7 June ~ Paul Lambert left Carrow Road at the zenith of our three-season love-in. While most departing managers from Carrow Road get their bags packed for them and their petrol paid, this time we were still giddy in love. With a second season in the top flight confirmed many felt comfortable enough to take stock this summer and reflect on what has been an incredible three years, since the 7-1 League One monstering at the hands of Lambert’s Colchester in 2009. Then the world fell in.
Lambert, after some increasingly truculent denials that he wanted to leave, left. The signs were there at the end of the season when after beating Villa (his new club were again the last side he beat) his hard-to-decipher speech to the crowd signed off with the clear-as-a-bell “Good luck!”
Paul Lambert should go on to become a highly successful manager. In the end he outgrew Norwich and rightly sees Aston Villa as an opportunity for more upward motion. He is possibly less attracted by the trophy cabinet and 7,000 more fans each week than the prospect rebuilding a club that has been on the slide for years. Villa's wage bill – described by Lambert as “astronomical” – included £65,000 a week to Emile Heskey for a nine-goal return in three-and-a-half years.
On the whole, Lambert bought well at Norwich and his ability to inspire ran right through the entire squad. Lambert’s eye and tactical nous, coupled with Villa’s academy of promising home-grown talent, should see him more than capable of steadying a club which has shipped £110 million in three frankly depressing years at Villa Park.
With the Fair Play tax looming, Lambert’s progressive prudence should suit Villa well. But whether Lambert will count the pennies for as long as David Moyes has is another matter. Most who have interviewed the rather bristly Glaswegian feel that this is a man driven by a desire to get a team to the very top, just as he did with Borussia Dortmund when they won the Champions League. Are Villa that team?
Norwich fans not only accept tight housekeeping but positively celebrate it, with chief executive David McNally currently deified on Twitter as the Canaries’ most unlikely hero. Nicknamed "McNasty" by the fans, the former managing director at Fulham came out well after his hardball dealings with Lambert, and then the transfer-seeking Grant Holt. McNally is, after all, the man who aggressively winkled Lambert out of Colchester in the first place and has the fans’ favoured successor Chris Hughton heading in the opposite direction to Lambert. So, it’s in McNally we now trust. And hands off, Villa. Andrew Woods