Bright spark hot on heels of O'Neill

Paul Lambert's eagerness to learn has helped him shoot from Wycombe to the big time and tonight he takes his high-flying Canaries to meet his old mentor. Simon Hart reports

It was summer 2006 and Ivor Beeks was considering the credentials of a youthful candidate for the position of Wycombe Wanderers manager when he decided to call an old friend. The feedback was positive and, with that box ticked, Paul Lambert followed in the footsteps of Martin O'Neill, the Wycombe chairman's sounding board, by taking the reins at Adams Park.

Lambert was then 36, just a year younger than O'Neill had been when Beeks appointed the Northern Irishman as Wycombe manager in 1990. Such has been his progress since, he was 12 months ahead of O'Neill – 42 to the latter's 43 – when managing his first Premier League match in August and tonight will face his former Celtic boss for the first time in an opposition dugout as his buoyant Norwich City side visit Sunderland.

Beeks, for one, is not surprised by Lambert's success in steering Norwich from League One into the top half of the Premier League and sees certain similarities with O'Neill, under whom the Scot won seven trophies at Celtic.

Besides the touchline accoutrements of tracksuit, spectacles and water bottle, Beeks notes that Lambert mirrors O'Neill with the presence of a No 2 who has followed him since his Wycombe days. "Martin [has] Steve Walford and Paul has Ian Culverhouse – two very good coaches. Paul has people around him that he knows he can trust."

Lambert's two years at Adams Park – featuring runs to the Carling Cup and League Two play-off semi-finals – offered evidence too of the O'Neill-style motivational powers which are bringing the best out of an unsung Norwich squad. "You don't get that sort of spirit by just walking into a dressing room and dishing out tactics. Individual players need individual attention. It is about being able to notice which ones want more attention than others and I think he has got that," added Beeks.

Buckinghamshire offered a first glimpse of Lambert's managerial qualities at work, following an unhappy, short-lived stint as Livingston's player-manager, but it was in the Bundesliga, a decade earlier, that he was already "thinking, acting, behaving like a manager" according to Ottmar Hitzfeld, his coach at Borussia Dortmund.

Hitzfeld signed Lambert in 1996 after he had shone in a Uefa Cup tie against Dortmund; he departed for Germany an unheralded Motherwell midfielder with two Scottish caps, yet returned home in late 1997 with a European Cup winner's medal.

Hitzfeld said: "He was always a leader. Not only was he important when we were on the pitch, he was a kind of anchorman off it. He always kept an eye out on the younger players, and looked after them when they were struggling."

It was 15 years ago in May that Lambert, in a defensive midfield role, helped shackle Zinedine Zidane as Dortmund earned a 3-1 Champions League final victory over Juventus. "He was one of the keys that opened the door to that final," added Hitzfeld. "He was what I call a game reader. He may see things even better from outside than when he was right in the middle of it, so it is no surprise for me that he has become a successful manager."

Hitzfeld texted Lambert when Norwich gained promotion and another message from Germany came from Erich Rutemöller, the German FA coach who oversaw his Pro-licence course in Cologne in 2004. The only non-German on the course, Lambert left a positive impression. "Paul was very curious, he wanted to learn. He was a good player but he knew that did not mean he was a good coach. He wanted to do all the different steps in the different lessons – it is not only about football, it is about psychology, sports medicine, pedagogy, about kinds of training."

Lambert would sit beside an English-speaking former German women's international, Maren Meinert, for language queries but played an active role. "It was very interesting to watch the other participants listening to him because they wanted to know his way of tactical thinking, while he was carefully listening to the German coaches."

Of the German FA's class of 2004, it is Lambert, the boy from Glasgow, who became the first to coach in one of Europe's big leagues. Now for his reunion with O'Neill. "What he has done at Norwich has been remarkable," said the Sunderland manager, who admits he sees "traits of Paul" in Norwich's play. "Paul at Dortmund was a defensive midfielder but at Celtic, when I got there, he was into his time and gained confidence and enjoyed an attacking role so there is probably a mixture," he said.

O'Neill recalled discussing Lambert's managerial ambitions during the twilight of his Celtic career. "He did ask if he could take his badges in Germany because he had a great affinity with his time in Dortmund, so I said yes, absolutely go and do it." If that represented good advice, so were the words he shared with Ivor Beeks at Wycombe six years ago. "I said I thought he might be worth a little look at, and he did very well indeed." Didn't he just.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
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

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum