Many people within the footballing community were surprised when Paul Lambert achieved promotion with Norwich City from the Championship.
Even more of a shock was his decision to jump ship and take his seat at Aston Villa for the 2012-2013 campaign.
Lambert had some very big choices to make regarding his squad and how they approached the transfer market, Villa chairman Randy Lerner had announced the free spending days were over at the club, so a new direction had to be taken.
Lambert received a lot of strong criticism early doors as he decided to put the emphasis more on youth development than experience, which could have cost him his job.
It seemed he had the support of his chairman and the club as a whole though, as unlike many of other Premier League managers he was given the time to implement his own style.
Lambert knew he would have to be frugal with the funds at his disposal. His first signing was Karim El Hamadi from Feyernoord for a mere £2million. One of the finds of the season had to be young defender Matthew Lowton, who signed from Sheffield United for a fee believed to be around £3million and Brad Guzan was re-signed by Lambert having been released after his contract had expired just weeks before.
Guzan would turn out to be Lambert's new number one instead of the vastly experience Shay Given, a decision that would to pay off in the long run. Wales central defender James Collins was to return to his old club West Ham and was replaced by Dutch International Ron Vlaar, who was to be the experienced head in a very youthful defence.
It was a very busy first Villa transfer deadline day for Lamber, who signed three players in Ashley Westwood, Jordan Bowery and a certain Christian Benteke from Genk. Benteke would turn out to be the find of the season and a bargain to boot at just £7million.
As expected this was a risk and took the side time to gel but come February they were impressing a lot of the doubters. Benteke's goals were incredibly important for Lambert's side who were starting to get a decent run together and looking like a good bet to stave off relegation. Villa finished 15th place in the league, which seemed impossible with the experimental route they took with the squad. Benteke became the first Villa striker to notch up 20 goals in a season for nine years.
There has been much to admire about Paul Lambert and his Villa side. They have some real unity within their ranks. They are young, quick and good technically, and I for one would not be surprised if they were to pick up one of the domestic cups this season or maybe a European place. Do not be surprised if one of the big clubs come calling for Paul Lambert next summer.
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