Saturday’s chant from the Barclay End was sad. After a six strange years in a series of managerial roles that - for a variety of reasons – didn’t work out, he has been given the opportunity to revitalise a struggling Championship club. That it happens to be Ipswich Town is surely irrelevant.
As we know to our benefit, Lambert is a highly driven individual - it’s a characteristic he shares with the great majority of football managers – and he is fully entitled to seek fresh employment wherever he wishes. After a few months out of the game and mixed fortunes at four other clubs since leaving Carrow Road, his desire to return to the dug-out should be respected.
His three years at Aston Villa can be interpreted as a failure to reverse the decline of a’ big’ club or a success in that he (temporarily) halted the decline which continued after he left. The AV board opted for the first version; that was their prerogative. They may well have got it wrong.
Lambert’s obvious desperation to return to management – remember “the most impatient man I have ever met (D. Bowkett, 2012) – led him to take on a basket case at Blackburn before a serious challenge at Wolves was terminated by a Board who knew exactly who they wanted and, for once, they seem to have got it right. He ‘failed’ at Stoke in that he took on a club already in the relegation zone who were subsequently relegated. Small wonder that he’s landed at a Championship club in need of a manager with experience, although that they dismissed a leader with a similar profile six months ago has a certain irony.
For supporters, football is an emotional game; for managers, it is a relentless search for survival or – if you’re lucky – progress. Few leave of their own accord and ‘mutual consent’ often involves significant compensation. Lambert left Norwich for Aston Villa to ‘better himself’; who’s not done that in his or her working life? He’s joined Ipswich because – psychologically, although probably not financially – he needs a job. Why then the demonisation?
Lambert - and NCFC supporters – enjoyed a spectacular three years at Carrow Road under his management and no amount of retrospective sniping (“it was Culverhouse’s coaching... Bryan Gunn signed Grant Holt... he dropped Wes early on”) is relevant either.
I carry no special brief for Paul Lambert. He would be in my top ten of NCFC managers but would struggle to make the top five when measured against (in historical rather than priority order) Macaulay, Saunders, Bond, Brown Stringer, Walker, Worthington and the great ‘might have been’, O’Neill.
Taking on the Ipswich gig is not disloyalty or, even more ridiculously ‘treachery’. Is our discourse now wholly infected by Trumpian rhetoric? Matt Gill’s departure to join Lambert at Portman Road was greeted by Daniel Farke with dignified respect. We should do likewise.
Good luck, Paul Lambert. You’ll need it. J. H. Norvic