The only surprise was that the exit door from Villa Park wasn’t shown earlier to the man who many of a yellow and green persuasion still have strong feelings towards, both positive and negative.
A managerial win ratio of below 30 per cent usually signals a swift departure from a football club (including Norwich City) but such are the peculiar financial andownership circumstances at the land of Lerner that Paul Lambert seemed he would ride out the storm.
The final coup de grace however was the slide into the bottom three on the back of just twelve goals scored all season – a stat which makes the 2013-14 season at Carrow Road seem like a crazy, fun-fueled jamboree.
I half expected a sympathetic statement today from the House of Commons where one of Villa’s most famous fans – a certain Mr Cameron – plies his trade. But perhaps he’s tied up with the latest Tory tax evasion stuff.
Reaction from Villa fans seems to have been massively in agreement with the decision. Indeed the growing vocal discontent from that dwindling group of ‘Villains’ still bothering to show up on match day must have played their part.
Lambert’s status at the club outside of the boardroom had become truly toxic by all accounts.
The sudden axing of his once indispensible ex-Canary right-hand man Ian Culverhouse was peculiar. Vaguely said to be a result of ‘bullying and aggressiveness’, who would have guessed that the ideal and polar opposite replacement would have been Roy Keane. That beard-heavy partnership had ‘car crash’ all over it from the start.
Reaction to Lambert’s demise within the Canaries’ community of course was split much more evenly, between those who continue to covet his talents and achievements as the ‘saviour’ of the club that we hold dear, and those who just cannot forgive the ill-will which surrounded his exit from Norfolk.
Saint or sinner? You decide.
While almost unanimously a villain at Villa, Lambert continues to hold both hero and villain status at Carrow Road and probably always will.
How did King Paul’s reputation fall so far within the space of one club? Was it a case of over-achievement with us or a crisis of self-confidence in the light of the tight Villa purse strings held by the American owner whose name conjures up an image of an over-sexed student?
Some have made the comparison with Ron Saunders. Both delivered promotion to the top rung in their time at the helm of the Canaries, only to fall out with the hierarchy and head off to pastures new. In big Ron’s case, first up was a short stay at Maine Road, but then on to the claret and blue end of Birmingham.
But that’s where any comparison ends. Saunders was massively successful in his tenure at Villa. Lambert by contrast joins another Scot, Alex McLeish, in probably being entered into the hall of shame for future Villa generations to deride and abuse.
Meanwhile, many online opinions back in Norfolk have cried out for Lambert’s immediate return to the Norwich post. Whether serious or tongue-in-cheek, such comments are hugely disrespectful to Alex Neil’s efforts and sheer fantasy in light of the irreversible damage done to the McNally-Lambert relationship when the greener grass of Villa Park came calling.
While his status as a Premier-level manager is badly damaged, there’s no doubt that a Championship side will come calling for his services soon. If not this season, then surely next.
Or maybe the Scottish Premier League will tempt him back? Who knows, the Hamilton job may well be vacant in the near future!
Or maybe he’ll follow that other temporary ‘Premier pariah’, David Moyes over to Europe to resurrect his reputation. Interestingly, McLeish is also on that journey – currently in Belgium.
The continental cure worked wonders for Steve McClaren whose ‘Wally with a Brolly’ days have been put well behind and is generally regarded again as an excellent coach after years of ridicule.
Maybe Lambert will do a spot of the proverbial gardening (a past-time currently being enjoyed by Neil Adams of course) and bide his time before embarking back on the managerial merry-go-round.
Financially, he’ll be in no hurry but the talent pool from these shores is becoming ever more diluted by foreign managerial imports. Can he afford to kick back and re-energise before seeking out a new challenge?
Meanwhile, Tim Sherwood’s name pops up in connection with the Villa position having failed the Fernandes test at QPR. It seems there’s no getting away from those Norwich links at Villa Park.