Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has hailed the impact of assistant Roy Keane on the club and insists the Manchester United legend is not always the serious man he is made out to be.
Arriving at the club this summer, the initial reaction to the hard-nosed Irishman’s appointment was one of scepticism, considering previous assistant Ian Culverhouse and head of football operations Gary Karsa were both sacked towards the end of last season due to reported allegations of bullying.
However, the former ITV pundit has so far received nothing but praise from the squad for his contribution to their successful start to the Premier League campaign, and Lambert has saluted the benefits he has brought.
‘The two of us are really strong characters,’ he told Sky Sports.
‘I knew he had a lot of football knowledge that was unfairly tarnished. His knowledge meant he was too good to be a TV pundit. To get him back in the game was great. I love working with him, we have a laugh.
‘Not everything is serious. I beat him at the crossbar challenge nearly every day. When I was thinking about people to bring in, I know it probably raised a few eyebrows, “How's that going to work?” Nobody sees the logic in it. I just knew in my gut it would work. Alright, there will be times when we don't win games but we'll never break anything.
‘He's been great around the place, with the staff and the lads. He likes a laugh as well. I don't think he's the big bad guy out there that. He's somebody I know I can rely on.
‘I never had any doubts. He was the first port of call when I knew I had to get somebody in.’
With Villa currently sitting second in the table, having taken 10 points from their opening four games, a win at home to Arsenal on Saturday will see the team go top, with leaders Chelsea not playing Manchester City until Sunday.
Keane himself had several infamous run-ins with the Gunners during his playing career, most notably with opposing captain Patrick Vieira, but Lambert believes that winning-mentality was what made him one of the game's all-time greats.
'The Arsenal tunnel was pretty small at that time wasn't it, there was no hiding place,' he added.
'If you look at his football career he is probably the best midfielder to come out of this country. There is no getting away from that. He was a winner and you make no apologies for being a winner.'