The Delia effect is in full flow in East Anglia, but it’s not the chef’s cooking tips that have people talking. With 25,000 people flocking to see Norwich City sitting pretty at the top of the third tier, it’s clear that the football team is the winning brand right now.
It didn’t always look the case. An opening day defeat to Colchester United saw the Essex club put seven past the Canaries. Now, Paul Lambert’s side find themselves seven points clear of Leeds United at the top of League One.
It’s been quite the turnaround. After dispensing with the services of Bryan Gunn less than a week into the season, the Canaries turned to Lambert – the man responsible for that resounding 7-1 victory. Having forged an impressive reputation in the lower divisions with Wycombe Wanderers and then Colchester United, the Scot was seen as the man to change the club’s fortunes.
Lambert has done just that. The Canaries have gone from strength to strength during his tenure, winning an impressive 25 from 33 league games, which included a 5-0 thumping of Colchester in January. Relations are still strained between the two clubs, with U’s chief executive Robbie Cowling labelling the score between the two clubs “7-6 to the mighty Colchester,” but it appears that Lambert has made the right move.
Indeed, his stock has never been higher. A number of high quality signings gave many Norwich fans cause for optimism during the summer, though doubts persisted over Gunn’s ability to build and shape a team. Morale was low at the club, which had been on a downward trend since relegation from the top flight in 2005.
Under the stewardship of Lambert those doubts have subsided, and the club has been re-energized. Players such as Chris Martin and Wes Hoolahan have flourished under the new regime, with Grant Holt’s 21 goals proving crucial. The team have tightened up at the back since the Colchester debacle too – only a handful of teams have conceded less goals than the Canaries this season, and the club boast the best goal difference in the division.
Lambert remains calm, insisting that the playoffs were the only target when he took over. Norwich look set to go one better than that as things stand with an immediate return to the Championship. The title could be all but secured when City take on Leeds at Carrow Road on the 27th of March – a ten point gap would be too much for Simon Grayson’s side to make up at this stage of the season.
On that fateful day in August, it seemed Norwich had committed seven deadly sins. Now they find themselves in seventh heaven. Call it the Lambert effect, if you will.
More from Shaun on his excellent blog.