Lambert welcomes mellow finish
Norwich boss Paul Lambert admits there is a sense of relief at Carrow Road as they prepare to host Aston Villa on the final weekend.
City are free from the "knife-edge" finish that will concern their rivals.
Few gave the Canaries much hope of staying clear of a season-long relegation scrap on their return to the Premier League.
However, Lambert's well-organised squad have surpassed expectations - with a memorable victory at Tottenham on Easter Monday all but securing their top-flight status and last weekend's thrilling 3-3 at Arsenal putting them in 13th place on 44 points.
That has ensured the visit of Villa, who still need a point to mathematically be certain of Premier League football again, can be enjoyed without any final-day nerves as matters at both ends of the table go to the wire elsewhere.
"I think it seems to be the closest (finish) I can remember if you look at what is at stake on the final weekend," Lambert said.
"They are going for it neck-and-neck in the title race and the relegation hasn't been decided or the Champions League places.
"It has gone right to the wire which means the fans who support those teams will be on a bit of a knife edge.
"I am just glad we are not part of it."
It certainly has been a one-way rollercoaster ride under Lambert since he took over in August 2009, guiding the club up from npower League One to the Premier League in successive seasons.
The former Celtic midfielder, though, feels the past nine months have topped it all.
"This has surpassed anything we have done in the three years I have been here, hands down," he said.
"It has been phenomenal what has happened here again. Nobody expected this to happen. Everybody thought we would go down.
"The players have been brilliant all season, to go and compete with some of the teams they have done."
It is sure to be a yellow-and-green celebration at Carrow Road on Sunday, but Lambert has called for his players to produce the required performance, having lost their past two home games against Manchester City and Liverpool.
"Too many come to watch us (not to perform)," said Lambert.
"We know there will be a brilliant atmosphere and they will come in their thousands.
"In the three years I have been here they have been brilliant and it is a big part of the club.
"They have a good rapport with the players. If you lose your fan base then I think you are dead."
Despite the relative successes this season, Lambert knows he will have to "box clever" in the transfer market over the summer to try to keep the Canaries up again in 2013.
Norwich have been linked with a move for Caen defender Thomas Heurtaux.
"You have to bring in lads to help the ones who are here, which is normal because the club needs to keep moving forwards," said Lambert.
"There will be one or two who will move, but not ones whom I think are valuable to the club.
"I know what budget I have to work with, and it is what it is, so we will have to box clever with what we are going to do."