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Summer transfers survey

Aston Villa Jul 20, 2014
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Paul Lambert

Latest Club: Aston Villa

2014/2015 Barclays Premier League

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Previous clubs: Livingston, Wycombe Wanderers, Colchester United, Norwich City

Honours: English League One: 2010

A solid attacking midfielder during his early playing days, Lambert's life was transformed in August 1996 when Ottmar Hitzfeld took him to Borussia Dortmund and converted him into a defensive midfielder. A year after his arrival, he was charged with shutting down Zinedine Zidane in the Champions League final as Dortmund secured a 3-1 victory over Juventus.

He would return to Scotland with Celtic in November 1997 and, though he would never reach the same heights again, he became the club's captain and won numerous domestic trophies as well as reaching the UEFA Cup final in 2003.

A quietly determined, thoughtful individual, Lambert took the unusual step of gaining his UEFA coaching badges with the German Football Association in 2004, though he was still a Celtic player. Desperate to put his new skills into practice, he accepted the Livingston job in 2005, despite indications it may require a more experienced manager.

Richard Gough had steered Livingston clear of relegation on the final day of the 2004-05 season, but things took a turn for the worse under Lambert. After a dismal eight months as player-manager, the club managed just two league victories, and he resigned his position in February with the club six points adrift at the foot of the table.

Undeterred, he headed to England for the first time in his career in the summer of 2006 to take charge at League Two side Wycombe. In many respects, it was another disappointing campaign, with the club finishing mid-table after failing to win any of their final 11 league games, but he attracted attention by reaching the League Cup semi-finals, securing a 1-1 home draw against Chelsea before losing the second leg 4-0.

He resigned at the end of the following season after a play-off semi-final defeat to Stockport, but found himself in League One in October 2008 when he was given the chance to lead Colchester. It was to be another solid but unspectacular season, culminating in a 12th-place finish.

There were signs that he may become a manager to watch on the opening day of the 2009-10 season as Colchester thrashed Norwich City 7-1 at Carrow Road. Canaries boss Bryan Gunn, who had been confronted by furious fans during the game, was sacked days later and it became clear that Lambert's victory had also been his audition: he was appointed Gunn's replacement.

At Norwich, Lambert was to find the ideal venue for his abilities. The Canaries were able to adopt a passing game while retaining a steely determination illustrated by their persistent ability to score late goals.

Skilfully playing the market to pick up talented loanees and lower-league signings, Lambert secured back-to-back promotions from League One and the Championship - the first manager to do so since Joe Royle at Manchester City in 2000 - and arrived in the Premier League as one of Britain's most highly-rated young managers.

His success attracted the interest of Aston Villa and, soon after the end of the 2011-12 season, he submitted his resignation to the Norwich board. Although it was initially rejected, Lambert was confirmed as the new manager at Villa Park in June 2012, on a three-year contract.

In his first season at Villa Park, Lambert managed to retain the club's top flight status despite having the youngest squad in the league and was deemed a success by fans and pundits alike. The following season Lambert's Villa again finished in 15th place with his side predominantly playing on the counter-attack and drawing criticism from some corners for their low possession stats. 

Strengths: A keen student of the game with a talent for making game-changing substitutions, Lambert has established a strong bond with his players and a great team spirit as well as proving a canny operator in the transfer market.

Weaknesses: The Scot has no glaring weaknesses, although there were grumblings amid sections of Norwich fans that during his final season at Carrow Road he occasionally got a case of tinker-itis.

Career high: Lambert said the two promotions in two years with Norwich were up there with his greatest achievements as a player, describing them as "a miracle."

Career low: Livingston lost 7-0 at Hibs in Lambert's penultimate game in charge and afterwards he hit out at his players, saying he was "embarrassed" and that it could have been 19-0 but for goalkeeper Roddy McKenzie.

Tactics: Lambert favours passing football played at a high tempo and has made good use of the diamond formation, but took a varied approach when designing his tactics for the Premier League.

Quotes: "I am not surprised by his success in the slightest. He was a very accomplished player but his game appreciation really improved when he moved to Borussia Dortmund. Playing under Ottmar Hitzfeld made him. The tactical side, the sense of discipline, he learned so much." Former Scotland manager Craig Brown.

Trivia:  Lambert is one of only two Scottish players to have won the Champions League in its current guise; the other is Darren Fletcher. 

Words: Robin Hackett