LAM­BERT: Money is killing our kids’ de­sire

The Football League Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Chris Dunlavy

PAUL Lam­bert seems to enjoy work­ing with his hands tied. From a board at As­ton Villa who wouldn’t spend any money to a club in Black­burn who can’t, the 46-year-old is clearly a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment.

Lured to Villa Park from Nor­wich in early 2012,Lam­bert dis­cov­ered a club who’d over­spent, an owner who wanted out and star play­ers with ‘For Sale’ signs slung round their necks.

Forced to shop in the bar­gain base­ment, he kept Villa afloat for two sea­sons but was even­tu­ally dis­missed in Fe­bru­ary with rel­e­ga­tion from the Premier League a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity.

Now, af­ter nine months of R&R, he is back at Ewood Park fac­ing mon­strous debts, a trans­fer em­bargo and a strug­gling side. Didn’t he fancy wait­ing for a surer bet?

“No, no,” he in­sists. “There was never a mo­ment of doubt.Yes, I knew the off-field is­sues, but the own­ers were really open about that. I felt com­fort­able.

“If you go down the road of neg­a­tiv­ity, peo­ple talk about it all the time. They talk about em­bar­goes, about sell­ing play­ers. About not hav­ing enough qual­ity and not win­ning games.

“And the more peo­ple talk, the more peo­ple lis­ten. It be­comes a vi­cious cir­cle, all doom and gloom. There has to come a point where you stop fix­at­ing on prob­lems.

“That point is now. The day I walked in here, I thought ‘Na, time to change. ’The only thing I want to talk about now is foot­ball.”

And Lam­bert does. About his old Nor­wich side. About the per­ils fac­ing young play­ers, such as 20-year-old Villa tyro Jack Gre­al­ish, who was dropped from the squad for go­ing out club­bing. About a hia­tus spent watch­ing foot­ball across the Con­ti­nent.

“A great ex­pe­ri­ence,” says Lam­bert, who won the Euro­pean Cup with Dort­mund in 1997 and com­pleted his coach­ing badges in Ger­many.

“I wanted to re­lax a lit­tle bit, have some time to my­self. I hadn’t been out of foot­ball for a long, long time – maybe since 2008 when I left Wy­combe. Go­ing to see dif­fer­ent teams, dif­fer­ent man­agers, dif­fer­ent cities. I had a great time, with no stress.

“You do get those mo­ments. You’re sit­ting there watch­ing Dort­mund or Real or Lev­erkusen.You don’t have any de­mands on you. It’s a great life and you think ‘Yeah, I could get used to this’.

“But, re­al­is­ti­cally, it was al­ways a

mat­ter of when I wanted to come back. I’m only 46 – what would I do with the rest of my days?”

Yet, hav­ing been sacked for the first time in a man­age­rial ca­reer span­ning ten years and five clubs, did the for­mer Celtic skip­per ever doubt his abil­ity?

“No, I never did,” he in­sists with char­ac­ter­is­tic bel­liger­ence. “Be­cause I knew the cir­cum­stances at the Villa. I did ev­ery­thing I could with the re­sources I had.

Plat­form

“We signed saleable as­sets, like Ash­ley West­wood. We brought through play­ers like Fabian Delph and gave him a plat­form.

“I’m happy with the job I did and since I’ve gone… well, they’re not too healthy at the minute, that’s for sure. I was never in that po­si­tion. And the money we spent was nowhere near what it was this sum­mer gone.”

Lam­bert, though, is quick to as­sert that money isn’t ev­ery­thing.

It’s a point proved dur­ing 18 heady months when he led prac­ti­cally the same squad of Nor­wich play­ers from the foot of League One to the Premier League.

“I don’t think any­one could ever have imag­ined what we’d do at Nor­wich,” he says. “But I think it just shows what you can do with a good fan­base and a set of good guys. They de­serve so much credit for where Nor­wich are to­day.

“Money gives you a chance, but it’s amaz­ing what you can do with your mind­set. If you get a group of play­ers who want suc­cess, who buy into your ideas and hit the same wave­length, any­thing is pos­si­ble. Just look at Le­ices­ter now.”

He adds: “A man­ager’s job is to mo­ti­vate play­ers. No doubt. But the best man­ager in the world will never ever get any­thing from a player who isn’t self-mo­ti­vated. That’ll take for­ever.

“If some­body doesn’t have that am­bi­tion or drive, if they don’t want to im­prove, forget it. They don’t be­long in foot­ball and they won’t make a ca­reer of it. Those Nor­wich guys, they all had that. They wanted to achieve some­thing.

“But th­ese young kids out of acad­e­mies, they get too much too early. That’s a big prob­lem, es­pe­cially in this coun­try. They get the money, they get the trap­pings. And they think ‘I’ve made it’.

“But all the time you’re giv­ing them money you’re tak­ing away that de­sire to to win medals and re­spect.

“It’s no good for the game in this coun­try. It’s no good for the player’s de­vel­op­ment. It’s no good for the club they’re at.

“Be­cause, with­out that de­sire to im­prove and learn, they won’t stand a chance against lads like the ones I had at Nor­wich.”

And, as for a Black­burn side 13th in the ta­ble and likely to lose ei­ther Jor­dan Rhodes or Ben Mar­shall in Jan­uary, does he be­lieve this sea­son is any­thing more than a write-off?

Mo­men­tum

“We’ve come in at a dif­fi­cult time,” ad­mits Lam­bert, whose men beat Pre­ston 1-0 in his first game.

“We’ve been here less than two weeks. It’s too early to make any guar­an­tees, but the feel­ing is very upbeat and we need to ride that.

“Nor­wich showed the im­por­tance of mo­men­tum.

“We might go on a run of five, six wins and sud­denly you’re in the mix. We might not. But let’s talk about try­ing to do that, not all this other non­sense.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

BACK IN BUSI­NESS: Paul Lam­bert says he quickly stopped fix­at­ing on prob­lems at Black­burn

KEY MEN: Jor­dan Rhodes scores for Black­burn and Paul Lam­bert lifts the Cham­pi­ons League tro­phy

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