Paul Lambert: I had my reasons to leave Norwich City
Paul Lambert admitted yesterday he expects some Norwich City fans will never forgive him for walking out on the Canaries to join Premier League rivals Aston Villa.
The former darling of the Barclay was officially unveiled at Villa Park just under a week after resigning from his Carrow Road post after City reportedly denied him permission to speak to the Midlands club.
The EDP now understands the protracted issue of compensation for Lambert's departure may well end up being settled by an independent tribunal in an echo of the Scot's acrimonious move from Colchester to Norfolk in 2009.
Lambert avoided fanning the flames yesterday when he deflected the inevitable questions over a potential reunion with wantaway skipper Grant Holt and key allies Ian Culverhouse and Gary Karsa. The City Hall of Famer insists the manner of his exit should not detract from his achievements in guiding the club from the depths of League One to mid-table Premier League respectability.
'I had three brilliant years there, but I am now probably the worst manager in the club's history because I have left,' he said. 'I'm sure the fans are a little hurt that I have gone, but that is all I will say on the matter.
'I had my reasons to leave but I gave Norwich City everything I had. You are asking me, 'Is there anything the club could've done to keep me?'
'I think the best way to say it is I had my reasons and they were good reasons. When you have had success at any football club there is always a time to leave. That is football. I have never looked back in my time and felt I had any regrets. I'd like to think I wouldn't get a bad reception when I go back – that would be a very sad thing, but I can't help that. The Norwich crowd were brilliant, really brilliant for me.'
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Lambert did dismiss any notion tensions over finance played a part in his departure, with City's spending power in the transfer market dwarfed by many of their other top flight rivals.
'Whatever money you have that should not deflect from having the hunger and the desire,' he said. 'The finance is something that never bothered me. I am not that kind of person. I knew what the situation was with the budget and I was happy to work within it. We made it work by bringing in lads, some of whom had not even played in the Championship, and they did not look out of place at this level. Finance has never been an issue at any of my clubs. I loved my time at Wycombe, lovely people there as well but we had just been beaten by Stockport in the play-offs and I felt we had taken it as far as it could go.
'I made my mind up it was the right thing to do. I took some time out and ended up going to Colchester and then on to Norwich and I have worked with whatever I have been given at all of those clubs.'
Lambert acknowledged he will have more leverage in the transfer market at Villa, where he has already given a list of potential targets to chairman Randy Lerner and chief executive Paul Faulkner. The Scot, however, was non committal whether Holt or any of his former City stars are in his sights – although with no agreement yet concluded on compensation he is free to approach his old club.
'Listen, I haven't even thought about that at all. I think people see me going to Villa and assume Grant will come as well,' he said. 'Honestly I have never thought about it. I swear to God. I am really delighted to be here. There are lads Paul and the chairman and I have spoken about and we'll see if we can progress that down the line. I've asked for (Lionel) Messi, then Xavi and (Andres) Iniesta and if we sign them three then I think we'll do all right.
'Grant was brilliant for me. For the three years I was there he was a huge part of what happened. I really have a lot of time for him. He was brilliant for me as a footballer, brilliant for me as a captain and things move on –but I want Aston Villa to win now. I have not said that I want to sign Grant. I've just said he had been brilliant for me. I'll look at what I have here already and Paul and the chairman know the players that I want.'
Lambert repeated that mantra when pushed on his desire to link up with trusted lieutenants Culverhouse and Karsa, who he has worked with since their Wycombe days. Villa's former European Cup winner and current first team coach Gordon Cowans looks set to play some role in Lambert's backroom staff.
'I haven't thought about that (Ian and Gary), not one iota,' he said. 'My priority today was meeting the media and anything else is for another day. I have spoken to one or two of the backroom team here. Gordon Cowans, as everybody knows, is a legend. He was part of an incredible football team that won the European Cup. He deserves respect. I have spoken to Gordon, only briefly, and will chat again later on. He is a really nice guy but I want to speak to everyone.'
Lambert revealed he consulted his former Celtic mentor and ex-Villa boss Martin O'Neill before deciding to emulate the Sunderland chief and move to the Midlands.
'He was really complimentary. He said it was a great opportunity for me and I am quite sure if I get even a touch of the success he had here then I will have done okay,' he said. 'I have my own ideas on the expectancy and what I want to achieve, but I will never come out and put those on the players. We'll just try to win more games than we lose and we are going to need the fans. It is an incredible opportunity. You look at the managers who have been here and the history it has got and the size of the football club. It is vast, absolutely vast, but it is not something I am going to shy away from. I will embrace it and give it everything I have got to make it successful.'