Paul Lambert ‘can’t wait for the season to start’

PAUL LAMBERT admits Aston Villa’s history “raises the bar” in terms of what is expected from his first season in charge ahead of today’s Barclays Premier League opener at West Ham.

The former Norwich manager is striving to bring the good times back to Villa after two seasons of underachievement under Gerard Houllier and Alex McLeish.

Lambert has been welcomed by Villa fans after the animosity shown towards former Birmingham manager McLeish. But he has urged Villa supporters to stick with the team through the ups and downs that will lie ahead.

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Lambert said: “The history of Villa, that raises the bar because of the expectancy level. When you go to any club it’s hard. It’s not an easy job, football management, and Norwich was tough to turn around.

“But Villa is a huge club and I can’t wait for the season to start now.”

Lambert added: “The crowd have been great. It makes you humble. People seem happy that you are here. I know I have to try and get results and we will give it a right good go.

“But we are going to need the crowd through good and bad times. If the crowd stick with us, we will be alright.”

BBC pundit Robbie Savage, has tipped Villa for relegation but Lambert said: “I don’t bother with it to be honest. Robbie is entitled to his opinion, let’s wait and see.”

Lambert is also looking forward to trying to bring the best out of last season’s fans’ player of the year, Stephen Ireland, who had endured a difficult first campaign at Villa.

Lambert said: “He is a really talented footballer and it is up to me to get the best out of him.”

Lambert will be hoping that Ireland can link up with striker Darren Bent who is now back to fitness after missing the final third of last season – and Euro 2012 –with an ankle problem.

He said: “It is a big bonus to have him back. There is a lot on his shoulders but you can’t rely on one person.”