Firstly, a big thank you to Randy for quickly resolving a situation that was driving a wedge between the club and fans. Rapid and decisive action was needed and that’s what we got. The relief amongst the fan base is tangible and we all feel like a weight has been lifted from our shoulders.
Now down to business.
The Vital Villa members have taken part in the new manager poll in their droves and the results are in. At the time of writing there have been over 1,500 votes cast and in first place on the Vital Villa manager short list is…..*drum roll*……brace yourself for a huge surprise…
It’s Paul Lambert!
Paul Lambert had a very successful career as a player, starting his medal collection at the tender age of 17 after winning the Scottish Cup with St Mirren in 1987. He stayed there for 8 years before signing for Motherwell. A year later a bright young manager by the name of Alex McLeish took over the Motherwell job and they finished second in the table, their highest position since 1934, and qualified for the UEFA cup.
The UEFA cup run ended in the second round after the ‘Well were knocked out by Borussia Dortmund after pushing them all the way. Ottmar Hitzfeld saw something he liked in the defensive midfielder and signed him for the German club.
Lambert spent just over a year at Dortmund, but what a year it was. He was instrumental in Dortmund’s Champions League win in 1997, helping to see off Manchester United in the semi-final and Zidane’s Juventus in the final.
At that time Rangers had won 9 league titles in a row and Wim Jansen bought Lambert in for Celtic to help halt that run and launch a successful period for Celtic. He won 4 league titles, 2 of each domestic cup and a UEFA cup runner-up medal.
He also won 40 international caps and was inducted into the Scottish Hall Of Fame in 2009.
Paul qualified as a coach in 2005 and took his first managerial job at Livingstone in June of that year. It didn’t go well and he resigned the following February after winning just 5 out of 32 league games in that time.
He then enjoyed a more successful stint as Wycombe Wanderers manager between 2006 and 2008, leading them to the league cup semi-final, where they were eventually beaten by Chelsea. He quit after missing out on promotion in the League Two play-offs in 2008.
He joined Colchester in October 2008 and steered them to a mid-table position in League One. His career took a dramatic twist on the opening day of the following season when his Colchester team beat Norwich 7-1. This resulted in Bryan Gunn being sacked and Lambert taking over…and it couldn’t have gone much better. He led Norwich to the League One title in his first season and then to automatic promotion to the Premier League in the next season. The successive promotions have been followed with a comfortable 12th place finish with 47 points in his debut season in the Premier League.
That’s 9 points ahead of Villa!
A strong second place goes to Andre Villas Boas. This will be a very short summary of his career, as he never played professional football and was originally employed by Bobby Robson at Porto because he spoke fluent English, thanks to his Grandmother, who was from Stockport. He worked for most of his career as assistant coach to Jose Mourinho (apart from a year-long stint as international coach of the Birtish Virgin Islands when he was 21) before taking his first club management role at Académica de Coimbra in 2009.
When he took the job, Académica were at the bottom of the league and hadn’t won a single game, but he had an immediate impact, introducing stylish attacking football and leading them to an 11th place finish, 10 points clear of the relegation zone. The eye-catching football made AVB hot property and he was snapped up by Porto in June 2010.
He had one very successful year for Porto winning the Portuguese Super Cup, Portuguese Cup, Primera Liga and the UEFA Europa League, all at the age of 33!
He then quit in the very high profile and extremely costly move to Chelsea. He started well, winning the Premier League Asia Trophy in the off season, but the new style that he was trying to implement seemed to cause a split with some of the senior players and he was sacked in March 2012. The feeling is that he would be a great appointment for a club prepared to give him the time and authority to impose his style.
Roberto Martinez is in third place, as his stock is still high following a very impressive end to the season to save Wigan from the drop with ease. At the end of January Wigan were bottom of the table with just 15 points from 23 games. They looked relegation certainties, especially when you looked at the difficulty of their remaining fixtures. At that time they were 12 points behind Villa having played a game more (so potentially 13 if we could ‘win’ another draw!).
Then Martinez worked his magic and sent Wigan on a great run full of enterprising and attacking football. They beat Bolton, Liverpool, Stoke, Man Utd, Arsenal, Newcastle, Blackburn and Wolves – earning more wins in that run than Villa had all season. They ended the season above Villa by 5 clear points.
Going against Martinez is the fact that he turned the job down a year ago and the fact that the great final third of the season was desperately needed following the dismal first two thirds.
He has a lot of advocates, but there are a few reservations about him now.
The final manager standing out from the pack is Brendan Rodgers, another successful manager that didn’t have a playing career after he was forced to retire due to injury at the age of 20 while on the books at Reading. He then became youth team manager for Reading in 1995 where he worked until Jose Mourinho took him to Chelsea in 2004. After managing the Chelsea youth team he was promoted to reserve team boss in 2006.
He took his first managerial role in 2008 when he got the Watford job, and steered them to a 13th place finish in the Championship after a slow start. Then Steve Coppell resigned his post at Reading and Rodgers was made favourite for the job. There followed some controversy as Rodgers initially distanced himself from the job and made a commitment to Watford, only to later leave Watford for Reading for £500k in compensation.
It never worked out at Reading and he left barely 6 months later after winning 6 of 23 games.
Seven months later Rodgers was appointed manager of Swansea where he has instilled a style of confident possession football that has proved very successful. He won promotion to the Premier League in his first season at Swansea after beating (of all teams) Reading 4-2 in the final.
He has received great acclaim for the way his Swansea team have performed in their first season back in the top flight. They finished in 11th place with 47 points, pipping Lambert’s Norwich team on goal difference.
Rodgers popularity among Villa fans could be influenced by their commanding 2-0 win at Villa Park in January.
A stumbling block will be his contract at Swansea, which runs until July 2015.
The chasing pack are made up of Roberto Di Matteo, Gus Poyet, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, Slavan Bilic and Martin Laursen.
Di Matteo is splitting opinion after his sacking at West Brom he has steered Chelsea to the Champions League final after stepping up from his coaching role following the dismissal of AVB. His league record in that time is inferior to that of AVB this season and many fans feel that all he needed to do to improve Chelsea’s season was to unite the dressing room, bringing the senior players back on board. Of course, many fans also think that he has done brilliantly to get Chelsea to the Champions League final and that his league results have suffered as a result of their great efforts in Europe.
Gus Poyet had wide popularity during his playing career as most football fans warmed to his wit and forthright interviews. He started off his coaching career working as assistant to Dennis Wise at Swindon and Leeds before becoming part of Juande Ramos’ coaching team at Tottenham in October 2007. A year later he was looking for work again, as Spurs cleared out Ramos and his team.
Poyet was given the Brighton job in November 2009 and has been very successful. He steered the team to safety in his first season. In his first full season, he won the League One title after hitting the top after 8 games and staying there, winning the LMA League One Manager of the Year. Brighton finished the season in a very respectable 10th position in the Championship, but some see this as a failure after they started the season with 5 wins and a draw. It was enough to earn him won the Outstanding Managerial Achievement Award at the Football League Awards in March. Again, his contract could be an issue, as he signed a new and five-year deal to remain at the club until 2016.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær is a very well known name for his playing exploits for Manchester United, but has quietly been making a name for himself as a manager in Norwegian football. He is currently managing Molde FK and has impressed with a 60% winning record, good football and Molde’s first ever league title in 2011.
Slaven Bilic has accepted the Lokomotiv Moscow job and will start after the Euros, so enough said!
Which brings us to Martin Laursen. A Villa hero after 5 injury troubled years at Villa Park he was a big hit with the fans for his commanding displays and 100% commitment when he was fit. He was fit quite often, making 84 appearances before he was forced to retire in 2009. He is now in his first managerial role in the Danish Second Division East with BK Søllerød-Vedbæk. I have looked at his record there, with is fairly even with 6 wins, 6 losses and 4 draws (as far as I can tell), but I don’t know if he has improved the performances and results…because I don’t follow Danish Second Division East as closely as I should!
The huge popularity for Laursen is clearly from his playing days, but he would get huge support from the fans and Villa Park would be buzzing again!
Chris Hughton and Rafa Benitez are the only other managers in touching distance of the leading pack.
So, there you have the Vital Villa short-list. We’ve shown you ours, now show us yours Randy 😉
With thanks to Nimmo!
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