Norwich manager Paul Lambert provides his side an edge that should not be undervalued
Norwich City are one of the three newly promoted sides who will be competing in the English Premier League this season, but the reality is that they've got the best chance of staying up of the trio.
Does that mean that QPR and Swansea City are doomed for a quick return to the second tier of English football?
Not exactly—and in fact, more than one of the trio could stay up—but the return of Norwich to the Premier League deserves more positive attention than it has been getting.
And more importantly, Paul Lambert's arrival on the Premier League stage should have more pundits taking the side seriously.
Much was written last season about the Scotsman Lambert, who led the Canaries to two promotions in as many years. He joined Norwich from Colchester after his side demolished his future employers 7-1 at the start of the 2009-2010 League 1 Season.
And this afternoon, Lambert will walk out of the tunnel as the manager of a Premier League side for the first time in his career.
"Unproven in the Premier League" may be the charge levied by some supporters of other clubs in England's top flight, but I'm predicting that underestimating Lambert's skill, ability, and consistency is going to surprise more than a few sides this season.
Consistency categorized a major part of the success of Norwich's Championship run last year, as the Canaries made the most of the winter period before slowly rising and gaining automatic promotion in May.
Not an easy feat in a league hailed for it's unpredictability.
In the period where many teams who had enjoyed good starts failed to maintain that momentum, Lambert ensured his side remained focused and made the most of the stumbling of their competitors.
And in the first half of the season when consistency proved to be a bit harder to find, Lambert demonstrated another fantastically important trait of a Premier League-quality manager:
From the start of the Championship season in September until the beginning of the new year, Norwich lost five matches. On four of those occasions, they bounced back immediately with wins in their following fixture. On the fifth occasion, they still managed a draw in their next match.
And then, of course, is the squad Lambert has assembled at Carrow Road—a number of whom were competing in League 1 only two season ago.
That fact, however, should keep many Premier League sides cautious. This is a team of individuals who have consistently risen to the occasion despite their "status." As the quality of the game has risen, so too have their contributions.
This is a breathe of fresh air for the Premier League, and those who enjoyed Blackpool's brand of football last season should be delighted to find the Canaries back amongst England's elite.
While Norwich City certainly don't have the best side in the league on paper—and many will convincingly argue that they don't even have the best squad of the promoted sides as they line up to face Wigan Athletic this afternoon—Lambert has done well with the resources available to him and is better than many of his fellow Premier League managers.
And while there will be some who will tautly remind the audience of Blackpool's relegation fate last season, it doesn't change the reality. Paul Lambert provides Norwich an edge that should not be underestimated, and the likes of Wigan's Roberto Martinez may find themselves quickly overshadowed.