Aston Villa defender Ciaran Clark has paid tribute to goalkeeper Brad Guzan on the club’s official website, while hailing the since-departed Paul Lambert’s decision to re-sign him in the summer of 2012.
Guzan, 30, arrived at Villa from MLS side Chivas USA in 2008 to serve as Brad Friedel’s backup, before seeing his compatriot depart for Tottenham Hotspur in June 2011 after Alex McLeish’s appointment.
His first-team opportunities would continue to be limited the following season due to the signing of Shay Given, however, with the US international only getting a run in the side after his fellow keeper was ruled out for a month with a torn hamstring.
Released at the end of the 2011-12 campaign, the Chicago-native’s Villa career looked to be over at that point, but the incoming Lambert soon moved to bring him back to the West Midlands on a fresh deal following his arrival from Norwich.
The then-new boss declared at the time: "I think it was important for ourselves, because I was new to the football club, I didn't really know the situation why he was going to leave in the first place.
"I had a chat with him and he was really good, really great and he seems a top lad, top pro. He will get a chance like everyone else."
Going on to seize the starting job from Given at the beginning of the 2012-13 season, Guzan has since established himself as one of the Premier League’s top shot-stoppers, and Clark believes his long-time teammate even possess world-class abilities.
“I trained with him quite a lot when I was younger in the reserves - I was coming through and the Guze was No.2 to Brad Friedel at the time,” the centre-back said.
“I remember being impressed with him then - but in match situations I will never forget the [2008-09 League Cup] shoot-out against Sunderland. He saved penalty after penalty - and even stopped one in normal time too. He was incredible that night.
“It was great when he re-signed for Villa as it looked like he was leaving.
“Now he's No.1 and he's been immense since he's been in the team. The amount of world-class saves he's made is incredible. You lose count. He's just a top, top keeper.
“He's loud on the field - and he's even louder off it too!”
The much-maligned Lambert made his fair share of major errors during his Villa tenure, both from the dugout and in the transfer market, but the Scot can at least declare that he stopped his former club from losing a first-rate keeper.