Date: 4th June 2012 at 9:15am
Written by:

Vital newbie Gerard Brand:

Why Aston Villa is not a step sideways for Paul Lambert and why time is imperative.

After our fine club gained its seventh manager in just over a decade, the staple musings of a stolen manager were there for all to see. Condemnation of lack of loyalty from Norwich fans and neutrals were apparent and expected, while personal favourite “he`s too good for a team like Villa” made me chuckle for a split second.

Put yourself in Paul Lambert`s shoes. A young, promising manager who has performed what can only be described as miracles at Carrow Road – a statement nobody could disagree with. The most important two words in that statement, however, are young and promising. This suggests that he is as yet unsuccessful to an extent that would allow him to be tagged a ‘proven` Premier League manager.

Another season at Norwich would not have helped that, and in my opinion, could only have made things worse. Expectation may not be over the hills and far away at the Canaries, but it would have been tough to ask Lambert to extend their fortunes in a way that showed improvement, other than cementing a place in the Premier League, a big ask at the best of times. With top scorer Grant Holt wanting out, and a lunch box treasure chest budget previously criticised by Lambert himself, a move to Aston Villa makes perfect sense.

Those who claim Villa are a team on a mudslide, a team that Paul Lambert should be avoiding – ‘the poisoned chalice` has been heard a few times – are forgetting something. A ‘poisoned chalice` in footballing terms suggests that a manager enters a team as a good manager but leaves as a bad one. Let`s take our last six managers as an example:

John Gregorycame from Wycombe, left as a Championship standard manager.

Graham Taylora bad appointment, and a manager clutching at straws at the tail end of his career. Left the same as he came – not good enough.

David O`Learyboth succeeded and failed in his three years, has been out of management since (seven games at Al-Ahli aside), but is still linked to jobs in the Championship on a regular occasion.

Martin O`Neillfour successful years, left with arguably more credibility than when he entered, with more modern day PL experience under his belt.

Gerard Houllieranother bad appointment, but could see a direction before poor health took it`s toll. Reputation (there wasn`t much in the first place) definitely not hampered.

Alex McLeisha catastrophic appointment, and his reputation as relegation-obsessed, negative minded manager was very much upheld. Left with the same qualities he entered with, which was none.

These examples dispel the laughable myth that Aston Villa are a club that destroys managers, while little is said about the poisoned lake at Stamford Bridge and Anfield. I expect nothing but an enhancement for Paul Lambert`s career at Villa Park, and for months I have convinced myself he will be a Manchester United manager in the next five years. I will not be surprised or disappointed to learn that our club is merely a stepping-stone in his promising career. He will be better equipped to achieve a greater profile at Villa Park than at Carrow Road, with (slightly) more funds, more pulling power and one of the best training facilities and academies in the country.

Some would undoubtedly be at their computer right about now screaming “what about the fickle fans?” Time is the most important thing needed for him to be a success. I`m confident he will be given it in abundance, even though our fan base has been accused of a fickle nature in recent years, something hard to disagree with. With a breath of fresh air comes a new outlook, and having already heard of tens of people renewing their season tickets upon the news of Lambert`s appointment, there will be a buzz around Villa Park again.

He cannot be judged until our starting XI is dominated with his players and his vision, which in itself is subjective. But for us, most importantly, we must see a direction this coming season, something we saw nothing of in McLeish, saw glimpses of with Houllier, and saw in abundance in 2006/2007, O`Neills first campaign.

Expectations? No higher than tenth place, no lower than seventeenth. Football is not all about results, and nor should it be this coming season (40 points aside). It`s about being entertained, and seeing a future that is worth going through the turnstiles for. It will NOT happen over night.

So with this, in time I`m convinced we will become a team that is liked again. Some of us may not care if we are admired by supporters of other clubs, but nobody can tell me they didn`t take pleasure out of being praised by all corners of the media and neutrals for our performances under O`Neill. Lambert should bring this. But in time, please. Don`t let the media have a field day, there is nothing worse than the criticism WE received as supporters last year, when we knew full well we had no choice.