Aston Villa this morning confirmed what the world had long guessed – that Paul Lambert was, indeed, going to be their new manager.
In one, short statement published on their official website, the Villa Park club brought a summer of speculation to an end as they, finally, confirmed the 42-year-old’s appointment.
“The board of Aston Villa are delighted to confirm that Paul Lambert has been appointed Villa manager.”
That news had been imminent for the last 24 hours. Negotiations with both Lambert’s agent – Athole Still – and the Canaries had dragged on through the night as the Norfolk club fought ‘tooth and nail’ to keep their manager in place.
Or rather, failing that, to prise every last penny compensation-wise out of Villa in lieu of the one, rolling year Lambert had left on his Carrow Road employment. That is expected to amount to £1 million; sat on a new, three-and-a-half year deal, Swansea City were reported to have prised £5 million out of Liverpool for Brendan Rodgers’ services.
The official statement itself wasn’t exactly long on either detail – or words.
But it still brings the final curtain down on an extraordinary chapter in Norwich City’s history – two back-to-back promotions and a place secured, with relative ease, back in the English Premier League will remain the stuff of managerial legend.
History will swiftly paint over the events of the last 72 hours as Lambert opted to walk in order to find – what he would deem – the next stepping stone en route to the top.
That would be the worry for Villa; that they are just the next stepping stone on a path that has included spells at Livingston, Wycombe Wanderers, Colchester United and, most famously, Norwich.
What has yet to emerge is whether ‘Team Lambert’ is also following him out of the door; that Canary No2 Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa are also packing their bags for the Midlands this weekend.
Invariably these days, managers move with their own ‘Boot Room’ in tow; for Culverhouse this will prove his second, big farewell to a club that he has served with such distinction – both on the pitch and now off it.
All of which now leaves ‘just’ two ‘jobs pending’ in McNally’s summer in-tray – the small matter of finding Lambert’s successor and fending off Grant Holt’s wantaway intentions.
The prospects of the 31-year-old, three-time Player of the Season following Lambert up the A14 to Villa Park will have, no doubt, increased with this morning’s news – a possibility that will have McNally rolling up his sleeves for a second round of ‘negotiations’ with the Villa hierachy.
Yesterday and McNally was making it very clear that any potential suitor for the striker’s services would be given short shrift; Norwich were not a selling club whilst the finances remained in such good order.
Holt, however, might beg to differ after suggesting to his Twitter following that ‘disagreements’ were still on-going; despite the fact that he had – minus a hash-tag – ‘loved his time here’.
“We are delighted he has loved it here, 70 goals in three seasons, every level of football he has scored at – 15 in the league last year, our captain, our talisman and the fans hero,” said McNally.
“He has won player of the year three years in a row and that has never been done at this marvellous football club and he is not for sale,” the Canary chief executive added.
“If ever, hypothetically, you were to sell someone with such a record, what is the replacement cost? It is certainly bigger than the total budget that I have seen quoted for the club Lambert is talking to – but Grant Holt is not for sale.”