Villa’s Chief Executive Keith Wyness has just announced that prior to Villa appointing Steve Bruce as our new manager last October, the Villa board had drawn up a list of ten possible candidates to succeed Roberto Di Matteo, and apparently former manager Paul Lambert was close to the top of that list.
Don’t click away! There is much more to this story than there first seems…
Firstly, it is common knowledge that Lambert successfully guided Norwich City out of the Championship in 2011 with a squad not dissimilar to our current roster- and then helped them to a mid-table finish in his first season in the Premier League. And secondly, Dr Xia has a very loose strap on his wallet. Paul Lambert is one of the best in the game at spotting talent – he identified Moussa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whilst he was Villa’s manager from 2012-15, but Randy Lerner refused to buy them because they were unknown quantities.
Now, it is widely perceived amongst the Villa faithful that Paul Lambert had a very unsuccessful spell at Villa. However, I want to challenge that perception here… and this is why.
Let’s take a look at Lambert’s team that beat Liverpool back in 2012:
Guzan; Lowton, Clark, Baker, Lichaj; Westwood, Herd, Holman, Bannan; Weimann, Benteke
Just four of those players are still playing Premier League football – albeit at relegation threatened clubs. The rest of the team have absolutely no affiliation with the Premier League anymore – and yet Lambert managed to keep us up with them (twice!) with a team that would have struggled in the Championship. This prompted Villa-hating pundit Alan Shearer to declare that Paul Lambert deserved to be named Manager of the season… and I have to agree with him.
Lambert had to compete in the world’s toughest league with a squad that, quite simply, wasn’t good enough. He pulled off famous victories over Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and Liverpool, but these were ignored by former Chairman Randy Lerner, who refused to back him with any money to turn us into a Premier League outfit that were capable of challenging the Top 10 spots once more. Lambert’s task at Villa could be comparable to trying to drive a Rolls Royce from Birmingham to Scotland, with only enough fuel to get him to Lancashire… put simply, Lambert did not have the resources he needed at Villa. The worst part of this was when Lerner tried to cut corners in the summer of 2014; forcing Lambert to play members of the so called “bomb squad” along with soon-to-retire Joe Cole, Phillipe Senderos and Kieran Richardson. Lambert couldn’t play his fast, counter-attacking football with these players, and so he was forced to adopt a more patient approach, which, unsurprisingly, resulted in a lack of goals. Ironically, the Villa faithful thought that things couldn’t get any worse than that… but those fans were in for a rude awakening when we were relegated the next season.
Lambert would be perfect for the Villa job today. This squad would be able to play the attacking football that our former gaffer was so desperate to be able to play under Lerner, and the Scot could be certain of the financial backing of the board too, which would certainly make a change from his first stint in charge. It might not be popular with some of the fanbase but, after Lambert left, we saw just how good a job he had actually done – succeeding where his four successors have so far failed. Bruce has failed to move with the times… why take a risk on something this important, when we know that there is a perfectly capable replacement waiting in the wings?