Blog: Villa will regain winning ethos under Lambert
6th Jun 2012
Few words from Paul Lambert, I grant you, but enough to fill the heart of every claret and blue follower with hope for the coming years.
Lambert was talking about the fire that burned brightly inside him on the eve of his first Barclays Premier League season as a manager.
By that point he had steered his side to the top-flight, up two divisions, on a diet of tempo and tactics. But above all, it was tenacity that shone through.
Fast forward to the end of the campaign and Lambert had led his team to an incredible 12th.
Villa, of course, were their opponents on the final day and the claret and blue 2-0 defeat led to a finish two points and two places above the drop.
There was then the inevitable parting of the ways and the rhetoric coming out of the boardroom soon after could not have been more clear.
"We want someone who can inspire the players, inspire the fans and can deliver on the pitch," said Paul Faulkner.
"It's about bouncing back and getting Villa back where we should be, where we feel we should be. We're looking to go into next season and be in those positions where we will be in there challenging."
The characteristics mapped out by Villa's chief executive were there for all to see.
What Faulkner wanted - and what the fans craved - was a boss to drag the claret and blues up by their bootstraps and turn them into a compelling, classy and competitive side again.
No wonder they turned to Lambert, who, as a personality alone, exemplifies all those characteristics.
It is a character moulded from an early age.
"When I signed for St Mirren, the old chief scout said to my mum and dad: 'The important years for Paul are going to be between 16 and 19. 'Why is that?' they asked. 'Because at that age he will discover drink, women, nightclubs.' But I sacrificed everything."
The drive and determination to be the best shone through with Lambert the player.
A highly technical performer with virtues that sometimes went unnoticed, he eschewed the spectacular for much of his career. He was more concerned with being an important part of a team rather than a maverick who stole thunder at the expense of the efficiency of the unit.
But his medals still shine on the sideboard.
He collected the Scottish Cup in 1987 soon after the scout's wise words and that was followed -10 years later - by negating Zinedine Zidane in the Champions League showpiece of 1997 for Borussia Dortmund, an enthralling match his side won 3-1 at the expense of Italian giants Juventus.
It was during this time that Lambert started to appreciate the intricacies of management - and come to the realisation that football was played as much with the head as with the heart.
Lambert heard the raucous roar from Jürgen Kohler, Borussia Dortmund's tough centre-back.
"We were winning 4-0 and I was actually starting to venture more and more in the offensive bit. But then I heard Jürgen say: 'Na. Na Stay'. At 4-0!"
Lambert began to appreciate that football was just as much about instruction as instinct.
He began taking notes from his senior team-mates.
"I wrote everything down. I knew I was going to learn and I kept the book. I absorbed everything.
"We had great players and they were very humble. They trained the way they played. That was an eye-opener. I wasn't used to that intensity of training. They were really focused."
That discipline stayed with Lambert as he started to think about his own small steps into the glare of the dugout.
"To get on in life you can't always take the easy option. I like setting myself challenges," said Lambert as he began his coming career.
By this time, of course, he had flourished in his homeland.
His return to Scotland was festooned with four league titles, three Scottish Cup wins and four league cups.
He also captained Celtic to the UEFA Cup final of 2003.
The midfielder could have gone down the tried and tested Largs coaching route but his career had been shaped at the Westfalen Stadion and the Scot believed the German system could make him a better manager.
"It was pretty daunting but it was what I wanted to do and I was determined to see it through - even if the first day reminded me of my first day at school, only at least I spoke the language at my school!
"There were 26 Germans, a Greek and myself and I wondered if I would fit in. But once I got into it I really enjoyed it.
"A friend got all the paperwork translated for me so I could go back to the hotel and study at night.
"After seven months I sat down in front of two examiners, a bundle of nerves, and by the end of it had a licence."
His coaching career has since taken him to Livingston, Wycombe, Colchester and Norwich before the claret and blue hierarchy identified him as the No.1 managerial candidate this summer and snapped him up.
As I have said, the competitive fire clearly burns bright inside him and I believe that will ensure that Villa's stars shine in the months and years ahead.
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