Belfast Telegraph

Lambert backs Delph to step up

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has suggested Fabian Delph could be the man to replace Steven Gerrard at the heart of England's midfield.

In July last year Gerrard announced his retirement from international football after becoming the third most-capped player in Three Lions' history with 114 to his name.

Gerrard's boots are naturally big ones to fill, but Delph has taken strides to that effect this season by claiming his first three caps for his country, particularly starting in the European Championship qualifying wins over Switzerland and Estonia.

Lambert can certainly see Delph going on to star on the big stage on a regular basis as he said: "If he keeps progressing he is going to have a massive career.

"He is a guy who is growing in stature, and with the way he's playing, and now an England international, there's no fear with him.

"He knows now what it takes (to play at the highest level)."

After serving a three-match ban, Delph's return to the Villa side for Saturday's home clash with Gerrard's Liverpool is key for Lambert following a wretched run at present.

The battle between Delph and Gerrard in the centre of the pitch will be a vital one if Villa are to fire up front after scoring just one goal in their last six league games.

"The way Fabian plays the game, with his all-energetic style, is infectious, so him coming back is a massive boost, a major plus for us," added Lambert.

"As I said, there isn't any fear there. He has the confidence he can mix with that company (Gerrard)."

Whilst Lambert sees Delph filling the void vacated by Gerrard with England, the Scot feels someone doing something similar at Liverpool is virtually an impossibility.

With Gerrard to join LA Galaxy this summer, Lambert said: "Steven leaving Liverpool, how are you going to replace him?

"He's been an iconic player for them. It will be a massive hole for them, not just on the pitch, but off it. Maybe off it will be a bit harder than on it.

"He is one of the Premier League's midfield greats. You don't do what he has done and not think he hasn't done anything in the game. He's won most things.

"The good thing about him is he seems a really nice guy. Somebody who has won the things he has won could easily be big headed or look down on people.

"But I've always found him really humble, someone who talks really well in the game.

"I don't know him personally, but that's the way he comes across.

"But then I've always found that with top players, that they never need to say anything. It's the wannabes who shout from the rooftops."

With Delph out of contract this summer, Lambert is determined to avoid having his own major chasm to fill should the 25-year-old opt to leave.

Lambert believes he can convince Delph to stay as he said: "With Fabian it will not be about money.

"I've known him long enough to know the type of guy he is, and it will not be a money thing with him. He just wants to play football.

"It would be a major boost if we can get him to stay. It would send out a great message.

"Him turning around and staying would be a massive statement for everybody at this club - fans, players, staff."

Whilst Delph returns and new signing Carles Gil is poised to make his debut, Lambert is without defender Ciaran Clark who serves a one-game ban and midfielder Joe Cole with a hamstring injury.

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