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Where do Aston Villa and Paul Lambert go from here?

After their drubbing by Wigan, where do Aston Villa and Lambert go from here



22:30 GMT, 30 December 2012


There would be few prizes for guessing the topic of conversation as Aston Villa’s decision makers gathered for a summit meeting yesterday.

Owner Randy Lerner, chief executive Paul Faulkner and manager Paul Lambert would have but one subject in mind: where on earth do we go from here

Oh, to have been a fly-on-the-wall at Lerner’s converted farmhouse in the north Warwickshire countryside as the latest depressing episode in Villa’s history was dissected.

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

What now It was a case of it never rains but it pours for Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert as they slumped to a dire 3-0 defeat by Wigan on Saturday

Fifteen goals conceded in three matches. The heaviest defeat in the club’s history at Chelsea. Back-to-back home reversals to Spurs on Boxing Day and relegation rivals Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

In 2010, as Gerard Houllier fought with Villa’s senior players, Lerner was backed into a corner and stumped up 18million with 6m add-ons to purchase Darren Bent and guarantee Premier League survival.

Twelve months ago the situation was not as desperate. But Alex McLeish still asked for, and received, temporary assistance in the shape of Robbie Keane. Villa limped over the line to safety, the club damaged by the bitterness surrounding a misguided managerial appointment.

After a change of policy to bringing in young and hungry players under Lambert, the club once more find themselves at a crossroads.

Several senior players are currently sidelined through injury. Another clutch of first-teamers have been marginalised at the manager’s discretion and there is a third group whose top-flight experience extends to half a season. The situation is crying out for decisive action.

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Rock bottom: Villa's Stephen Ireland (left) and Chris Herd don't know where to look as Wigan take control of the match

Bizarrely, it is little more than two weeks since Villa won 3-1 at Anfield. It was in the week building up to that game that Lambert’s team defeated Norwich City to confirm a spot in the League Cup semi-finals against Bradford City. Incredibly, Wembley beckons.

But so, on the form of the past week, does relegation.

Of course, Lambert can do little about the series of injuries that have befallen key players.

Ron Vlaar, Gabby Agbonlahor, Charles N’Zogbia and Darren Bent are all on the treatment table.

The problem for Lambert is that these absences are recent. Villa were hardly pulling up any trees in the Premier League with their help.

And Bent finds himself in two groups. First, among those senior players who are missing through injury. However, he can also count himself among those who have been marginalised. When Lambert arrived, he did so with a promise to get the club’s star striker firing again.

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

Grim outlook: Some embarrassed faces on the Villa bench as they lose to Wigan

He promptly made him captain.

Suddenly, Bent was dropped. Not just from the team, but from the squad. What happened

Lambert had tried to replicate what he had done with his previous club, Norwich City. When the former Champions League winner (as a midfielder with Borussia Dortmund) arrived at Carrow Road, he identified Grant Holt as the man who could keep order in the dressing room and set a good example.

When Lambert asked Bent to do the same at Villa, the club’s manager was disappointed with the response.

He was then faced with a dilemma. Should he allow the England international to continue in a role to which he clearly wasn’t suited Or does he exert his managerial authority and teach Bent a lesson

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

Too easy: Wigan's Ivan Ramis celebrates opening the scoring after three minutes

With so many young professionals, Lambert chose the second option. Bent is now recovering from a hamstring injury. And the Scot is under severe pressure. His honeymoon is over. The issue remains.

In fairness, Villa supporters have bestowed the most generous of mandates on Lambert to produce winning football.

‘We’ve had some really heavy defeats,’ said Brett Holman, who is as straight-talking as his Australian background would suggest, ‘we are in a dip.

‘People might say we lack Premier League experience, but they weren’t saying it after we beat Liverpool at Anfield.

‘It could help if you have a couple of players who have 200-300 league games behind them.’

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

Just a dip: Brett Holman (centre) defended Villa's young team

And so to yesterday’s meeting. Lerner is reluctant to keep footing the bill for huge losses but appreciates he may need to dig deep to avoid a relegation battle once more.

Lambert wants an experienced centre half, an energetic, ball-winning midfielder and another striker. All preferably with Premier League experience.

But which player, of any experience and quality, is going to see Aston Villa as a good career move

Of course, Villa could always do nothing. Tough it out.

But with three cup-ties in January, not to mention home games against fellow relegation candidates Southampton and Newcastle, it would be a bold gamble.

Stiliyan Petrov can remain at Aston Vila – Paul Lambert

Villa will stand by Petrov after leukaemia battle is won, insists boss Lambert



00:03 GMT, 17 November 2012

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has hinted Stiliyan Petrov will have a future role to play at the club if he wins his battle against acute leukaemia.

Lambert was a team-mate and close friend of Petrov, who is currently in remission, when the pair played for several seasons at Celtic.

The Scot believes Villa 'will look after Stiliyan,' although he feels the Bulgarian international would not want any involvement purely for 'sentimental reasons.'

Recovery: Stiliyan Petrov is in recession after suffering from leukaemia

Recovery: Stiliyan Petrov is in recession after suffering from leukaemia

Lambert said: 'I spoke to Stiliyan when he came into the training ground the other day. You tend to forget about what's happened to him. I think seeing him puts everything into perspective.

'that's a guy I played football with for eight or nine years. I have seen him grow up as a young guy. The first day I saw him train at Celtic I thought “What have we signed”

'He was hitting shots from about 80 yards. He looked like the Nutty Professor. He was huge.

'Then he lost about nine stone and became a footballer. Then he became brilliant for Celtic.

'He was fantastic. Every time I see him now it brings a tear to your eye because that's a guy that I was really really close with and, thank God, that he's nearly there.'

As for any possible future role at
Villa, Lambert said: 'I think the way it is at the moment it's too soon,
because Stiliyan is still in remission.

Support: Paul Lambert hopes Petrov can remain with the club

Support: Paul Lambert hopes Petrov can remain with the club

'But I think the football club, Randy Lerner (owner) and Paul Faulkner (chief executive) will look after him, I really do, which I think is only right.

'He wouldn't want to get into something he thought it was just for sentimental reasons. He'd want to do it because he felt he could do it, was good at it, and he could pass his experience on.

'I don't think he would go into the hard raw football management with the stress levels.

'I think he would look at maybe doing something with kids, where there's no stress. You've got to remember it was life-threatening, that's not something to be taken lightly.'

Paul Lambert does not want to sell Darren Bent

Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent… but tells striker to fight his way into Villa side



22:01 GMT, 19 October 2012

Paul Lambert says he has no desire to sell Darren Bent and has urged England’s forgotten striker to force his way back into his team.

Aston Villa’s 24million record signing has been a substitute in the club’s last two Premier League games, giving rise to rumours that Bent will ask to leave in January.

Conspiracy theorists also wonder if Lambert is trying to marginalise Villa’s high earners, with Shay Given, Alan Hutton and Steven Warnock also out of favour.

He certainly looks happy: Darren Bent (centre) training with Aston Villa

He certainly looks happy: Darren Bent (centre) training with Aston Villa

Villa, who play Fulham at Craven Cottage, have made the worst start to a top-flight campaign for 25 years and won just one of their last 17 League games.

Lambert said: ‘I understand people are frustrated when they don’t play but you always get a chance again — it’s up to you to take it.

‘Everyone’s in the same boat. I don’t think anyone should have a guaranteed place.

No rift: Paul Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent

No rift: Paul Lambert says he does not want to sell Bent

‘I’m sure he will bounce back. He won’t take this lying down. He’s missed only two games. It’s not a major worry for me.

‘I have to get results and I’ll pick a team that I think can get them.

‘I cannot stop people trying to get my players.

‘The only way to stop it is to answer the question when people ring. But I don’t see any reason for him not to be here.’

Villa owner Randy Lerner sold NFL side the Cleveland Browns for 650m this week but no change to the way he runs Villa is envisaged.

After spending more than 200m chasing Champions League qualification, Lerner wants Villa to be self-sustaining. But Lambert said he had been under no pressure to sell high earners.

‘Not once has either Paul Faulkner (chief executive) or the chairman said: “I need you to do x, y or z”. It’s up to me to make the decisions.’

Paul Lambert has a job to rebuild Aston Villa

Now Lambert knows how hard it will be to rebuild crumbling Villa



21:40 GMT, 26 August 2012

When was the last time any Aston Villa side produced such an inept first-half display in front of their own supporters

The general consensus was 25 years ago, during Billy McNeill’s ill-fated reign. The optimism that preceded Paul Lambert’s first home match, a 3-1 defeat by Everton, disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Dark clouds blocked out the hope of a new dawn as the parlous state of Aston Villa was laid painfully bare by an Everton team who showed their win over Manchester United last week was no fluke.

Plenty to ponder: Paul Lambert reflects on the home defeat to Everton

Plenty to ponder: Paul Lambert reflects on the home defeat to Everton

The most-played top-flight fixture ended in embarrassment for Villa. It all leaves Lambert in a position where he will sit down with Villa owner Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner to plot a route forward.

Yet with the transfer window due to close on Friday, the most telling answer from the new manager came with the question: ‘Is there anything in the pipeline’

The reply A worrying ‘No’.

Therefore, not only is Villa’s manager unsure of whether funds will be made available, he also has nothing lined up in terms of an emergency. Clearly, the ‘golden’ generation of youngsters is not ready to perform at this level.

Lambert’s own signings too were unable to stop a rot which now encompasses just one victory in 18 outings.

Asked whether he would be concerned to go through the season with the group who started on Saturday, Villa’s boss said: ‘We need to win games. If we aren’t, it’s a problem. I’ll see the chairman and Paul (Faulkner) and see what happens. I’ve got ideas in my head, what I think but, as I said, I’ll have to speak to them and see.’

And so it falls to Lerner to make yet another hard decision. The owner has spent over 200million in six years chasing his dream. Can he afford to sit by and do nothing

Strong start: In contrast to Aston Villa, Everton have started the season well with two wins

Strong start: In contrast to Aston Villa, Everton have started the season well with two wins

Everton captain Phil Neville, meanwhile, spoke with the air of a man who knows his team can spring a surprise this season.

Neville says there is a settled feeling at Goodison Park.

‘I think you can see there’s all the ingredients for us to have a good season,’ he said.

‘There’s a real tightness about the place. ‘We maybe lack the depth in quality of the top four but that’s about it.’

Everton are often slow starters but a few well-chosen words appear to have sparked a difference.

‘The manager told us that if the league had started in January, we would have finished third. We have taken off from where we left off last season.’

Jamie Donaldson wins Irish Open

Donaldson breaks his duck with Irish Open victory his first European Tour success



16:52 GMT, 1 July 2012

A week that meant so much to Northern Ireland turned out to mean even more for Welshman Jamie Donaldson on Sunday.

In his 255th European Tour event and after a career in which he has had to battle with a genetic spine problem, 36-year-old finally tasted victory in the Irish Open at Royal Portrush – and did it by four shots with five birdies in his last seven holes.

Breaking his duck: Jamie Donaldson celebrates on the 18th green

Breaking his duck: Jamie Donaldson celebrates on the 18th green

This was the first time since 1953 that the tournament had been played north of the border and what a success it was, with record crowds ever for a regular Tour event – over 112,000 for the four days.

Every one of them will hope it leads to the return of the Open Championship after even longer – Max Faulkner won that 61 years ago – and Donaldson will join them in that wish.

The former amateur star, who partnered Luke Donald and Paul Casey in the world team championship in 2000, has suffered from Pars disease, but careful management of it has finally enabled him to fulfil his dream.

His brilliant closing 66 was only one off the low round of the week and a 25-foot putt on the last enabled him to reach 18 under par.

'I'm buzzing,' he said. 'And I'm so happy to have won on this course – I don't think we have played a better one on the European Tour.'

Storming finish: Donaldson shot a closing round 66

Storming finish: Donaldson shot a closing round 66

Reminded of his long wait to break through – it has contained 32 top 10 finishes – Donaldson added: 'It's just been a case of keeping going. I knew that what I was doing was right.

'It feels a bit surreal to be honest. I don't think it will sink in till later.'

The week also contained his first hole-in-one on the circuit and it began with him shooting 62 at Sunningdale to qualify for The Open at Royal Lytham in just over a fortnight.

Joint second were England's Anthony Wall, Spaniard Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti, but it was Swede Mikael Lundberg who threatened most to grab the title away from Donaldson.

Worth the wait: Donaldson plays out of the bunker on the 11th in an otherwise faultless final round

Worth the wait: Donaldson plays out of the bunker on the 11th in an otherwise faultless final round

From six back he covered the first 10 holes in a spectacular eight under and led by two.

He could not keep it going, though, and bogeys at the 16th and 18th meant he eventually finished joint fifth.

With the local “Big Three” of Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Darren Clarke finishing 10th, 16th and 39th respectively the main Irish hope was 2007 winner Padraig Harrington.

He was only two behind when he teed off, but a disappointing 70 dropped him to joint seventh.

Kevin MacDonald leaves Aston Villa

Long-serving Villa coach MacDonald leaves after arrival of new boss Lambert



13:30 GMT, 9 June 2012

Gone: Kevin MacDonald

Gone: Kevin MacDonald

Aston Villa have confirmed first-team coach Kevin MacDonald is to leave the club.

MacDonald has brought to an end a 17-year association with the club following the appointment of Paul Lambert as manager.

The 51-year-old, who had a brief stint in caretaker charge at the start of the 2010/11 season following the departure of Martin O'Neill, worked alongside Alex McLeish last season, while he also coached the reserve team.

MacDonald said: 'I've had an
incredible 17 years at Aston Villa, one of the biggest clubs in the
country, and wish to thank all the staff and players I have worked with
during my time at the club. I wish Aston Villa every success in the future.'

executive Paul Faulkner added: 'As a club, we are immensely grateful
for the contribution Kevin has made in more than 17 years at Villa.

has been an integral part of the success we have enjoyed at academy and
reserve team level and, in assuming his caretaker responsibilities at
the beginning of the 2010-11 season, he cemented his position as a man
who will always command respect at this club.

'The whole of Aston Villa Football Club will wish Kevin well.'

Darren Bent will stay at Aston Villa but Paul Lambert insists he hasn"t thought about Grant Holt

Lambert teases Villa faithful with shopping list: I want Messi, Xavi, Iniesta… and Bent



21:43 GMT, 6 June 2012

Paul Lambert has been assured he will not have to sell 24million striker Darren Bent to fund his revamp at Villa Park.

The new Aston Villa boss, who was officially unveiled as Alex McLeish’s successor, has already drawn up a list of targets, but has been told he will not have to sacrifice Bent.

Villa’s top scorer with nine league goals last season missed the last three months after rupturing ligaments in his left ankle, but stayed behind for two extra weeks after the squad dispersed to work on his fitness.

Park life: Paul Lambert was unveiled as Aston Villa's new boss

Park life: Paul Lambert was unveiled as Aston Villa's new boss

Bent, 28, will also report a week early to make sure he is ready for Villa’s first Premier League game under Lambert.

The Scot said: ‘The chairman (Randy Lerner) and Paul (Faulkner, the chief executive) know the lads I’ve asked to look at and we’ll try, as a football club, to bring those in.

‘I told Paul to go and get Messi. After him we want Xavi and Iniesta. So if those three come I think we’ll do all right. But there’s a list, yes. We’ll see if we can progress that down the road.’

Lambert, 42, said he had spoken to his former Celtic boss Martin O’Neill before accepting the Villa job, having already followed in his footsteps at Wycombe Wanderers and Norwich City.

At ease: Lambert addresses the media at Villa Park

At ease: Lambert addresses the media at Villa Park

He signed a three-year deal after resigning from Norwich and Villa did not have to pay any compensation, but the League Managers’ Association may yet be required to resolve outstanding contractual issues between Lambert and his former club.

The new Villa boss confirmed there is no clause to stop him signing players from Norwich, but said he ‘hasn’t even thought’ about making an approach for striker Grant Holt.

Lambert added: ‘Grant Holt was brilliant for me. I’ve a lot of time for him, but things move on. I had three brilliant years at Norwich. No doubt the fans will say I’m the worst manager in the club’s history now because I’ve left.

Partners: Darren Bent

Hitman: Grant Holt

Strike partners Darren Bent (left) is staying, while Lambert was coy over Holt

‘It’s normal because they’re a bit hurt, but I had my reasons to leave. You can make of that what you want. I was never unhappy with budgets. It was a challenge, which was great.’

Lambert spoke of the need to galvanise the fans at Villa Park. News of his appointment saw 2,000 season tickets sold in a day and the club are on target to sell 21,000 by the start of the campaign.

‘They want to see a winning team,’ said Lambert. ‘If you can do it with style then great, but if you can’t and you win, I’m pretty sure people will still be happy.’

Aston Villa chief Paul Faulkner elected on to FA Council

Double celebration for Villa as Faulkner is elected on to the FA Council



15:07 GMT, 3 June 2012

Aston Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner has more reason to celebrate after being elected on to the FA Council.

Faulkner played a leading role in Villa securing the services of Paul Lambert from Norwich as their new manager in succession to Alex McLeish.

Now the 33-year-old's growing reputation in the game has been recognised via his elevation to the council which meets to discuss and determine the major policies of the FA.

Election: Aston Villa's Paul Faulkner (right) will sit on the FA Council

Election: Aston Villa's Paul Faulkner (right) will sit on the FA Council

He said: 'For Villa to have a voice on the council is great for the club. There is prestige but also value in having representation on the council.

'I'm pleased and proud as Villa chief executive that our efforts as a club over a number of seasons have been recognised and rewarded in this way.'

Faulkner is delighted that Villa have secured the young, hungry and ambitious manager he and club owner Randy Lerner sought after dispensing with McLeish's services three weeks ago.

Villa expect to officially unveil Lambert at a media conference in mid-week after the Scot signed a three- year contract.

Villa bound: Paul Lambert

Villa bound: Paul Lambert

It is reported that Lambert would also like to bring his assistant Ian Culverhouse from Norwich to Villa while striker Grant Holt is also being linked with a move from Carrow Road.

Lambert and Culverhouse have worked together since linking up at Colchester.

Former Villa and Norwich striker John Deehan, who also had a spell as chief scout at the Canaries, believes Lambert will be an ideal appointment for the midlands club.

He said: 'Paul is a very good manager and his record proves that.

'The most important thing is that he can get in his own players because we've seen what he can do with his own team.

'He managed to build an entertaining side and, more than anything, is what the majority of Villa supporters want.

'Possibly the lure of what Aston Villa can bring is the reason why Paul is coming, the possibility of getting back into Europe and challenging in the top eight on a regular basis.'

Paul Lambert "quits" Norwich to head to Aston Villa

Lambert set to be appointed Villa boss after 'quitting' Norwich



08:03 GMT, 31 May 2012

Paul Lambert looks set to become Aston Villa’s new manager after he reportedly quit as Norwich boss on Wednesday night.

It is understood Lambert had a bust-up with the Norwich board after they refused him permission to speak to Villa. He has been on the club’s shortlist since Alex McLeish was sacked.

Their first choice was Wigan manager Roberto Martinez and there was a third candidate, believed to be Brendan Rodgers, but Villa are happy with a choice that has been made with the blessing of fans.

On the Paul: Aston Villa have made Lambert their No 1 priority

On the Paul: Aston Villa have made Lambert their No 1 priority

They have fall-back options, understood to be Brighton’s Gus Poyet and former Liverpool boss Rafael Benitez, if they cannot get Lambert.

But he is the top target after it became clear, as outlined in Sportsmail yesterday, that Martinez had lost ground when interviewed by Liverpool owner John W Henry last week. Martinez contacted Villa three days ago to say his interest was concrete but chief executive Paul Faulkner told him owner Randy Lerner would not wait.

Martinez contacted Villa three days ago to say that his interest in the position was concrete but he was informed by chief executive Paul Faulkner that Randy Lerner was not prepared to wait to get his man and had progressed with alternative plans.

Talks: Martinez held discussion with Liverpool's owners

Talks: Martinez held discussion with Liverpool's owners

Villa have used an intermediary to smooth a path to the Norfolk club and compensation for the 42-year-old should be agreed swiftly.

Lerner was anxious to re-connect with supporters following the ill-advised decision to appoint McLeish and Lambert appeared the most popular choice on fans' websites.

Moving on: Rodgers is set to join Liverpool

Moving on: Rodgers is set to join Liverpool

It means Martinez has missed out on the chance to manage Villa for the second season in succession following his very public snub 12 months ago.

Not that the Wigan boss should worry. He still has two years left to run on his contract with the Lancashire club and Wigan owner Dave Whelan may even look to improve it.

He said: 'Roberto is staying at Wigan and, of course, I am absolutely delighted.

'He was never offered the job at Liverpool because he was not happy with the way that it was presented to him. He has had some talks with Villa but he's not going to go there either. Villa are a fantastic club with great supporters but I never thought they were big enough for him.

'I've said all along that I never thought he would end up there and, fortunately for us, that's how it has turned out.

'If Roberto is to go anywhere, it will be to one of the top clubs in Europe. We're just so pleased he's staying with us.'

Whelan added: 'During the course of our meeting, we discussed a lot of things and it was very productive. I've agreed to his request to up our spending on youth development and training facilities. That's going to be pretty costly as I've agreed to a full-sized indoor pitch – that will cost 1.5million. 'I have also agreed to bring in three or four new players.

'We want Roberto to be happy at Wigan and we will be aiming to make sure that we do everything we can to keep him.'

Randy Lerner due at Aston Villa on Wednesday

Martinez, Lambert and Rodgers top Lerner's list as Aston Villa owner jets in



00:13 GMT, 16 May 2012

Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner will fly in to Birmingham in the next 24 hours to take charge of the search for Alex McLeish’s successor.

Villa have drawn up a shortlist and early favourites – Roberto Martinez, Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers – are believed to be on it.

And it seems the unhappy episode involving Martinez last season has not diminished Villa’s interest in the Spaniard.

I'm off: Alex McLeish was sacked by Aston Villa on Monday

I'm off: Alex McLeish was sacked by Aston Villa on Monday

Fix it: Randy Lerner is due in Birmingham to help resolve the issue

Fix it: Randy Lerner is due in Birmingham to help resolve the issue

Twelve months ago, Villa were annoyed news of their approach to Wigan owner Dave Whelan was made public. And they were left in an embarrassing position when Martinez rejected them to stay at Wigan.

But early indications suggest that Martinez may be more open to a move this time around. As ever, Whelan appears comfortable with the situation.

‘I’m unaware of any approach. If one comes, Roberto will inform me,’ he said, ‘because if he feels the club is right and I feel it is right, I will back him to the hilt.’

Villa chief executive Paul Faulkner is bullish about the club’s chances of appointing a bright prospect.

‘Look at the size of the club, infrastructure, the training ground, the academy. It’s one of the best in the country,’ he said in his statement on Monday.

‘We have a fantastic owner who loves the club and who has supported his managers. The fans are phenomenal and the history and tradition are superb. Why would you not want to come here’