Don't Lose Your Head
Does anyone remember the film Highlander?
It came out in 1986, featuring a man called Lambert as a Scottish warrior who, after battling for several years and then dying, discovered he was immortal.
I thought the link between the film and our soon-to-be new manager was quite fitting, really.
Paul Lambert will step into the vacant Aston Villa manager`s role as an immortal. Since the departure of another Scot just over 2 weeks ago, he has held a strong sway with fans in the hunt for a new boss and will no doubt be lifted onto the claret and blue pedestal with all our hopes and dreams on his shoulders. It is a burden that any manager will have to bear at any club but given that Lambert is the Highlander and he is immortal, he should be able to cope with it easily enough.
While Dave Whelan snottily covets his manager again, genuinely speaking from the heart but carelessly offending the B6 masses in the process, the kitchen witch was slightly more reluctant to let her manager speak to us. The Highlander forced the issue, being immortal and all, and now he takes his place at the helm of our club. A shame that another club has been upset in our pursuit of the next Ron Saunders, but this is football; we`ve shed enough tears over important losses from Villa Park. Time to move on.
I think we can expect something different from Paul Lambert. One thing we can expect for sure though is that he won`t have a bad word to say about his former boss, despite what the silent majority said about him. He will recognise that he had a tough job to do, praise him and his credentials but will also highlight how different he is as a manager to Mr. McLeish. He will tell the press how he bought into the idea of us being a sleeping giant with bags of potential and that the opportunity was too good to turn down. He will also say that he has been given money to spend. It will be interesting to see how he handled the prima donnas of the squad; hopefully by the scruff and the belt as he slings them out of Villa Park. Needless to say, this appointment has been much anticipated and we will all look forward to the press conference.
So what can we expect to see next season? Well, if last season is anything to go by, a slow start. Norwich picked up 13 points from their first 10 games, losing 3-1 at Chelsea, 2-0 at Manchester United and drawing 3-3 at home against Blackburn. Home form was also a struggle, with 4 league games the longest period Norwich were unbeaten at Carrow Road. They were also victims of a pasting by several teams, including losing 4-0 at home to MK Dons, 5-1 against Man City (fair enough), 3-0 against Sunderland at The Stadium of Light and 6-1 to Man City at Carrow Road (again, fair enough). However, we can expect to see the sorely-missed attacking style of play, and during the course of the season they managed to pick up some impressive results, with a 3-3 draw at the Emirates with Arsenal, a 2-1 victory over Tottenham at White Hart Lane, a 3-2 away win over Swansea and a 4-2 home win over Newcastle. We can also expect to see the strikers scoring goals; Steve Morison scored 9 and Grant Holt scored 17 last term for Norwich, and with any luck his transfer request is linked to the fact that Lambert is looking to bring him with him to Villa Park. Holt and Bent up front, anyone?
Now comes the dose of realism; as Villa fans, we will no doubt expect Lambert to instantly transform our team into an attacking force, playing the same style of football that Norwich did and reaping the same, if not better, results and storming to the top 6. It might not happen like that. It could take a while. Remember that Lambert had a few seasons with that squad to build and get those results and impart a style. It could take the same, maybe longer, for him to do the same with us. Another factor which concerns me is that he is walking out on Norwich (aside from his own ambitions, of course) reportedly due to the fact that Delia wouldn`t let him speak to us, but also that despite the success of their season, there wouldn`t be much money to reinvest. This is understandable as Norwich will have pocketed a fair amount for their endeavours this season, but at Villa we have had a history of yo-yo funding. Would he be similarly resenting towards Randy Lerner if deemed that he`d had enough funds over 4 years to build a Premier League team full of immortals? Could he be the next Martin O`Neill, looking to spend rather than invest sensibly? Will we be just another stepping stone club for someone who could become a Villa Park legend? Hopefully not. The reassurance on this is that he`s still a young manager new to the Premier League, at a big club with a chairman willing to back him to reasonable ends. He will be grateful of the opportunity to test his managerial mettle at such an esteemed club, and will make smart use of his resources. His experience of working on a limited budget will also stand him in great stead with the board, and even though he will most likely be given sufficient money to strengthen/rebuild the squad, his appreciation of a bargain will endear him to Mr. Lerner.
All in all, we are getting a manager who was extremely successful as a player. He won the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund and has won all major Scottish honours in the SPL with Celtic. He took Norwich from League One, gave them back-to-back promotions and took them to a higher finish than our own in his first season. Let`s give him some time, as long as he needs, and I`m sure our sleeping giant will awaken once again to wipe out the reds and blues holding the alarm clocks in its face. Let`s realise that patience is a virtue and remember that Rome wasn`t built in a day, or a season. Only 3 clubs in the Premier League can claim to have had one manager in the last 10 years. It would be nice to see that Paul Lambert is still our manager in 2022.
After all, there can be only one....