Lambert pays price for taking too much on at Villa
12 February 2015, 16:04
Birmingham - The tipping point for Paul Lambert and his increasingly fragile tenure at Aston Villa arguably came when the team sheets were submitted for the match against Hull on Tuesday.
Without a win in nine Premier League games and mocked for being by far the lowest scorer in English football, Villa was about to start a huge match against a rival for relegation without its top striker, Christian Benteke, who was dropped to the bench.
A limp Villa lost 2-0, a banner proclaiming "Lambert Out" was spread across the section of away supporters at KC Stadium and within 24 hours, Lambert was fired.
So, the Premier League is without a Scottish manager for the first time and the reputation of a coach who was one of the most admired in British football three years ago has been shattered.
Meanwhile, Villa, a former European champion and an established member of England's elite, is clinging on to its Premier League status. With 13 matches left, Villa is in the relegation zone.
Lambert acknowledged in a statement Thursday he probably took too much on at a club that has been in turbulence in the last few years under the ownership of American businessman Randy Lerner.
"My initial remit," Lambert said, looking back at the time he took over in June 2012, "was to conduct a massive overhaul of the playing squad, lower the overall wage structure of the playing staff and achieve this whilst keeping the club in the Barclays Premier League."
Lambert attempted to do this with a minimal transfer budget and by concentrating on youth.
"When I came on board ... Randy Lerner warned me that I was embarking on the toughest challenge of my working life and he was not wrong," Lambert said.
Initially, there was praise for the work Lambert was doing, at a time when bringing in foreign recruits was the norm in the Premier League. But progress under those restraints was always unlikely and in his first two seasons, Villa beat relegation by five points.
It got even worse this season — and to make matters more difficult for Lambert, the goals started to dry up. Scoring — through a center back at a corner — against Chelsea in the 2-1 loss on Feb. 7 ended a run of six league games without a goal, a club record.
Embarrassingly, Villa has scored just 12 goals in 25 league games this season — 11 fewer than the joint-second lowest scorers in the four English leagues, Blackpool, Sheffield Wednesday, Yeovil and Hartlepool.
By the time of the Hull game, Villa fans had had enough. Watching their team play was just not fun anymore.
"I pay tribute to the supporters who are among the most passionate I have ever encountered. They rightly hold huge expectations for their beloved football club and I sincerely hope they are rewarded with the success they deserve," Lambert said Thursday.
"I completely understand their frustrations and always shared their view that the football club is too big not to be competing at the top end of the table. I hope that can happen."
That looks doubtful in the short term, though.
Lerner, the former owner of Cleveland Browns in the NFL, has been looking to sell the club for nine months now and understandably hasn't been willing to throw too much money at improving the squad. His problem is that Villa will become much less of a prized target for potential buyers if it isn't in the lucrative Premier League, especially with the new huge new TV deals soon to kick in.
In Benteke, England midfielder Fabian Delph — who recently signed a new contract — and Netherlands defender Ron Vlaar, Villa has three top players in the spine of the team.
Elsewhere, the cupboard looks bare and there is little else for fans to be excited about.
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