Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Villa bigger than Baggies - Lambert

Paul Lambert's Villa take on West Brom in Monday night's game
Paul Lambert's Villa take on West Brom in Monday night's game

Paul Lambert spiced up Monday's West Midlands derby against West Brom by insisting Aston Villa are still a bigger club than their neighbours.

The Villa Park outfit have traditionally been regarded as the top side in the region due to their 1982 European Cup success, large fan-base and 42,000 capacity stadium.

However, it is the more modest West Brom who have established themselves as the top team in the Midlands in recent seasons, finishing higher than their rivals in the Barclays Premier League in the last two years.

While Villa have had to significantly tighten their belts financially and Birmingham and Wolves find themselves languishing in the Football League, Albion are going from strength to strength under chairman Jeremy Peace.

The Black Country side have a successful structure in place which has seen previous technical director Dan Ashworth and his successor Richard Garlick work brilliantly with former coach Roy Hodgson and current boss Steve Clarke.

Villa and Albion's battle for supremacy has ignited the rivalry between supporters but Lambert believes his side still have bragging rights despite Albion's footballing and financial supremacy of late.

"Aston Villa is a massive club," he said. "I don't think anyone can ever dispute that. It's a club that's won a European Cup, league titles, has a massive fan-base and has a bigger stadium.

"That's no disrespect to West Brom at all - they're a good club in their own right.

"I haven't been at West Brom or managed the club but Aston Villa, for me, is a bigger club."

He added: "There's a rivalry because of the vicinity where the two clubs are. We'll go there and try to win.

"I don't think you use the aim of finishing above them as a motivational tool.

"Everybody knows a derby is important for supporters, first and foremost. For the team and the football club it's vital to try to win a derby game. But the thing with a derby is the fact it doesn't matter who is playing well, you could be top or bottom of the table or near each other.

"Because in that game people do things which look extraordinary that they wouldn't do in a normal game. That's a derby."

Lambert has a lot of time for his old friend Clarke's side.

"Stevie's got a good team there," he said.

"They're a good side with a lot of experienced lads there who were there before Stevie even came in. They're a good side, I think."

Lambert hopes to welcome back several key players from injury for the clash.

Strikers Andreas Weimann (hamstring) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (ankle) have missed recent games with problems while fellow forward Christian Benteke had a knee issue while on international duty with Belgium.

However, all three are in contention for the trip to the Hawthorns while the likes of Fabian Delph (knee) and Antonio Luna (hamstring) are also over recent problems.

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