Can Paul Lambert survive at Aston Villa?

Scot's struggling side face a tricky test at Bradford tonight with his position in doubt but, as former colleagues tell Jack Pitt-Brooke, he will not hide

Career triumphs in some of Europe's biggest venues will count for little for Paul Lambert at Valley Parade. Glory for the Aston Villa manager, whose team are out of the Premier League relegation zone by a point, seems a long way off and a trip to Bradford City in the Capital One Cup semi-finals could turn things for better... or worse. Those who know him best say he ready to rise to the challenge.

DAVID WINNIE (Played with Lambert at St Mirren 1987-1991, winning the 1987 Scottish Cup)

Even at 17 at St Mirren it was obvious at that point he had great ability and that he would go further. Going to Celtic Park didn't faze Paul in the slightest. He was determined no one was going to beat him.

The 1987 Scottish Cup final was a huge thing for the club. We were playing Dundee United, one of the best teams in Europe, who had just reached the final of the Uefa Cup. We were up against it. But Paul just treated the game like any other and played very well.

Paul used to know everything that was done, training sessions he had attended or he had heard from others, to build up a bank of ideas he could use in the future. He had forthright opinions about the game and he wasn't afraid to express them. He is very single-minded and determined.

CAMPBELL MONEY (Played with Lambert at St Mirren 1987-1993)

He came into the team when he was very young. There wasn't much of him. He had a very slight build but a single-minded determination to do well. He wouldn't shy away from a confrontation if a confrontation was required. He had an opinion. And if he thought that opinion had to be aired then he did it.

TOMMY MCLEAN (Managed Lambert at Motherwell 1993-1994)

I spoke to my friend Alec Smith who had Paul, and he highly recommended him.

He was a good football-orientated lad. He was always taking notes about the exercises and routines. He had a good knowledge of the game. Once you told him something the message would stick in his head and he would try to do something about it.

In the bigger games he would always come to the fore. That is what his career has been about. That year we finished third, a magnificent achievement for a club like Motherwell.

STEVE KIRK (Played with Lambert at Motherwell 1993-1995)

When the chips were down he wouldn't hide, he would keep the ball, anywhere on the pitch. He wasn't a tough guy on the pitch or anything like that but he had a strong will and he did it his way.

When you look at him he's very like Martin O'Neill on the touch-line. But he's his own person.

CRAIG BURLEY (Played with Lambert at Celtic 1997-1999)

I arrived at Celtic in July 1997, Paul arrived from Dortmund in November. Had Dortmund changed him? Absolutely. He went over there as a nobody and came back a Champions League winner, and as this very organised, very well thought-out holding midfielder, which obviously Ottmar Hitzfeld had moulded him into. It was obvious that Hitzfeld had a major, major influence on him. He spoke so highly of Hitzfeld's tactical acumen and his man-management.

He wasn't a massive socialiser. He was the only one who always used to come in after a game on a Sunday for his massages and stretching. You always found him talking to manager Wim Jansen on a Sunday, in deep thought and conversation. Jansen was a man of very, very few words, but when he spoke he made an impact. And I think Paul took to that, because he knew Jansen was a deep thinker about the game. He took a lot from Jansen, they were very close.

Everybody else was a bit hungover on a Sunday, Paul was always talking to the manager. And I wouldn't think he would have done that before he went to Dortmund. I think it was something ingrained in him in Germany.

MATT BLOOMFIELD (Played under Lambert at Wycombe, 2006-08)

From the first day he just had this aura about him. Everything he said, you listened to because there was nothing wasted there. When he spoke it was for a reason.

He motivated us to play well beyond our ability, taking us to the semi-finals of the Carling Cup, to draw 1-1 with Chelsea in the first leg. He didn't really need to say too much. He just tried to say to us, "Just go and give it your best shot," because we'd done the hard work by getting there. "You've earned the chance to go and play these players, now go and show them how good you are."

He wasn't ever best mates with the lads, he stepped back from training, which Ian Culverhouse did. So when it came to him saying his piece after training that's what he did well. When he spoke to you, you knew he meant what he said. That was his greatest quality.

He was just able to get the lads to believe in anything he said. It's an old cliché but you would run through brick walls for him, it's not a surprise how well he has gone on and done.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor