The only time I’ve ever been sacked from a job was, in fact, a travesty of human justice. Although ostensibly dismissed from my paper round for ‘gross misconduct’ the reality was that, while being chased by a particularly aggressive (though admittedly not large dog) I defended myself in the only way I knew how. By hurling my mint-choc Cornetto into his tiny, startled face
But while a downtrodden paperboy can be swiftly and unsympathetically dismissed, some people can balls things up so relentlessly, until the point where there is actually nothing left of the job other than a big pile of raw, distended gonads – and still find themselves in the office Secret Santa pot each year.
Cough. Paul Lambert. Cough. As things stand Aston Villa sit in 14th position, not too horrific on its own merit. Add to that everyone’s favourite sniggering stat that Villa have currently hit the net just 11 times in 22 games, a lower goal return than Ruddford Colts Under 6s, where the star striker routinely poos himself and cries during games.
And yet Lambert remains, if not exactly safe in his job, certainly in a position more secure than he probably expects or deserves. After all, this isn’t exactly a new state of affairs for Villa fans.
In his previous two seasons at Villa Lambert has guided them to no higher than 15th each time. Each season the team won no more than 10 games and amassed no more than 41 points. Perhaps though, more revealingly, Villa’s league goals per game ratio under Lambert has dropped from the barely impressive 1.23 goals per game to the barely comprehendible 0.5.
Like a small dog trying to extract smashed ice cream cone from his nostrils, it’s a confusing state of affairs. In the season Lambert spent with Norwich in the Premier League – ultimately the campaign that earned him the move to Villa Park – he took them to a higher finish, scored more goals and won more games than he’s managed in any season at Villa.
But now, over 100 games into his Villa career Lambert has achieved just over 30 wins. In 190 games in charge, Martin O’Neill gained 80 wins before deciding that Randy Lerner, although a man with a very funny name, had little interest in pushing Villa forward.
Which brings us to either Lambert’s defence or his excuses, depending on your viewpoint. Lerner is actively trying to sell the club. The impact of that can be judged by Lambert’s first summer of spending where he brought in £10 million worth of Christian Benteke and Ron Vlaar.
This season, he intercepted a few application forms destined for Nandos and ended up with Joe Cole, Kieran Richardson and Phillipe Senderos.
His old assistant got the boot for bullying. A rather surprising new assistant (Roy Keane) then arrived with the promise of a bold new direction – before proceeding to bully everyone from Jose Mourinho to imprudent autograph hunters to Tom Cleverly’s front doorbell, before stomping off to spend more time with his no doubt horrified family. However you choose to view it, Lambert is doing a poor job in less than ideal circumstances.
But, with grim inevitability, Villa have little more to look forward to than a 15th place finish and perhaps the chance to throw a tepid pie into a target as generously proportioned as David Cameron’s big, shiny face. Of course no one wants to see a manager sacked, as they say. Except when they very much do.