As John W. Henry spent a day or two sipping coffee with Roberto Martinez, it would appear that he was always longing for a cappuccino with Brendan Rodgers. It seems that the Northern Irishman was always on the Fenway Sports Group’s mind as they led the Wigan boss up the proverbial garden path. But amongst the recruitment process for a new manager, it is interesting to see that a certain Paul Lambert never really emerged as a front-runner for the Anfield post. Why wasn’t the one time Borussia Dortmund midfielder never taken seriously?
It’s fair to say that compared to Rodgers and Martinez, Paul Lambert and Norwich City’s media profile isn’t quite as high in stock. The brand of football that Rodgers had Swansea City playing this season, has been remarkable; his philosophy of possession based football and short, sharp passing, has taken all the plaudits and rightly so. The famous statistic that had Leon Britton as Europe’s most accurate pass master in January, really is testament to the work Rodgers has done at the Liberty Stadium.
Again, Roberto Martinez saw Wigan through an outrageous run of form towards the home straight of the Premier League season, which stole all the headlines. Back-to-back wins against Manchester United and Arsenal, preceded the 4-0 hammering of high flying Newcastle- all executed against a backdrop of flowing, attacking football. For a team that looked dead and buried by Christmas, it’s no wonder Martinez was interviewed for the Liverpool job. Let us not forget that Martinez laid many of the foundations for the man that seemingly beat him to the post, during his time as Swansea boss.
And then there’s Paul Lambert. Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that when a promoted team such as Norwich manage to comfortably finish 12th, to such timid fanfare, that the Premier League really has had a mad season. Norwich certainly didn’t thread 532 passes at home to Arsenal like Swansea did and they may not have put together a run quite as stunning at Wigan, but Lambert has arguably done a better job than either Rodgers or Martinez.
On a sunny afternoon back in 2009, Paul Lambert, then manager of Colchester United, travelled away to his current employers on the opening day of the League One season. Lambert walked into Carrow Road with modest aspirations for the season ahead. Just over 90 minutes later, he walked out after inflicting the heaviest home defeat in Norwich’s history, in an unbelievable 7-1 victory. Ten days later, he jumped ship to take over the Norwich side that his Colchester team had ripped to pieces and the rest is history.
To put Lambert’s achievements into context, you need to analyze the players used throughout Norwich City’s journey. The likes of Grant Holt, Wes Hoolahan, Marc Tierny and David Fox all played for both Norwich and Colchester on that fateful day- all have since played their part in comfortably securing Premier League safety. Much of Lambert’s squad today have all racked up plenty of time in the Football League and even his signings, such as Bradley Johnson and Jonny Howson, have originated outside of the English football’s top tier.
Lambert has his own philosophies and principals in the transfer market and his approach of looking outside the Premier League and shunning more proven talent, has paid massive dividends. The performances of more costly players with supposed Premier League ‘experience’, such as Roger Johnson and Scott Dann this season, only serve to galvanize Lambert’s credentials. But maybe that’s where the problem lies.
Paul Lambert is his own man and he exudes the sort of steely, no-nonsense approach in the mold of his countrymen, like the David Moyes and Sir Alex Ferguson’s of this world. He didn’t muck around when Norwich came calling and it would seem he’s followed a similar path in the light of a call from Villa Park. But the only problem he’s likely to have with Randy Lerner, is the size of the transfer war-chest. At Liverpool, this might not have been the case.
Despite the imminent appointment of Brendan Rodgers, there are still plenty of murmurings of installing a new Director of Football at Anfield. Regardless of the debate about that particular role, the Fenway Sports Group will want the middleman. They ploughed a lot of money into their prized investment and well and truly got their fingers burnt last season, regardless of who takes full blame out of the Comolli/Dalglish partnership. It is hard to imagine the new man at Anfield receiving full, autonomous control there. And that is where perhaps Lambert falls short.
Brendan Rodgers is made in County Antrim, but bred straight from the continent, managerially. A disciple of Jose Mourinho following his time taking charge of the Chelsea reserves, his matchday preparation, organization and penchant for possession would all suit a Spanish team down to the ground. The role of the Sporting Director would dovetail perfectly with Rodgers. It is difficult to imagine Lambert feeling quite the same about that or the politics and some of the baggage that seems to come with managing Liverpool.
But Liverpool’s loss may well be Aston Villa’s gain. Lambert will bring an exciting, direct brand of football to the crowds at Villa Park and after Alex McLeish, you can bet he’ll be backed to the hilt. If the board back him as well as the support, who knows how far he can take them. No one is saying that a team that were lucky to avoid relegation last season are likely to finish above Liverpool, but write Lambert off at your own risk. Like his Norwich team or Champions League medal, he has a habit of producing the unexpected.
What do you think about Paul Lambert? Underrated or not in big Brendan’s league? Get involved in the discussion on Twitter, follow @samuel_antrobus and hit me with your views.