Two voices from Paul Lambert’s past struck the same chord as MyFootballWriter columnist Mick Dennis this weekend – that the departing Canary chief will just be passing through Villa-wise.
In a fascinating – and telling – profile of the fiercely-driven Scot, one-time Livingston director Maurice Smith and Wycombe Wanderers chairman Ivor Beeks both painted a similar picture to the BBC.
That Lambert is destined for the very top – and nothing, not least a contract, is going to stand in his way when it comes to winning some serious, managerial silverware.
This morning and the Birmingham Mail reported that Lambert’s official unveiling was still imminent; for now, however, the two clubs were still wrangling over the final details of a compensation package believed to be in the region of £1 million.
A few ‘loose ends’ was the paper’s description as Canary chief executive David McNally, no doubt, stuck to his early summer guns and made Villa fight ‘tooth and nail’ for the services of the 42-year-old Scot.
Word was that Villa would offer their new chief a three-year contract at Villa Park; whether he would still be there come 2015 was a moot point to at least two other people who had seen him put pen to paper on a managerial deal.
A third, of course, would be Colchester United chairman Robbie Cowling who watched Lambert walk in the summer of 2009; he eventually prised some compensation out of Norwich – albeit only via blood, stone and the tribunal route.
But as a pattern of behaviour emerges, so it is clear that it is an urgent ambition that drives Lambert on; far more than than being either deceitful or dishonourable in his dealings with people – as his Canary players will confirm. Lambert rewards loyalty handsomely.
But when his stellar career demands, that same loyalty tends to play second fiddle to opportunity; to a stepping stone that – in his mind, at least – should have seen him installed at Anfield this summer ahead of Brendan Rodgers.
“You never think of it as disloyalty,” ex-Livingston director Smith, told the BBC.
“You knew from the beginning that Paul was always going to be a successful manager because he’s got that drive and attitude. I’m almost disappointed he might end up at Villa. I think he’ll end up at a bigger club than that.”
Beeks, of course, has the additional insight of working with Martin O’Neill – the man that Lambert himself still refers to as ‘The Gaffer’.
Both passed through leafy Buckinghamshire en route to ever greater managerial fame and fortune.
“He is a man in a hurry,” said Beeks, of Lambert.
“He sees where O’Neill is and I think he thinks: ‘I’ve got to get cracking. And he’s not finished yet. When he goes to Aston Villa, he won’t be finished.”
Back in Norfolk and the question was where next for the Canaries – back to Birmingham to try and secure the services of Blues boss Chris Hughton was the widespread expectation as McNally ruled out a move for Celtic’s Neil Lennon and revealed that no contact had been made with Cardiff City with regard to Malky Mackay.
“No clubs have been approached. It’s a shame both Cardiff and Celtic have been mentioned because both of those things are not true,” McNally said yesterday, as he did the rounds media-wise.
Hughton – still linked to the vacancy across the city at The Hawthorns – will be pondering his options this weekend.
The Blues board have made all the right noises with regard to fighting to keep their man at St Andrews but with no Premier League football to offer and the huge financial uncertainties still surrounding the club’s parent company – Birmingham International Holdings Ltd – they may well face a losing battle if either club come a-calling properly over the next 48 hours.