in just two seasons of stunning success, before his third year at the helm saw him keep City there with Premier League survival.
But no sooner had the season ended, Lambert was denied permission by the Norwich board to speak to Aston Villa about their managerial vacancy – and he resigned as Norwich manager hours later. Within a few days he was unveiled at Villa Park.
The manner of Lambert’s City departure was similar to his arrival at Carrow Road from Colchester in August 2009 – a situation that saw the Essex club take Lambert and his backroom team of Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa to tribunal, with City forced to pay £425,000 in compensation and hit with a six-figure fine.
“I am bitterly disappointed with the way he went and very grateful for what he did here,” said Bowkett. “But I felt he could have left in a more dignified manner.
“He gave us five hours to give him permission to speak to Aston Villa, and when I got the call at about 2.30pm I was out of the country. So I travelled back… and then I got a call at about 6pm from his representative Athole Still – a wonderful man – who said Paul had resigned, which I couldn’t understand at all. It was very odd as I’d asked Paul to meet me when I got back.”
The Canaries chairman also took issue with Aston Villa over the messy situation now being played out between Lambert and his former club, who comprehensively beat the Birmingham side in his last competitive game in charge on the final weekend of the 2011-12 season.
“We are very disappointed with the behaviour of Aston Villa,” added Bowkett. “They settled on the steps of the tribunal for compensation with Birmingham City when they recruited Alex McLeish, and we will take this one all the way.
“I thought Paul would find it a challenge to do a fourth year here, and if you look at the results from February it was clearly becoming a struggle.
“But I was surprised he went to Aston Villa.”
Aston Villa declined to comment last night on Lambert’s own tribunal action. It is expected to be months before either tribunal is resolved.
Former chairman of the Independent Norwich City Supporters Club Robin Sainty added on Twitter: “As it’s open season I may as well reveal that he was about to get freedom of the city when he left… city council voted it through some time ago but were waiting for donations from the club and fan groups to pay for ceremony.”
In the end, news of the old City boss somewhat overshadowed his successor’s open and honest appearance as he fielded questions from City fans over the club’s difficult start to the season, which has yet to see the Canaries pick up a league victory.
Hughton admitted he had asked Tottenham whether they would sell full-back Kyle Naughton, who spent last season on loan at Carrow Road – only to be quoted a “huge” price beyond City’s means.
Meanwhile, chief executive David McNally promised all money raised from City’s League Cup tie with Tottenham Hotspur would be reinvested in the first team – after some fans reacted angrily to ticket prices of £30 for adults.
“We’ve had some feedback about the prices being too high, and that a number of fans are upset with that,” said McNally.
“We are a co-operative, so any money we make from this tie will go into Chris’ pot for January.”
He added: “Compared to prices you will pay for the Norwich versus Tottenham league game here, it’s a huge discount.
“Times are tough, and we understand that, but we don’t have a big benefactor at the club who at the end of the year can write out a big cheque.”
McNally said the club was also investigating the possibility of hosting future live music and comedy concerts at Carrow Road.
But in terms of on the football pitch, both McNally and Bowkett reiterated the club must remain in the Premier League next season – and therefore secure a £62m slice of the new television deal; £20m more than the existing arrangement.
Future stadium expansion plans remain on the backburner to help City achieve that.
“Our strategy is about doing all we can to help Chris Hughton, his backroom team and the great footballers we have, to stay in the Premier League,” added McNally.