Paul Lambert: Rookies are ready to rise to their challenge


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The Independent Football

The Aston Villa manager, Paul Lambert, is ready to introduce his crop of unproven summer signings after insisting they have become battle-hardened in the lower leagues.

Lambert has included midfielder Ashley Westwood (Crewe Alexandra), striker Jordan Bowery (Chesterfield) and defender Joe Bennett in the squad for today's Premier League game with Swansea City. The trio were signed during the final 48 hours of the summer transfer window and only Bennett has any top-flight experience – just 45 minutes with Middlesbrough three years ago. But Lambert adapted a similar policy with considerable success at his previous club Norwich City and has faith in the youngsters to adapt at Villa.

"The Premier League is unforgiving. The opportunity is there for them, now they have to go and do it," Lambert said yesterday.

"You have to have someone who has the belief in you to give you that opportunity. I was in the same boat myself as a player. I needed someone to give me an opportunity. I'm all for giving people opportunities to do the business."

Lambert brought in eight players costing around £23m during the summer as he looked to restock a squad which had lost Emile Heskey, James Collins and Carlos Cuellar.

Lambert said: "If we had spent a lot of money on one or two players, it was never going to be enough. The squad needed more bodies."

Lambert did spend £7m on Belgian Christian Benteke, who is likely to start up front with Darren Bent.

Bent is regaining full sharpness after his long lay-off with ruptured ankle ligaments, although he was excluded from the England squad for the World Cup qualifiers with Moldova and Ukraine.

"I think Christian will be a handful," Lambert said. "I watched him the other night for Belgium against Croatia and he was excellent.

"He is only a young lad, he is only 21, but he will be a handful. Can he work with Bent? I've got my own ideas, we just hope they go and win us the game."

On Bent's international exclusion, Lambert said: "I never like commenting on who Roy Hodgson picks for his team. It's hard enough picking your own squad.

"All Darren can do is play well here, try to score, and do what he does best here. England have got an abundance of strikers at the minute as well."