I picked a team to win the game, insists Norwich City boss Paul Lambert
PUBLISHED: 14:52 20 February 2012
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Manager Paul Lambert defended his team selection as Norwich City crashed out of the FA Cup with a 2-1 fifth round home defeat at the hands of Championship side Leicester City.
Lambert rested top scorer and skipper Grant Holt and on-loan defender Kyle Naughton, and left goalkeeper John Ruddy and midfielder Andrew Surman on the bench – four of the team that won 3-2 at Swansea a week earlier – insisting that Premier League survival is paramount with the visit of Manchester United next on the agenda.
But asked if those omissions had an influence on the Canaries’ exit from the competition, he argued: “No, not really because everybody else in my own view is good enough to play in the side.
“If I thought that, Naughton would have played, Ruddy would have played, Holt, Surman. I’ve still got a big enough squad.
“At the end of the day, you hold your hand up. We just probably never did enough to go through.
“I picked a team that I thought would win. That’s my fault. I pick the team.
“You can’t take anything away from Leicester.
“They deserved to go through on the day and good luck to them in the next round.”
Though City are 14 points clear of the bottom three in the Premier League with 13 games to go, Lambert stressed again that survival was his priority.
“We’re a country mile from being safe. You never get complacent or think you’re safe when it’s not mathematically done,” he said.
“I don’t think the FA Cup is a diminished competition. I’m pretty sure everybody wants to do well.
“But I’m pretty sure nobody would thank me to get to a semi-final of the FA Cup, get knocked out and then get relegated. I don’t think people will pat my back then. The main priority for me, always will be, will be staying in this league. This club has worked really hard to get in the position we’re in and you don’t want to give it up lightly.
“Every game you’re disappointed to lose – every one you play in.
“I just don’t think we did enough.
“I think you’ve got to be bang at your game every performance you play and if you go below it, you end up getting beaten.
“The crowd are disappointed, like everybody else, to lose. The players are disappointed, the staff are disappointed.
“But we also know the realism is we have to try to stay in the league.”
Lambert was pleased with the contribution of striker James Vaughan, making his first appearance since September as a substitute for the final half-hour.
He said: “I thought he looked lively when he came on.
“I thought he and Wilbraham did really fine when they came on. Vaughany being out for that length of time, being out there for 30 minutes, I’m pretty sure he will benefit from having that time on the field and I hope he’ll be a big player for us in the remaining 13 games.”
Lambert also revealed that midfielder Jonathan Howson, signed from Leeds in January, was set to start full training today, but is unlikely to feature in tomorrow’s Barclays Premier Reserve League game against Arsenal at Carrow Road (7pm).
The City boss hopes his defensive injury problems will ease before Sunday’s visit of the reigning champions.
“We’ve got a few lads to come back next week.
“We’ll see how they are during the week, but I hope I’ll have a big squad to pick from,” he said.