Belfast Telegraph

Can Paul Lambert survive at Aston Villa?

By Jack Pitt-Brooke

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.

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