Take a look behind the pomp and Sky Sports-infused ceremony of Tim Sherwood’s recent appointment at Aston Villa and you’ll find a once-lauded young manager struggling to pick up the pieces of a crumbling career.
Appointed as manager of the Villains in 2012, Paul Lambert arrived at Villa Park riding high on the back of three extremely successful spells at Wycombe Wanderers, Colchester and Norwich City, respectively. With Wycombe, he managed the impressive feat of leading a fourth tier club to a League Cup Semi Final, eventually losing out to Chelsea.
Similar success followed at Colchester, in what turned out to be a brief stint at the club. He produced a team playing entertaining and exciting football. It was at Colchester that Lambert’s stock really started to rise and where he would go on to bow out in the most emphatic of style, defeating Norwich City 7-1. Somewhat ironically, he would go on to replace Brian Gunn as manager of the Canaries immediately following that victory. His success continued, gaining two successive promotions for Norwich in the following seasons, reaching the Premier League in the summer of 2011.
So, with success like that, how can a manager with the apparent potential of Paul Lambert have come to be in the position he’s in now? He, himself, is no stranger to what world-class management looks like, having played under some of football’s most notable gaffers. Ottmar Hitzfeld, Nevio Scala, Kenny Dalglish and Martin O’Neill, to name but a few.
Key to the issue, possibly, is the fact that in each of his previous successful posts, Lambert left ‘at the top’. He left Wycombe following a Playoff defeat, Colchester following a mammoth league victory, and Norwich safe and secure in the bosom of the Premier League. Before his appointment at Villa, Lambert had none of the stigma attached to most managers. No relegation. No prolonged and painful drop in form. No major fallouts with players, chairmen or fans.
But that all changed at Villa. Aside from a few notable victories, including a 4-0 defeat of Arsenal at the Emirates, Lambert did nothing really exciting during his tenure in the Midlands. His teams became known for their negative and stifling style of play, far removed from the teams he oversaw in more prosperous times as a manager. Perhaps most damning of all, the former Champions League winner came within mere minutes of earning Villa the unwelcome record of being the club to go longest without scoring a goal in Premier League history.
The reason for this turn in style of play and in fortunes is hard to understand. Player quality? A lack of funding from an increasingly miserly owner in Randy Lerner? Or, perhaps, Lambert simply stayed in the same place too long. He was at Villa for six months longer than any of his previous three posts.
What’s certain is that the manner of the sacking has done Lambert’s reputation considerable damage. Appointed a young, up and coming manager indulging in an exciting brand of football, he left with a reputation, in some quarters, as being a manager unable to set up a team to score goals. There are a number of additional events during his tenure that will, no doubt, have given the Lambert PR team a headache, not least the appointment of a high profile and controversial figure in Roy Keane as assistant manager. A strong and opinionated character in the sphere of the Premier League, Keane’s profile somewhat overshadowed that of Lambert’s – something that should never happen between an assistant and the main man. There’s no doubt, either, that some were led to further question Lambert’s ability to manage Keane himself, with the former Republic of Ireland and Manchester United star seemingly being more interested in promoting his second autobiography than contributing to team affairs during his time at Villa.
Lambert, however, is not alone in suffering a sacking that left his reputation in tatters. While there are numerous managers who seem to ride the merry-go-round of sackings and appointments without much damage to their character (step forward, Bruce and Hughes), there are cases where some have been forced to piece together what’s left of their careers after unceremonious dismissals. We don’t need to look too far back to see it. David Moyes, the ‘Chosen One’ who replaced compatriot Sir Alex Ferguson as manager of Manchester United, suffered the indignity of sacking-by-media after leading the Red Devils most of the way to their worst finish of the Premier League era. Steve McLaren, another exciting prospect who landed a high profile post, was sacked as manager of England after his most notable contributions during his two year tenure were to effectively end David Beckham’s international career and then fail to qualify for Euro 2008. Such failings led the media to dub him ‘the wally with the brolly’, in reference to his frequent use of an umbrella to shield himself from the rain during England matches.
So, it seems that, as in the cases of Moyes and McLaren, Lambert may have a long way to go to repair some of the damage inflicted. But how? He could follow in the footsteps of these two particular managers and look to go abroad to rebuild his reputation. While Moyes is currently in the process of attempting this, after recently taking the helm at La Liga outfit Real Sociedad, the move proved a fruitful one for McLaren as he led FC Twente to the first Eredivisie title in their history in 2010. Alex McLeish, once touted as the next big thing in British management after a successful spell at Glasgow Rangers, is also following this format. After poor showings as manager of Villa and Nottingham Forest, he left these shores to regroup and rebuild and is currently managing Genk in the Belgian Pro League.
This does seem a viable option for Lambert. He has experience in Europe as a player, being a vital part of the Champions League winning Borussia Dortmund side of 1997. He even completed a significant portion of his coaching badges in Germany. Perhaps, though, he could look to his successor for a key lesson in how to remain wanted in the managerial game. Tim Sherwood, an apparent expert at delivering soundbites to the media and quotes that write their own headlines, has proved himself to be quite the spin doctor when dealing with journalists. Indeed, he managed to turn an unremarkable six month stint in charge of Tottenham Hotspur into the basis for which he (allegedly) turned down a number of jobs at Premier League clubs before his appointment to replace Lambert.
There’s no doubt that Paul Lambert’s managerial ability has shown better promise that it does currently. Whatever his next move is, his reputation in the European game, be it as a player or a manager, remains of high enough stock that opportunities will definitely come his way. Maybe he just needs Tim to re-write his CV for him.
£20 million target two years ago, Aston Villa should consider Abel Hernandez again
The Uruguayan is out of contract at Hull City this summer.
In the summer of 2016, Aston Villa were in talks to sign Uruguayan striker Abel Hernandez from Hull City.
The £20 million deal looked to be good to go, until it came time to discuss salary, according to a report by the Sun.
It was claimed that Hernandez wanted £70,000-a-week to join Villa and then an increase to £100,000-a-week should Villa win promotion to the Premier League.
Those terms were considered unsatisfactory and Villa pulled the plug.
One year later, Hernandez was again linked with Villa.
Aston Villa chairman Tony Xia soon made it clear that wasn’t happening either. He was quoted by Birmingham Live as stating:
“Never will happen after last summer. Good for us.”
But what about this summer? Should Villa swoop for Hernandez once again?
There are many reasons why the Uruguayan would now be a more logical signing.
Hernandez is out of contract at Hull this summer.
The 27-year-old is therefore available on a free transfer, a massive bargain considering Villa were prepared to pay £20 million just two seasons ago.
Hernandez would also not be able to command such a wage on this occasion.
In 2016 the striker was coming off the back of scoring 22 goals in 45 games for the club and winning promotion to the Premier League.
Since then he has not been as prolific and also battled injury trouble. £70,000-a-week is simply not a possibility.
His best season with Hull actually came under the management of Steve Bruce, which might also help Villa in convincing Hernandez to Villa Park at a lower cost.
This season Hernandez managed just three games before suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. In those three games, he scored three goals.
If Villa fail to earn promotion this season then there are not many better goalscorers available at this level – never mind on a free transfer.
Since returning to action Hernandez has played three times, scoring three goals – giving him a 100 per cent record of six goals in six games for Hull City this time.
If Villa can come to an understanding over wages, Hernandez would be the perfect summer signing.
Jonathan Kodjia could become an Aston Villa hero
The Ivorian is set to return to first-team action after the international break.
Aston Villa’s automatic promotion hopes have come off the rails in recent weeks. For a while, it seemed Villa were going to upset either Wolves or Cardiff and break into the top two in the Championship. After a run of just one loss and one draw in 12 games, which ended in a 4-1 thrashing of Wolves, it was easy to see why.
Unfortunately, those hopes have come crashing down to earth. Villa have suffered two shock defeats in their last two outings. Firstly there was the 3-1 home reverse to QPR. Last weekend it was the turn of Bolton Wanderers, with Villa losing 1-0 at the Macron Stadium.
The international break could therefore not come at a better time for Aston Villa, who will hope to see some of their regulars return to action after injury.
One such player could be Jonathan Kodjia. The Ivory Coast striker has not played since the 0-0 draw with Birmingham City in October. The 28-year-old is suffering from another ankle injury and has been sorely missed up front.
But it appears he is nearing a return.
Kodjia featured for 45 minutes of a behind-closed-doors friendly against Peterborough United at Bodymoor Heath.
His return to action would be a huge boost for Villa. Whilst Kodjia can be a frustrating figure at times, he is also a top striking option.
Last season Kodjia scored 19 goals in the Championship and his firepower at this level has been sorely missed. With Scott Hogan out of form Lewis Grabban has been handed the burden of finding the net, Kodjia will hope to ease that responsibility.
If he can return to action at Villa Park and score the goals that send them back to the Premier League he will go down in Aston Villa folklore as a hero.
For a man with Kodjia’s character, that is an opportunity he will try to not let pass.
Is Oscar Borg’s Aston Villa career at an end?
The young left-back is out of contract at Aston Villa this summer.
Back in March 2016, Aston Villa snapped up promising left-back Oscar Borg from West Ham United.
According to the Daily Mail, the defender had trials with Manchester United and was highly thought of at West Ham, but he made the move to Villa and was soon making an impact in the reserves.
Recently Aston Villa found themselves short of left-back options.
Neil Taylor was out of action and Alan Hutton was also missing. With Axel Tuanzebe struggling, Villa found themselves short in the position.
But instead of calling on Borg, Steve Bruce called up James Bree, playing out of position at left-back.
It seems Borg may not have been available for Bruce, even if the 20-year-old was set for a first league call-up.
He has not featured for Villa’s under-23s since the 6-1 win v Wolves last month, with Mitchell Clark featuring at left-back instead.
Borg is undoubtedly a top talent at Aston Villa but injuries have been a major problem for him since arriving at Bodymoor Heath.
He spent most of last season on the sidelines and this year needed to be a breakout campaign for the talented full-back.
Borg has played 13 times for Villa’s under-23s this term, as they hunt for success in the Premier League 2, where they are currently second in their section behind Blackburn Rovers.
But, despite being Villa’s only other natural left-footed left-back, bar Taylor, the 20-year-old has made little impact in the first-team.
Borg only signed a two-and-half-year deal when arriving at Villa in 2016 and that contract expires in the summer.
Considering his lack of impact and history of injury problems it will not be a surprise if Borg does not remain a Villain beyond the end of the season.
If he does move on, hopefully, he can remain fit and push toward a professional career elsewhere.
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Sessegnon or Bale? Past or future? Spurs must make right move this summer
Amadou Haidara released by Leeds United, bringing an end to bizarre transfer chapter
Jack Wilshere’s Everton arrival would surely spell the end for Morgan Schneiderlin?
Matthew Pennington’s future looks away from Everton after loan woes
Tottenham Hotspur3 weeks ago
Tottenham Hotspur must push Toby Alderweireld toward Barcelona
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Jurgen Klopp’s brave January decision is playing off thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Brentford4 weeks ago
Romaine Sawyers – Blossoming in the Championship with play-off contenders Brentford
Liverpool4 weeks ago
Mohamed Salah: Is Liverpool’s Egyptian star the best player in the world right now?
English Premier League3 weeks ago
Liverpool 2-0 Newcastle United: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain growing into role under Jurgen Klopp
Chelsea4 days ago
Are Chelsea finally going to see the best of Alvaro Morata?
Liverpool3 weeks ago
Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold finds himself at the centre of Jurgen Klopp’s plans
Arsenal4 weeks ago
Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City: Three talking points from Wembley