Story by Seng Ton
Villa’s managerial nightmare over?
The last day of last season, our final match away at Carrow Road against Norwich City. There were some Villa fans who voiced their opinion on who they wanted to replace Alex McLeish. And they incessantly chanted “Paul Lambert’s Claret and Blue Army”, as Norwich very comfortably earned a 2-0 win against the Villa with goals from Grant Holt and Simeon Jackson sealing the final day victory. The day after, Villa fans got their wish with McLeish being relieved of his duties immediately.
McLeish had an enormous amount of bad luck in his tenure at Villa Park, but his tactics and selections were an origin of frustration. Although we have been plagued with injuries to our most important players, lionheart Richard Dunne, club skipper Stilyan Petrov and top scorer Darren Bent. Too many times there has been a negative aura around McLeish’s seemingly defensive tactics and a fear of losing. As a fan, this is the kind of stuff that enrages us. Especially when there is bright young attacking positive talent left on the bench in favour of playing certain players out of position. Stephen Warnock, a defensive minded left back as our left sided winger is a selection that got us rubbing our eyes in disbelief. Players like Nathan Delfouneso, Andreas Weimann and Marc Albrighton should have been given more of a chance. McLeish I think was perhaps overcautious and this attitude had ultimately lost the patience of us Villa fans. I suppose coming directly from the other side of Birmingham did not help things, but that’s only a guess.
Many different names were talked about as potential candidates for the Villa job including Wigan Athletic’s Roberto Martinez, Molde’s Ole Gunner Solskjaer and of course (then) Norwich’s Paul Lambert. Just over a year ago, Martinez was approached and had rejected the offer to become Villa manager, his reason was that he chose to repay the faith shown in him by chairman Dave Whelan. In this day and age, it was a refreshing thing to hear (if it was true). But would he have been the right man to go for? You could argue that he is an exciting manager but has he achieved that much at a poor Wigan side, especially when compared to Paul Jewell and Steve Bruce (boo!). Villa very nearly got the baby faced assassin (Solskjaer) as their manager, but due to him not wanting to uproot his settled family to Birmingham, we can understand that. Even though the media made it clear that he rejected us outright (idiots). Solskjaer would’ve been a huge risk, but in this business you’ve got to take those risks to go anywhere. Ultimately it was Lambert who got the job, but is he the right man to reignite the spark atVilla Park? In a word, yes! Just look at what he did at Norwich, for God’s sake.
Paul Lambert’s Claret and Blue Army?
When Lambert was first appointed at Norwich, they were a League One team. But after guiding the Canaries to two successive promotions as well as a League One championship, he has caught the eye of our chairman Randy Lerner. Not only that, the type of football Norwich were playing in the process was based on a lack of fear and just darn right entertaining. This didn’t change when they were promoted to the Premier League. And in his first season in charge, his side finished 12th, comfortably avoiding relegation (surpassing many supporter’s expectation).
There are not many Scotsman that hold a Champions League winners medal, but Lambert does (thanks to his playing days at Borussia Dortmund). By playing at the highest level, Lambert knows what it means to win and should have a natural winning ability. I hope that Lambert’s great work will transfer nicely to Villa, and get us back up the table.
Reflection on Aston Villa fixtures 2012-2013
With the football league fixtures list being released last week, I thought it would be good to look at with claret and blue tinted glasses. Paul Lambert’s first competitive match in charge will be an away trip to Upton Park to face West Ham United. Two seasons ago, the opening fixture was exactly this. A 3-0 win was recorded with Stewart Downing, James Milner (God, how I miss him) and Stiliyan Petrov bagging the goals. I hope it’s the same result this time round (apologies Adam), but we really need a good start to the season after our horrible one last year.
As Birmingham City failed to get promoted (can’t even do that right), there will again be no second city derby this season. Such a shame, as it’s the two matches I look forward to the most, so I guess we’ll have to settle for 6 points against The Baggies instead.
Our first derby of the season is at home to West Bromwich Albion taking place near the end of September, with the return leg at The Hawthorns in the middle of January.
Will The Baggies be as hard to beat under Steve Clarke, than they were under Roy Hodgson? After the tremendous job he done, guiding them to a 10th place finish the nucleus of his team remains, but hopefully the spirit will have waned. Last season we only took a solitary point with a hard fought goalless draw at The Hawthorns, after a 2-1 defeat at Villa Park.
Our first encounter with Lambert’s former club, Norwich is at home near the end of October with the return leg atCarrow Roadnear the beginning of May. I have a feeling the return leg will be a tasty affair with a section of the Norwich fans bearing a hostile reception for their former manager.
The final game of the season sees an away trip to The DW Stadium to face Martinez’s Wigan. Fingers are tightly crossed it won’t be another important game to avoid relegation, and that we’ll have enough points on the board by then for a top 10 finish.