Rivals are playing into City's hands

Neil AdamsA few of the teams in this division seem to be making the grave mistake of writing City boss Paul Lambert's team talks for him this season. First we had Swindon's Danny Wilson making a snidey pop at the Canaries' capabilities and general prospects this term.Neil Adams

A few of the teams in this division seem to be making the grave mistake of writing City boss Paul Lambert's team talks for him this season.

First we had Swindon's Danny Wilson making a snidey pop at the Canaries' capabilities and general prospects this term.

Then a few weeks ago the Colchester chairman started to stoke things up ahead of the crucial clash between the two teams a week tomorrow.

And last week, in addition to the Walsall chairman having made his accusing remarks about the late postponement, we then had Saddlers striker Troy Deeney adding the almost slanderous accusation that City basically bottled it at the Banks's Stadium 11 days ago.

'We were ready to go out there,' he said matter-of-factly on the Walsall website. 'But for whatever reason they (Norwich) travelled all that way and didn't fancy it.'

Oh, is that so Troy? We'll see on Tuesday night, shall we? Providing the Walsall ground staff can adequately set fire to the pitch to make it playable this time, that is.

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But the thing that has always puzzled me is why do they do it?

What's the point in opening your mouth when you know it will only fire the opposition up even more to try to beat you?

I've been in many dressing rooms when our manager has walked in and pinned the disparaging comments of his opposite number or one of the opposition players on the wall and simply said: 'Read that, men. That's what they think of you.'

People may think it's a bit of a myth, managers actually pinning quotes on the dressing room wall. But it's true.

And, of course, it has worked wonders in galvanising the team enough to go out and stuff their words back down their throats.

The old Liverpool philosophy that originated from Bill Shankly in the late 1960s and continued for something like the next three decades was the best way to speak publicly about upcoming opponents.

Shankly would always say beforehand how well organised his opponents were, how tough they would be and how well they could play if you let them, in a blatant attempt to lull them into a false sense of security.

And then his Liverpool side would promptly go out and play them off the park!

Sometimes it's best to think on before blabbing about this, that and the other, and actually let your football do the talking.

Because so far, the only thing the trash talk has done is provide the Canaries with all the motivation they need.


Everyone knows that patience isn't something that club managers are often afforded these days.

With a few exceptions, gone are the days when managers are given plenty of time to get it right.

I remember once talking to a senior member of the Oldham Athletic board over a couple of beers on an end-of-season holiday, and he was quite happy to tell me of the policy the club adhered to when hiring managers.

'We usually give our manager a two-year contract at the very least,' he said. 'And also the promise of every single day of that contract to do the job.'

Joe Royle was the manager who had been fortunate to be hired by such an accommodating board at the time, and I think the job he did at Oldham by steering us into the Premier League by way of the former Division Two title and cup final appearance more than justified the faith and time they invested in him.

It's nothing like that now, though. Managers, it seems, have to achieve success right here, right now or else face a very tenuous future.

Within the last couple of weeks, Gary Megson was given the boot at Bolton even though he had kept them in the top flight for the last two years; Mark Hughes was shown the door at Manchester City despite the fact that his team were pushing hard for a place in the Champions League; and Alan Irvine was informed that his services were no longer required at Preston despite keeping them in the Championship two years ago and then steering them to the play-offs last season.

Megson faced an uphill battle from the start at the Reebok Stadium, seeing as many Bolton fans openly voiced their dissatisfaction at his appointment from the start. He didn't really have a chance, in my opinion.

Likewise with Hughes, who, once the club had welcomed its new owners at Eastland, seemed to be working on borrowed time.

And even the Preston fans were surprised at Irvine's departure.

But I was staggered to learn that after their 1-0 home defeat against Birmingham last week, some Stoke City supporters staged a demonstration outside the main entrance at the Britannia Stadium calling for Tony Pulis to be sacked.

Were they mad?

Granted, until they beat Fulham in midweek, Stoke had struggled to get results in the Premiership in recent weeks. But in Pulis we're talking about the man who has primarily been responsible for returning the Potters to the top flight after an absence of almost a quarter of a century, for heaven's sake, and who last season established Stoke as a solid Premiership side when every man and his dog expected them to be relegated back to the Championship without winning a game.

They even started the current campaign quite well.

I'm sure the Stoke board would have treated the call for Pulis' head with the disdain it deserved, and that they will avoid panicking or being twitchy with their trigger finger for the foreseeable future. Otherwise, the game really will have gone bananas.


In addition to another superb victory last Saturday and the fact that City have now won 12 of their last 15 league games, as well as keeping five clean sheets in their last six matches, the Canaries also dealt Charlton a huge psychological blow courtesy of their victory at Wycombe by edging them out of the top two places.

Of course City are now in a position where they are under pressure themselves to try maintain their position in the table.

But as captain Grant Holt correctly said this week, provided City continue to play the way they have done so far this season and focus only on their own results, the league table will take care of itself.

But having occupied that second automatic promotion spot and enjoyed a relatively healthy points lead over Norwich for what seemed like an eternity, it will be interesting to see how the Addicks will now cope with the different kind of pressure of having to play



It has been a very positive transfer window for City so far with the permanent signings of Russell Martin and Anthony McNamee, both of whom have increased the competition for places in the team and improved the quality and depth of the squad at the manager's disposal.

They always say that the best indicator of a squad's true strength can be found by looking at the calibre of players that are sitting on the substitutes bench on a matchday.

After all, no-one needs reminding that in recent seasons there have been occasions where the Norwich manager has struggled to name a complete squad.

But providing that everyone stays fit and free from suspension, the Canaries' dugout is now likely to comprise players that the vast majority of other teams in this division would be only too delighted to have in their starting line-ups.