Norwich City boss Lambert sounds O’Neill warning

Martin O'Neill's return to the big time spells trouble for the rest of the Premier League.

The former Norwich boss officially takes charge of his first Sunderland match tomorrow against Blackburn at the Stadium of Light. Paul Lambert readily admits O'Neill was a defining influence in his own decision to go into management, following a hugely successful stint in tandem at Celtic. O'Neill allowed Lambert to begin his coaching badges in Germany whilst his playing career was coming to an end at Parkhead. The former Leicester and Aston Villa boss also played a pivotal role in helping Lambert secure his first posting south of the border at another of O'Neill's former clubs, Wycombe. Lambert is delighted to see the man who he stills calls 'gaffer' back in the business – despite the inevitable downsides.

'They could not have picked a better manager to go in and rectify the club,' he said. 'They'll get a full house, 50,000 or whatever it is this weekend and he will be guaranteed to lift it. From my point of view, I hope he doesn't do well but they have an absolutely brilliant manager. The thing of him getting back in the game is long overdue, with him and Wally (Steve Walford) back in together and getting a massive football club to try and turn it around and I'm pretty sure he will. I think every club he has been at, he has took them up. I worked under him for five years so I know what he is like – but it's not great for everyone else.'

Lambert insists O'Neill's 16-month absence from the dugout since leaving Aston Villa will have no bearing on his ability to galvanise the Wearsiders: 'He'll do it standing on his head. That is a breeze, absolutely no worries there whatsoever with the experience he has got and the way he runs it,' he said. 'I spoke to him this week and as he says he'll probably get a game and a half's grace and that's probably more than most. But he'll know he'll have to win football matches, like we all do.'

Lambert is scheduled to face O'Neill for the first time in direct opposition when Norwich travel to the north-east in late January. The City boss revealed yesterday by then injured striker James Vaughan could be closing in on a return to action. Vaughan underwent knee surgery in September after suffering ligament damage in the corresponding league fixture against the Black Cats.

'It was 16 weeks originally so that will take him up to February,' said Lambert. 'Anything before that would be a major bonus, but it is not something I am going to rely on; that he might come back quicker than that.'

Manchester United skipper Nemanja Vidic became the latest high profile player ruled out long term after rupturing his cruciate ligament in United's Champions League midweek exit. Lambert believes there is a range of factors behind the serious catalogue of injuries affecting the modern game at the highest level.

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'I think the speed of the game is really quick and people move really sharply,' he said. 'It can be a lot of things. It can be the pitches, it can be your footwear is wrong. You see players going down with nobody near them. The foot just slips or you could twist different. Some boots are very light - whether they don't grip the grass, I don't know. I wore more traditional studs and thankfully I never got a bad injury as such.'