ASTON Villa manager Paul Lambert has played down the emotion surrounding his return to Norwich today and insisted he is fully focused on maintaining his side’s recent good form.
The Scot enjoyed three hugely successful years at Carrow Road, guiding the Canaries to consecutive promotions and an impressive first season in the Barclays Premier League before leaving on acrimonious terms. Today marks his second return to Carrow Road since leaving, having beaten his old team 4-1 in the Capital One Cup earlier this season. And Lambert insists his links with the club will be far from his thoughts if Villa beat 14th-placed Norwich and worsen their plight while boosting his own side’s survival bid.
“I think if you get caught up in my connection there it deflects from the game,” he said. “It’s not about me going back there because I’ve been back already. I had three fabulous years there and took a team from League One, built it up, the crowd bought into it, the lads I worked with were fantastic.
“It’s another game and I’m looking forward to going down there. My job is here. We have to win. If our fans are anything like they were for the cup game, then we’ll be taking a ferocious support down there. It will be a tough game but we’re certainly playing well.”
Villa are now in control of their destiny and look a good bet to stay up but Lambert is reluctant to rest on his laurels just yet.
“It’s never over until it’s over but you have to give yourself a chance.”
Midlands rivals West Brom could help Villa keep their top-flight status for next season by beating Wigan this weekend.
Wigan manager Roberto Martinez has dismissed suggestions his side’s run to the FA Cup final has ruined their chances of avoiding relegation.
Wigan’s achievement in reaching this month’s Wembley showpiece for the first time in their history is being overshadowed by yet another battle against the drop in the Barclays Premier League. The Latics are five points from safety with just four games to play.
They do have a game in hand on their relegation rivals but their fixtures must be fitted around the final on 11 May. That means nervy midweek games either side of their trip to Wembley but Martinez denies it is acomplication.
The Spaniard said: “I heard it could be a distraction but, believe me, it is not a distraction at all. If anything, it is a sense of pride. To be in this position is a huge achievement.
“We are taking every game in the league with the importance it has. We all understand that is the priority. But having an FA Cup final is a fantastic reward to fight for in the league. From the players’ point of view, that is what you are fighting for at the end of a game in the league.”
Wigan are 18th in the table, the final relegation spot, on 32 points. Villa, Sunderland and Newcastle are level on 37 above them with Norwich a point further ahead.
Supporters will inevitably be keen to know scores from elsewhere as the Latics travel to The Hawthorns but Martinez is focused only on his own task. He said: “We are concentrating on the West Brom game. Saturday is a very important game for us.”