Sunderland v Aston Villa

Lambert hails O'Neill efforts

November 2, 2012
By Ian Edwards

Paul Lambert will be delighted if he can have a fraction of the success Martin O'Neill, his mentor and the man he still refers to as "gaffer", enjoyed during his time as Aston Villa manager.

Neil Lennon, Martin O'Neill, Paul Lambert
PA PhotosPaul Lambert captained Martin O'Neill's successful Celtic side

O'Neill qualified for the Europa League three times in succession as well as reaching the League Cup final during a four-year stint at Villa Park, but his achievements have been devalued in some supporters' eyes by the acrimonious way he walked out on the club in 2010.

However, the difficulties the club has suffered in the post-O'Neill era only serve to magnify his achievements and, ahead of this weekend's meeting with Sunderland, Lambert has said that Villa fans should reflect more fondly on his achievements.

Asked about O'Neill's departure amid rumours that he had fallen out with owner Randy Lerner over transfer funding, Lambert said: "I don't know what happened. It was prior to me being here.

"What I do know is he had Villa rocking when he was here. They just missed out on the Champions League and got to Wembley a few times, so that showed you the success he had here - unbelievable success."

Lambert, who won the Champions League as a player under Ottmar Hitzfeld and later featured in O'Neill's Celtic side, has nothing but praise for the Northern Irishman.

"I played under him for five years," he said. "Ottmar Hitzfeld and the gaffer are two of the best managers I ever played under. They are two different types of people but two of the best managers for me. For me as a footballer, and I can only speak as that, I absolutely loved playing under him."

Lambert takes his Villa side to the Stadium of Light on Saturday looking to improve on a miserable record of just one Premier League victory this season in what has been the worst start made by the club in over 40 years.

He still retains the backing of Lerner and the majority of Villa fans, though, and said O'Neill had offered his support.

"I spoke to him in the summer about it and he had nothing but praise for the football club," he said. "If I ever need any advice off him I can just pick up the phone."