If there was one thing that defined Paul Lambert’s reign at Aston Villa it was a lack of consistent approach. There were switches in the style of play that all ultimately led to the same conclusion and then the infamous U-turn on the bomb squad.
When the ex-Villa boss banished the likes of Darren Bent, Stephen Ireland, Alan Hutton and Charles N’Zogbia to the ‘bomb squad’ to train with the Villa youth team and play no part in first team activity, it was seen as a bold move. There was a certain amount of respect from supporters for taking a hard-line disciplinary approach to trying to galvanise the team and rid the dressing room of negative influences.
The fact that the club’s owner Randy Lerner was ok for the Villa boss to ice some of the club’s main wage earners did raise eyebrows. Would the club really be able to move them on for a decent price, if other clubs knew they were desperate to get rid? Also, hadn’t they advertised such players as bad apples to the football world? It certainly wasn’t the best way of selling them.
When the bomb squad was recalled (and in the case of Alan Hutton, given a new contract), the Lerner regime and Paul Lambert lost what credibility they had left.
In an in-depth interview with The Football League Paper, ex-member of the Villa bomb squad, Darren Bent, gave an insight into his thoughts at the time towards Lambert and what was going on behind the scenes. Here’s some excerpts of the Villa quotes:
On Paul Lambert & Bomb Squad
“What shocked me was that it came out of the blue. When Lambert came in, I was made captain. But then we had a few conflicts on the training pitch. A few of his ideas I didn’t agree with and it just kind of went from there.
“At the end of the season he said ‘I’m going to put you in another changing room with the other lads. With the kids’. Me, Stevie Ireland, Alan Hutton.
“He said he wasn’t going to use us, but 12 months down the line he had to come back and say ‘we need you now, you are back in the squad’.
“That kind of summed up Lambert and that whole period he was at Villa.
“I was angry. I managed to contain it, but my friends and family were angrier because it just didn’t make any sense.
“A few times I tried to talk to Lambert but didn’t get any answers. Hutton signed a new contract and I said to Lambert ‘what’s going on?’
“He said it was nothing to do with him, it was to do with Tom Fox (chief executive), so he just put everything on him.
“I heard many times it was about cutting wages. But just because I wasn’t in the squad didn’t mean they weren’t paying me. No one could get any definitive straight answer.”
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