Norwich welcome Wolves to FCR on Saturday. Richard Jeffery talks to Dave Azzopardi about away kits, Paul Lambert, fullbacks, Paul Lambert, Jez Moxey, Paul Lambert, wingers, Paul Lambert, Sheiks and Paul Lambert. OK it’s all about Paul Lambert, deal with it.
Rich: Hi Dave. We welcome you to Carrow Road on Saturday, which at the very least is a rare occasion when you’ll actually need to wear your away kit. And you’re coming back with our old manager and on the back of beating Villa 1-0. Paul Lambert led us on an incredible journey from League One to the Premier League and kept us up in the space of just three years. How has he done since he joined you?
Dave: He's steadied the ship a lot. Everything he's done here so far has been positive. It was always going to be difficult for whoever we brought in due to the state the club was left in after the takeover. Paul has come in and already selected a solid group of players who is willing to take forward this season and the results over the last few weeks is showing that it works.
Rich: Could be an interesting atmosphere. I’d say it’s now a majority of Norwich fans, or certainly a sizeable and vocal minority, who want our current manager to go, so the crowd will be almost looking for an excuse to turn I think. So if the much missed Saint Paul of Lambo turns us over, it could get pretty nasty pretty quickly. How will you set up against us, what’s your style under Sir Paul?
Dave: We have played a similar formation for the last few seasons. We play with a back 4, normally 2 holding midfielders, 2 rather attacking wingers and a number 10 in behind a striker. I don't think Lambert would change it for this game. Our fullbacks like to get forward if we need a goal or when we are comfortable and it seems to work. The work rate seems to have gone up a lot as we have seen full back Matt Doherty grabbing a number of goals/assists recently.
Rich: Ah, fullbacks. I remember those. We don't currently have an available left back, so you may get some joy down that flank. I've heard good things about Doherty. Other than him which player of yours should we be most worried about, which player of ours will you be most worried about and which player of yours will you be most worried about? Every team has one, we certainly have!
Dave: We have a fully fit right back but we use Coady there who is a central midfielder! He hasn't done too badly there but players you should look out for are our Portuguese wingers Ivan Cavaliero and Helder Costa. They were both fairly quiet against Villa but on their day they're the best wingers in the league. Now, I've not watched Norwich much this season but immediately Brady and Hoolahan jump out at me, how have they been for you? I'm pretty happy with our squad recently so there's no real player I'd be unhappy with Lambert with starting. If I had to pick out one player for you it would probably be Danny Batth. He's a product of our academy and our captain but this seasons he's been below par if I'm honest. Since the New Year he's improved but he lacks that bit of pace and composure to deal with the league's best forwards.
Rich: Well Brady has come under criticism from many for his heart not seeming to be in it this season. Wes should always play in my opinion, though that's not one shared by the manager, sadly. When he's on it, there's nobody I'd rather watch. A genius. In terms of who am I worried about from our team? The whole defence pretty much, especially the centre backs.
So, we’re both slumming it in mid-table this season, you were bought out by an overseas investor (Fosun International) in the summer, who I guess have big plans for you. What do they seem like so far on a scale of Vincent Tan to Sheik Mansour?
Dave: Thats a good scale! They've promised to spend around £30 million over two seasons and we have already spent about £15 million so I think this January will be quiet. We never really had big bucks under the ownership of Steve Morgan but your friend and mine Jez Moxey was probably the one restricting us from spending big on players. Fosun seem fairly clued up, they've got contacts, which we saw in the summer with super agent Jorge Mendes being involved in many of our transfers. Luckily, they've been clever enough to not just do everything themselves and kept the same director of football etc. at the club, who already know what they are doing. I feel the only mistake they made was the hiring/firing of Walter Zenga and Kenny Jackett.
Rich: Yes, Mr Moxey. We'll come onto him shortly. Well I hope for your sake they continue to be sensible, seems they're not going too big too soon. Zenga was an odd one though, albeit not as odd as Zola at Brum! Was Jackett as well thought of by the Wolves fans as Rowett was at Birmingham?
Dave: It is fairly similar but ours was really strange. Fosun kept insisting Jackett was the man to take us forward and they sacked him randomly the day before our final preseason game at about 11:30pm. People were getting used to the fact of losing Jackett as we had terms agreed with now Spain manager Julen Lopetegui (crazy right?). It was surprising but I think Kenny Jackett took us as far as he could, last season we saw way too many goalless draws and as a paying fan, I didn't enjoy that!
Rich: No, you want goals and entertainment, which again has me harking back to the Lambert days. Amazing stuff. *sobs* So as you said part of the shake up saw Jez Moxey leave you and we snapped him up as our new Chief Executive. What’s the view on him from your point of view, in particular how was he on transfers, finances and relations with the fans?
Dave: I don't think I know any Wolves fans that praised the guy. With people, he was useless. I know this first hand and I did a charity walk with Prostate Cancer UK last year and he was there. He interacted with no one for 8 hours. As a businessman, he's extremely good. How he got £10 million for Afobe for 6 half decent months in the Championship, I don't know. He also got £10 million+ for both Steven Fletcher and Matt Jarvis when we came down from the Premier League. It's a shame not much of it was invested back into the side. If you're a club who struggle with finances, Jez will steady your ship quite quickly but with everything else, not great.
Rich: Hmmm, that's interesting. I think we will be tight financially and indeed are having to sell before we can buy this window, so he may come into his own. But he's got some flack for his poor start with interacting with the supporters groups which has caused some disquiet. To be fair to him, I think he was settling into a perhaps tougher job than he thought, so had more pressing issues to deal with. But suffice to say, that and some other PR own goals have got him on the back foot.
So, finally, what are your hopes for the rest of the season? Where do you think you’ll finish, where do you think Norwich will finish? And a score prediction for Saturday please.
Dave: I just think we will hit towards a top half finish which after the shaky start we made, I'll take it. I feel Norwich will do the same. I know things haven't been all good for you guys this season but new manager or not, mid table/top half for Norwich too. I reckon it will be a 1-1 draw on Saturday!
Rich: Well, I agree that Lambo will get you upper mid, and maybe get you set for a promotion push next season. I can't share your optimism about us though at the moment. We beat you in the earlier fixture this season, on 1st October. That was our last away win and things looked OK then. I think it's written that Lambert will win, and this will see rancour in the stands towards our manager and the board, leading to our manager being sacked. 1-3 to you.
Rich was speaking to Dave Azzopardi who tweets at @daveazzopardiFM follow him for updates and links to his excellent youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/daveazzopardi for vlogs on Wolves and Football Manager.