Villa manager Paul Lambert ready to face former club Norwich
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert claims he has not spoken to Norwich chairman Alan Bowkett for “about three years” as he prepares to face his former club at Villa Park today.
The former Celtic and Scotland midfielder will do battle with the Canaries for the first time since he quit Carrow Road at the end of last season to take charge at Villa.
Lambert and Norwich are suing each other for breach of contract and the matter will be decided by a Premier League manager’s tribunal. But Lambert was upset last month when Bowkett made the matter public at a fans’ forum and claimed he had left all of his previous clubs in a similar manner.
Lambert insists his action is only a counter-claim to Norwich’s charge that he breached his contract when resigning five months ago.
When asked about Bowkett’s claims, Lambert said: “I don’t know because I’ve never spoken to the chairman for about three years. Perhaps that is a bit of an exaggeration, maybe two. It’s a good chunk of time. Why? That’s football. Let him talk. We will see what happens.”
Lambert has the backing of the League Manager’s Association and is confident he will win his case.
He said: “Could I have handled leaving Norwich any differently? Me, not at all. I took advice from the LMA and I know what is going on. It will be in the hands of a Premier League manager’s tribunal and hopefully it will be sorted. But I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve got nothing to hide.”
Lambert looks back with pride on steering Norwich to successive promotions but is unsure what reception he will receive from their fans.
He said: “When you leave a club, especially after what we’d done, you’d think we’d be made to feel welcome. But it doesn’t always transpire that way. I look back at the three years with pride. It was an incredible part of my life which I’ll never forget and the crowd were magic with me. Football moves on but I’ll never forget the time there.”
Lambert, whose main objective is to revive Villa’s season after one win in eight matches has left them occupying 17th position, added: “The Norwich game only has spice because I left. It’s not something that I’m really worried about or anything like that. It’s just another game. I had a great three years there and if people want to deflect on to something else then I can’t help that.
“Football moves on and it’s a massive game for ourselves. We have to win, that is the bottom line.”
Villa have triumphed only once in their last 18 Premier League games – a 2-0 home win over Swansea during the current campaign.
But Lambert said: “The pleasing thing for me is that we’ve been playing pretty decent stuff. It’s not as if we’ve been going into any game with any trepidation. In the last two away games (at Tottenham and Fulham) we’ve certainly deserved more than what we’ve got.”
Lambert’s successor at Norwich, Chris Hughton, also denied there will be any extra edge in the match today and insists the only score-settling will be of a footballing variety.
Hughton said: “We are up against a good Aston Villa team who are playing at home and will have a great support behind them.
“Whether we are fighting for three points at Aston Villa or anywhere else doesn’t make any difference once that whistle goes. In some ways it’s different because of the previous manager but that is a very small detail. The bigger detail is that it is three points to play for and I’m sure from Paul’s point of view it will be exactly the same.
“We’ll have a group of players who will be very grateful to Paul for the magnificent job he did here but once the whistle goes there is only one objective. That is how any of our players will see it. Once the game has kicked off it will be about 11 v 11 and not managers.”
Hughton has found it difficult to maintain the free-flowing form of last season but last week’s 1-0 home win against Arsenal, their first victory of the current league campaign, has brought renewed confidence and they lie one point ahead of Villa, who in turn are one place above the relegation zone.
Hughton said: “Generally, the morale has been very good. Of course there is always a better feeling after a win, and a well-deserved win for us. Very quickly it is about getting down to doing the business again, learning all we can from the last game and remembering we had not done so well in the previous games.”
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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