The worst fears of City supporter were in danger of being realised tonight as The Sun newspaper claimed that boss Paul Lambert had quit Carrow Road to seek further fame and, presumeably, more fortune at Aston Villa.
In a frenetic day on the managerial merry-go-round, Brendan Rodgers’ elevation to the Anfield hot-seat and Roberto Martinez’ decision to renew his allegiances with Wigan left Villa looking elsewhere; that if it was ever a three-horse race to succeed the luckless Alex McLeish, events on Merseyside left Lambert as the only show in town.
According to The Sun, when the club refused to let Lambert speak to Villa, he walked in a fit of fury.
City chief executive David McNally long expected a ‘long, hot summer’ – and that’s exactly what he’s getting with the fate of both manager and star player Grant Holt still firmly up in the air.
‘The raging boss wanted out once it became clear the Canaries were digging their heels in, adamant they would not even let him hear what Villa had to offer.
‘It resulted in a bitter end to Lambo’s three-year love affair with the Carrow Road club, who he took from League One obscurity to 12th place in the Premier League following successive promotions…’ the paper claimed overnight.
SkySports had earlier insisted that the Scot was their No1 choice; he would, at least, be guaranteed a warm welcome by the Villa faithful after they declared their support for the City chief in that end-of-season game.
He will, you suspect, receive more by way of a welcome than Rodgers at Liverpool.
Swans chairman Huw Jenkins set that ball rolling this afternoon; the knock-on effects rolling on late into the night.
“I was contacted by Liverpool last night and they expressed their wish to speak to Brendan,” said Jenkins, who – like Whelan at Wigan – wasn’t about to get in the way of such an opportunity.
“I had a discussion with Brendan to talk about their interest and his views on whether he wanted to speak to Liverpool. He expressed his wish with me to do that and he has spoken to Liverpool today.
“Following on from discussions with Liverpool’s owners, Brendan has informed us that he would like to take up their offer to manage Liverpool. At the moment we are currently in talks with the owners to agree compensation. We are trying to finalise that within the next 24 hours.”
At which point the former Reading and Watford boss will follow in the foosteps of Shankley, Paisley, Dalglish and Benitez.
A point not lost on the Liverpool faithful. I suspect ‘underwhelmed’ would sum up the feelings of many on Merseyside tonight.
Rodgers will, as a consequence, need to get off to a flier.
Back at Wigan and the Prodigal Son returned to pledge his allegiance to the Latics; he wasn’t – it appeared – about to go a-courting Aston Villa after being so publicly spurned once this summer.
Should The Sun’s story hold true – and it’s a big splash to go on if it wasn’t – Lambert could yet be leaping out of the frying pan into the fire.
For even within the tight budgets on offer at Carrow Road this summer – tight by Premier League standards – the feeling remained that Villa are in full clear-out mode; that he would have more cash to splash at Norwich than at Villa, whilst they laboured under the likes of Darren Bent’s wage packet.
Equally, given the miserable body language that was evident on the final day of the season, someone has an awful lot of work to do to simply float the ship again, let alone get it sailing in the right direction.
It is not, in short, a dream gig. And one in which you would be well-advised to look long and hard before leaping.
But if that option were taken away from him; that he was refused even the chance to listen to what Randy Lerner had to offer, Lambert can lose his temper with the best of them.
A decision made in haste can, all too often, be one you regret at your leisure.