Lambert leaves Hoolahan to make a late fitness call
PUBLISHED: 12:22 12 April 2011
Focus Images 2011
Key player Wes Hoolahan will make the decision on his own fitness for Norwich City's crucial Championship match at Watford tonight.
The Canaries’ star forward missed the 3-0 defeat at Swansea with a hamstring injury he suffered in the 6-0 home win over Scunthorpe a week earlier.
Hoolahan trained on Sunday while the players on duty in South Wales had a day’s break, but manager Paul Lambert does not want to rush him back into action and cause more problems.
“There is a fine line between throwing him in and when you think he’s going to damage it more,” said Lambert. “I can’t do that to him. It’s not fair on him. I’ll wait, and the best judge will be Wes himself and that’s what I’ll go by.”
Full-back Marc Tierney hobbled away from the Liberty Stadium after City’s first defeat in 10 games, but is expected to be fit.
Skipper Grant Holt will be hoping to mark his 30th birthday by getting back on the goal trail after a rare blank afternoon at Swansea. But who partners him in attack is unclear. A fit Hoolahan would be one option, while Simeon Jackson stepped up his claims with a hat-trick against Scunthorpe and a lively second-half display at Swansea, or Lambert could retain loan signing Dani Pacheco in an advanced role supporting City’s top scorer.
Striker Chris Martin appears unlikely to return just yet, however, after more than eight weeks on the sidelines.
“He’s not played any games. He’s been out for two months now. That’s the problem,” said Lambert. “We’ve tried to arrange a game for him and if we can get that done we’ll give him a game.”
Lambert acknowledged that the defeat at Swansea, only the third in 26 league games, had hurt his players simply because it was an unfamiliar experience this season.
He said: “They’ve created that themselves, that feeling. When you’re not used to it, it hurts twice as much as it does if you get beaten on a regular basis because then you have an acceptance of getting beaten. This group don’t have an acceptance.
“But you’ve got to sit back and think, hang on a minute, it’s been an incredible season and you’re sitting second with six games to go. It’s been great, it really has.
“They know my feelings. One defeat in I don’t know how many games, and the form we’ve been in has been excellent. I was disappointed to lose but you can’t win every game you play.
“One thing is for sure – the heads won’t go down.”
Lambert said the attitude of players currently out of the side was just as important.
“I need everybody at this club. It doesn’t matter what level you want to go to, if you’re a big club and competition is rife, you have to do your utmost to get in the side,” he said. “Fear of losing your place has got to hang over your shoulders. If it doesn’t, you don’t perform. That’s normal. If you don’t have competition, or if you’re just going to pick favourites or people who are out of form and still playing, it’s wrong. The group have been brilliant, they really have.
“It’s not just the players, it’s everybody at the training ground. It’s never once been flat or down, everybody is going the same way.”
Watford, managed by ex-Canary Malky Mackay, could become the first team to double Norwich since his one-time Celtic team-mate took charge at Carrow Road.
“Malky’s a top lad, a funny lad,” said Lambert. “He’s a great lad to have around the dressing room – he’s done really great with Watford and I know he’s a big fan of people here.
“I was at Watford a few weeks ago watching them so I know what it’s like and the surroundings. But we have to win.”
Norfolk official Darren Cann, who ran the line in the World Cup final last year, is one of referee Anthony Taylor’s assistants at tonight’s game at Vicarage Road.