Anya is now a full Scotland international, and he has told the Watford Observer that Lambert is to thank for his rise to prominence, having released him as a player from Wycombe Wanderers.
The Watford star said: “Paul Lambert said it wasn’t really a thing about ability, he just thought I wasn’t mentally strong enough at that time and he said sometimes you need to take a step backwards to go two steps forward. It seems that maybe he was right because without being released from Wycombe then you never know what might have happened.”
Anya, 27, was released from Wycombe in 2007, having been the youngest player ever to play for the League Two club under Tony Adams, and he soon headed into non-league football.
However, his career was of little promise, and he signed for the Glenn Hoddle Academy in 2007 and remained there until 2010, when he headed to Northampton, and then on to Sevilla, Celta Vigo and Granada in La Liga.
It was with Granada where he earned his big break, having been loaned to sister-side Watford in 2012. He excelled in the Championship, and signed a long-term deal, and he is currently part of the side who are fighting to win promotion to the Premier League this season.
His form with Watford earned him a call-up to the senior Scotland squad, and he is now a fan favourite for both the Tartan Army and the Hornets fans, as well as a personal favourite of Scotland manager Gordon Strachan.
If Paul Lambert had never released him from Wycombe, Anya’s career may never have properly kick-started and reached its current level, and he could be in the Premier League next season - whilst Lambert will be watching on enviously having lost his job at Villa a few weeks ago.