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Outcasts may still have a part to play

PUBLISHED: 13:14 14 September 2009 | UPDATED: 12:06 06 July 2010

Paul Lambert insists his "outcasts" still have a role to play at Norwich City - if they can help maintain the balance of his side. The Canaries boss watched from the directors' box as Wes Hoolahan ran the show in midweek when the second stringers thrashed Southend 5-0 in the opening reserve league game of the campaign.

Paul Lambert insists his "outcasts" still have a role to play at Norwich City - if they can help maintain the balance of his side.

The Canaries boss watched from the directors' box as Wes Hoolahan ran the show in midweek when the second stringers thrashed Southend 5-0 in the opening reserve league game of the campaign. But it doesn't mean to say the little midfielder - or any of his team-mates - can expect to be rushed back into action any time soon.

"There is a massive gulf between reserve football and first team football," said Lambert. "There are loads of scenarios - you don't have a crowd really behind you with the pressure like first team games; reserve team games you can play with a little bit of a freedom which is fine.

"If you are doing well and I think you are justified to go in then I'll put you in. I don't have a problem with lads playing well and having a fear factor - just go and do the best you can and give me the problem."

The transfer speculation surrounding Hoolahan and Doherty and their previous occupancy of their respective left midfield and central defensive roles puts the focus on them in particular, but the likes of Goran Maric, Simon Whaley and goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos all have good reason to want to impress Lambert.

All were recruited as first team material, all are now sidelined by the new manager and all look to miss out again tonight when City travel to MK Dons.

"It's okay having really good players, but the balance of the team has got to be right. If you have good players, and many of them, people think it must be an easy job, but you have to fit them into the balance of the side.

"You've got to build a team and that's what we are trying to do and the results so far have proved that the current group of lads justify being back in.

"The nucleus of the team will be similar. The lads have done great so far. We had to change something when we first came in because the club was getting beaten quite heavily and it was on a rocky road and we changed it and thought, 'let's see how these lads do', and went and got a result and it just kind of snowballed from there.

"So the lads in there at the minute are justified to be round about it again. There might be one or two things that might change, but the nucleus of the squad will be the same."

The one person who maybe didn't benefit from the reserves outing was Darel Russell, if only because he picked up a calf injury which makes him a doubt for consideration tonight.

One certain starter is on-loan goalkeeper Fraser Forster, for whom Lambert is predicting a bright future.

Forster was virtually redundant on his debut at Hartlepool bar one late reaction save and was only really called into action in the 0-0 draw at home to Walsall when he palmed away Darren Byfield's low cross in the second half.

"The one he pushed out when it came out across the face of the goal, he had a strong arm at it and thankfully he's as big as what he is because I'm pretty sure the lad might have knocked it in," said Lambert. "His instinctive save at Hartlepool was terrific. I certainly hope he's not going to be as busy as that, but two clean sheets and the presence he has got has been great for us.

"I have spoken to numerous people about him and I saw him playing a few times. He's only 21 so I think he has a terrific future in the game. A lot will depend on him - if his career keeps on blossoming and keeps on going up it will be a big test for him that's for sure to go to that level (Premier League) but he has the capabilities to do it."

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