Aston Villa fans have admirably afforded Lambert with supportive patience this season. Most probably due in part to the exultation of being rid of ex blues boss Alex McLeish (a man seemingly hell bent on destroying football in the Midlands club by club,) and partly because they had secured the services of one of Britain’s most promising young managers.
With over half a season of Lambert’s tenure now gone by that early season optimism has turned to a colour closely resembling faecal matter. There is a sense that the tide at Villa Park may be turning and patience having finally past it’s sell by date. Angry boo’s filled the claret and blue half of the Birmingham air last Saturday, as Villa lost to relegation rivals Southampton 1-0. Many Villa fan circles have also been calling for the manager to be sacked, citing reasons such as, ‘buying a Championship side,’ poor tactics, or simply annoyance at his mumbling post match interviews.
Admittedly it would be easy to build a case for Lambert to be sacked. Some would say that his expenditure of £23m on 8 players in the summer was a waste, some could suggest that his treatment of Bent could have been handled better, some could even argue that a club of Aston Villa’s size and history has come to soon on Lambert’s managerial CV. But above all else the performance statistic’s speak for themselves.
Villa are eight points worse off than at this stage last season under McLeish, and are recently playing even uglier football. The 8-0 trampling by Chelsea was the heaviest and most embarrassing for decades. Villa possesses the worst goal difference in the Premiership by far and are the joint lowest scorers in the league along with QPR. That kind of reading alone is enough to make any self respecting Villa fan want to rub their eyes with battery acid.
There’s a well known, and slightly annoying, saying in football that goes, ‘the league table doesn’t lie.’ Ignoring the fact that it is physically incapable of speaking then that is true. It is also true that Lambert is clearly failing as Villa manger. But what is the alternative? Despite the calls of some sentimental Villa fan’s to bring back old favourites such as ‘Big Ron’ Atkinson or John Gregory, there are no stand out candidates that could be brought in, and even if so it is likely that they would have insufficient time to be effective in the January transfer window.
A new manager would still face the same problem; Villa’s low quality and inexperienced squad. Paul Lambert came to Villa with a vision, a plan that was put into immediate action with the influx of lower league ‘hungry’ youngsters. It was a delightful idea, and I for one still fully back the Scot’s ideology. The trouble is that it simply isn’t working. Too many young players have been thrown in together and the result is plain for all to see. Even to those with battery acid in their eyes. Villa are in serious trouble, and Lambert himself knows that now. His experiment hasn’t displayed results as quickly as he would have liked.
Lambert is no more of an idiot than the masses needlessly shouting that Villa are in strife. No matter how hard Lambert tried it would be impossible to ignore that fact. That is why he will no doubt have the sense to bring in a couple of experienced players and use a contingency plan to correct this blip in his grand scheme and keep Aston Villa in the Premiership. Ron Vlaar and Richard Dunne are already close to a return which will help his cause already.
To coin another promiscuous football saying, ‘you don’t become a bad manager over night.’ People must never forget the outstanding job that he did at Norwich City. Paul Lambert is still one of the brightest managers in English football. This has been an unsightly and smelly smudge in Lambert’s long term vision for Aston Villa Football Club. He will put it right and Villa will be safe, and so will their future.
image: © ell brown