The word on the street tonight was interesting – that ex-City chief Paul Lambert was seeking ‘up to £2 million’ in compensation for unfair dismissal at an industrial tribunal.
The news was, by many accounts, broken at this evening’s Fans Forum event; as hosted by BBC Radio Norfolk’s Chris Goreham.
So when Chris subsequently re-tweets this from the EDP’s Michael Bailey: “@michaeljbailey: Alan Bowkett says Lambert’s taking #ncfc to tribunal looking for £2m for “unfair dismissal.” Main headline from fans forum’, then I think we can take it as a given that certain legal actions are, indeed, afoot between Norfolk club and their famed ex-manager.
All of which will merely add to the general merriment later this month when all concerned meet again at Villa Park.
Clearly, it is impossible to state with any remote degree of certainty as to who said what to whom, who promised what to whom and what was actually allowed under the terms of Lambert’s contract of employment. It was like prising blood from the proverbial stone with regard to the very length of his contract, let alone the sub-clauses and get-out clauses within it.
Though one would presume – on previous form – the ability of a manager to at least be at freedom to speak to A N Other club might be one bone for the respective sets of lawyers to chew over.
And Lambert won’t be short of advice, either. Martin O’Neill’s exit from Villa Park ended up going legal for months afterwards and was, I believe, only finally sorted at an arbitration panel convened by the League Managers Association. By which point, you would equally presume, both parties were heartily sick of eachother. A gentlemanly handshake and a wish of all the best it wouldn’t have been once the affair was finally settled some nine months later.
But, that said, I would be amazed if it ever reached the open forum of an industrial tribunal. These cases will get sorted ‘on the steps of the court’. Until that point, people will jockey for position, push this line, deny that. It’s all part of the game that the lawyers will play; therein lies their fees.
Therefore the overwhelming sense tonight is one of sadness. That the waters between the two parties should become thus poisoned.
It didn’t end well; personalities didn’t rub well together; that was long clear. Just move on. Forget it. Let matters rest.
And the move to Villa won’t have left Lambert short of a bob or two; is it really another big, fat cheque he’s after?
Or if it is to point score off former boardroom foes, what’s the point? Why sour it now?
And was he really ever intent on staying last summer? Really? Or was an exit – orderly, ideally – the best for all concerned?
Had Lambert got the big itch to get away – knowing that he would be hard-pressed to ever repeat the feats of that first season in the Premier League; jump whilst his managerial star was still in the ascendent; before he had to try and negotiate ‘second season syndrome’. Let some other fella pick up that ticket?
There was, equally, no guarantee that his striking talisman Grant Holt would be there to give him another mid-table finish. Was Holt’s new deal the lightning rod that sparked his exit? In fairness to the board, someone found the sense and the wherewithal to keep the club skipper firmly put, but were relations so soured that they were not going to bend to Lambert’s will?
Personally, I always sensed he wanted away; felt he had done his time in Norfolk. The body language at Adam Drury’s Testimonial Match was not that of a man still wholly at ease in his surrundings. He had done his time.
Which he had. To magnificent effect.
So why come back and try to, apparently, prise up to £2 million out of a club for whom he will always be legend?
If there is an answer – and I would strongly suggest no-one in this neck of the woods ever really got to know Lambert well enough to say what made him tick – I would suggest that it would lie somewhere in the heart of that Glasgow-thing; the fierceness of their mind-set that sets them apart from the milder-mannered others; for the Chrissy Hughtons of this world, blacks and whites are always various shades of grey.
Not for the Lamberts. Or the Fergusons. Or the Moyes’. Quarter is never given. As it never did with O’Neill. He brought a similar level of intensity to proceedings – one that would then play out in a bitter, legal fall-out with Randy Lerner and Co post that Villa exit.
It’s a shame. And, to my mind, the only real winners are the lawyers. They alone will celebrate tonight’s news.