The Implications and Timing of Giving Paul Lambert a New Contract

‘Paul Lambert new contract’ not the most popular four words amongst Villa supporters at the moment. MOMS aspiring sports legal eagle Matt Rogers looks at the situation round the proposed new contract for Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert

When Paul Lambert arrived in the summer of 2012 he faced an unenviable task. He had to trim the wage bill and rebuild a side after it had suffered consecutive relegation battles. In short, as Lambert has since stated time and time again, the club would be undergoing a ‘long-term project’.

Surely there must be short-term goals within such a plan though? And fighting relegation should not be one of them. At what point will the project be termed a success or failure? So a new project can be initiated to improve things.

After over 18 months into his job, sections of the supporters are already beginning to doubt Lambert’s ability to make it work before his second season is finished, so why have reported contract negotiations started now with Premier League safety not even a certainty?

Why now?

One reason may lie in the terms of Lambert’s contract, which could include a clause giving the manager an option to negotiate his contract after a certain duration of time.

Alternatively, Lerner may have wished to open contract talks to maintain stability in the club and give his manager and the team confidence, which is welcomed given the managerial changes at the club in the last three years and those of other Premier League clubs, most notably Fulham and Swansea, in recent weeks.

Off the pitch, Villa are balancing the books but are still 6th in the Premier League Net Spend table over the past five seasons. The naivety and rashness shown at the start of Lerner’s reign has now become a more measured approach of investing in youth and maintaining a workable model in a similar mold to that seen at Arsenal and Tottenham, albeit on a lower scale. As of yet, however, there is no evidence to suggest that this approach is working on the pitch.

Let him wait

Obviously the logical choice is to offer him the new contract at the end of the season, when the situation can be reviewed with clear heads and on firmer ground.

If Lambert was to agree a contract extension before the end of this season and Villa are relegated this could cause a major rift between the supporters and the board. Even Lambert’s most loyal advocates will have to admit a managerial change is necessary and it would be difficult to see any other option for Villa chairman Randy Lerner.

A compensation package would be due, much larger than if his original contract was terminated which would have a year left to run as of this summer. With the efforts Villa have put into balancing the books it would be a major step backwards to have to pay off another manager especially after the departures of Alex McLeish, Gerard Houllier and Martin O’Neill cost the club £18m in compensation.

An alternative to a contract extension would be to let Lambert’s contract run down until it expires in August 2015 and then reassess the situation. If performance related targets for the 2014/2015 season are achieved this would justify a contract extension. Simple targets could include attaining a certain amount of points or finishing in the top-half of the table.

Martin O’Neill was allegedly always on a one-year rolling contract at Villa, which when analysed, has both advantages and disadvantages for both a club and a manager.

If the club is making progress, the manager will look to stay on another year, but there is a risk that other clubs may wish to poach him without paying hefty compensation. On the other hand, if the club are not making progress in line with the board’s satisfaction and the manager is not achieving set targets, the club are able to relieve him of his duties with a pay-off likely to be smaller than that of terminating a fixed-term contract.

It would appear, however, Martin O’Neill was a special case. Whilst at Villa he admitted to not having an agent, negotiating the contract himself with his lawyer looking over his contract. In today’s game the agent is an integral part to getting the best deal for himself and his client, the manager. With the long-term vision in place at Villa, it is likely Lambert would want assurances he’s going to be a central figure of the project in the long-term.

How long for Lambert?

If Villa take the route of a conventional extension it’s unlikely to be as long as Alan Pardew’s at Newcastle, yet many Villa supporters will question whether he deserves a contract extension of any length until he proves the club are heading in the right direction.

If Lambert is to be rewarded with a contract extension, subject to Villa’s survival, the duration will be most significant. With just under 18 months left on his current deal, a contract extension of two years would be most likely.

Looking ahead, Lambert’s third season was always going to be a defining year. The wage bill would have finally been trimmed with the last of the bomb squad detonated, and in theory Lambert would have money to spend in the summer to supplement his young side with some key quality additions.

First and foremost a creative midfielder is vital to Villa’s progression. After missing out on such a target in two transfer windows now, this will now be a priority this summer and the pressure will be on the Villa board and Lambert to deliver. Getting the right players in during the summer, would certainly go a long way to sway favour back on his side.

When it comes to the question of ambition, it’s very simple, good signings will be seen as a statement of intent. For which, Villa fans have always preferred actions rather than words

At the moment, off the field, Lambert will be seen as a success in the board room, as next year’s balance sheets will show. Maybe the understanding for the rebuilding program was loosely – ‘just avoid relegation in the first two years, then we can kick-on’?

Villa face a tough March and depending on the results, could find themselves in a red alert relegation territory during April, when they go toe-to-toe with their lower league rivals.

Contract negotiations can take a long time to finalise and there’s no doubt that recent question marks over Villa’s potential league status next season, has added to that. It would be surprising if there is an official announcement before the end of the season.

Imagine if Villa lose in the upcoming game at home to Norwich City. Offering a new contract anytime soon after that would potentially lead to a more intensified unrest amongst supporters; the opposite to the stability a new contract is meant to bring.

There’s no rush. Lerner, Faulkner and Lambert have plenty of time to reassess the situation when a clearer picture of Villa’s Premier League status for the 2014/2015 season has formed.

For the board to offer a contract any time before that, could be seen as a potentially disastrous decision. One which many supporters may believe wouldn’t be the first under the current regime.

Follow MOMS on Twitter@oldmansaid

Follow Matt on Twitter – @sportslawmatt


  1. Giving Lambert a 3 year contract is lunacy. I pay a lot of money for two season tickets and the football is utterly tedious, sub standard shite. Renewal time will be interesting.

    • lunacy ? now where have most Villasupporters heard that before ? Maybe for the last 4 seasons @ least from certain fans , strange thing is many do still renew their season tickets

    • Because I take a rational rather than an emotional view does not make me either ! But I can see that given the current state of the Prem & Villa’s position in it it is going to take more than 1-2seasons to GROW into being the top 10 club we all would like it to be , & that there needs to be some stability . And even if we had glimpses of better things 6th place is as high as the club can reach
      Is Lambert as bad as some claim he is ? I don’t think so
      Could we get a better manager if we sacked Lambert ? — No we more than likely would get worse as who would want to come to a club where the fans would constantly want better results than he could get from the players he’d got
      Would driving Lerner out solve the problem of no funds — No as who would be stupid enough to buy a failing club , which is what Villa would be if fans constantly refuse to allow the manager time to build a squad capable of winning anything ?

  2. LAMBERT OUT!!! When will all us Villa fans realise that Lambert is not good enough. We are the greatest club in the world and always seem to get the worst managers.

    He is totally clueless and inept. Newcastle were there for the taking but he had no ‘balls’ to go for the kill and was happy to go there for a point. We actually played quite well but his tactics and substitutions were pathetic.

    Absolute useless. LAMBERT OUT campaign must start on sunday.

    • there is a saying “that you get what you deserve ” Some say that Villa has some of the best fans a club can have others that Villa fans are a “JOKE”

      Were toon there for the taking ? Well with all the wasted chances that Villa had for sure they were .
      But it was not Lambert who FAILED to score it was the TEAM who messed up !

      As for “going for the kill” what sort of language is that ? Do you mean the team should get them selves sent off by literally killing their opponents ? Because that is how those words could be interpreted & with Bacuna having his eye gouged & the high kick on Westie perhaps our players might have been justified in literally killing the opposition . But getting sent of would not have helped the team effort especially as it seemed the ref was being more lenient to our opponents
      But short of performing miracles what could Lambert do ? The players showed that they were capable of out playing toon , but was Lambert supposed to run on the pitch & show fans favourite Gabby, or Weimann how to put the ball in the net ?

      As for the substitutions there’s only 3 allowed to be used & 2 players needed replacing so that left little scope to make any tactical changes or do some fans have access to an alternative set of rules that allow for more subs to be used — rules the rest of us don’t know about ?

  3. I doubt that a lot of our youth are ready to step up just yet, with the likes of Grealish and Graham still in their teens. At 20, Carruthers is out getting good exposure and is approaching an age where he might join the squad properly next year but might benefit from a season at Championship level (I suppose he might be getting that with us if this form continues!). It will be interesting to see how Gardner gets on with Sheffield. Johnson is odd though – I thought he was seen as a real talent but he will be 22 at the start of next season and has not come through or had any loan experience.

    Also, most of our kids tend to be slight and are not like, say, a Rooney or Barkley who were/are boys but with men’s bodies when they came through at a young age. I think this necessitates a bit of toughening via the loan mechanism to give them experience of competitive football before they come in to the EPL.

    • Johnson does still have a year to run on his contract , & I suspect that they want him to beef up a little more before letting him loose in the Prem , which he does seem to be doing . There’s also the question as to which of our weak midfield get’s dropped for him to play , something that will not go down well if he is shoved off the ball too easily by the bullies of the Prem

  4. I read recently that Brendan Rogers contract is up in 18 months time but the board would not rush into opening talks to extend it until they ensure the current level of success continues. What a shame Lerner and Faulkner do not adopt a similar attitude. Lambert is only doing what Lerner has instructed him to do regarding getting the wage bill under control. However the players he’s bought in have been 80% a disaster,
    When young players come in they usually have a sell on value what’s that likely to be for Tonev, Sylla, Helenius, Bennett and Bowery. Very little I suspect. When Lambert arrived ( mainly due to 2000 travelling Villa fans chanting his name when we played at Carrow Road) we were winning everything at youth level including The European Under 21 Championship. Surely now some of those youngsters are still at the club and surely they have to be better than the five no-hopers listed. The people responsible for the clubs Academy must be ready to slash their wrists. Lamberts contract should be put on ice he’s proved nothing
    so far, As for our board ( both of them ) no making a disastrous decision well they have got that down to a fine art haven’t they?

    • who says International players Tonev, Helenius & Sylla are no hopers other than a few fans over eager to see Villa win something to ??? give them selves some bragging rights Labert has stated several times that Helenius is one for the future which is probably why we have seen very little of him and the same probably applies to many of the clubs U21 stars . As for Tonev he came with a very good rep from his former international team, & Villa Captain Petrov , but he hardly had any preseason , and like Petrov has not been an instant sucess , but then he’s not had a great amount of playing time although some of his critics seem to think 5 minutes (I exaggerate) is sufficient to determine the value of a player to the club
      As for Villa’s own youth players I understand Lambert spends much time watching them , so surely he knows better whether they are ready than fans who seem to judge them on reputation rather than their readiness to face the Prems bully boys ?

      • What’s with these Prem bully boys you keep mentioning? I thought Vinnie Jones, David Batty and co had long retired! The bully boys tend to be in the lower leagues nowadays.

        • Players such as Tiote are not as obvious as the old time bullies but they can stil affect the outcome of a game

  5. Whether he sells or not, clearly Lerner has a lot of value tied up in the club. Talks of a new contract at this stage highlight again just how little he, and his fat cronie, know about running a football club. We talk of wanting young hungry players that will be rewarded for success (as Tekkers and Lowton were last year with their new contracts) and then there is talk of reward mediocrity, poor selection/substitution/tactics and an inability to build a balanced squad (only one CB over 25 and that CB is injury prone; no ACM which the fans have identified for the past 18 months and PL only recognised, it seems, in January and still could not address; and no options if Andi or Gabby are injured but a collection of no. 9s that he won’t use!). I think Lambert does have an eye for a player (or at least one of his backroom staff does) but he is incredibly naive and his tactics are straight from the MON school of thinking and not good enough for modern football from what I have seen.

    • so signing Holt a player many wanted last season was not recognising the need for another striker ? nd what is this mediocrity that is talked of ? Players have to learn the ways of the Prem and the only way they will learn is by playing especially as they are young . But age does not indicate ability and one only has to look back @ last season & how it was only when the more experienced players were cast aside & the younger ones given their chances to prove themselves worthy of being @ Villa by saving the club from relegation
      This season is a strange one as when was the last time clubs below 10th place considered in a relegation battle ? But if the article in the Express & Star is to be believed perhaps it has finally sunk in to the players that they need to up their game , as Lambert can use any tactics he wants but they will only work if the players give 100%+ to the cause .
      As for Lambert he proved himself last season & even if recent results don’t support it there is still time for Villa to finish higher . And remember in his early years @ ManU Fergie did not always get things right & nearly got the sack before things turned in his favour and his young squad started getting the results

  6. new contract wait till next season I do not no any villa fan who will renew there season tickets next year villa park will be empty while this man is in charge

    • so you & your little gang can’t see beyond the losses which are all part & parcel of the learning process by which a young team learns & develops ! But of course if you want to see Villa fail of course the manager should be sacked as should the next ad finitum untill the club FAILS ! There needs to be stability & whilest some are calling for anarchy & rule by the fans where will that lead ?
      Do any making such claims really think that any sensible financial backers would come forward to take over such a club ?
      And before anybody calls for fans to donate their hard earned cash to support such a scheme perhaps all should consider what happened to the last pot of cash raised to try & buy the club just before Doug sold to Randy !

  7. the timing of the contract talks is interesting but perhaps the above whilest discusing the implications of a new contract has missed the obvious ! That is the timing of the announcement , as I see it as a statement of intent , that Randy is backing Paul . Or more importantly Randy is still backing the club given that @ the time of the announcement the rumour mongers were in overdrive claiming the club was about to be sold . Effectively with the announcement of a new contract the club is endorsing Lambert’s plans for the future & that they were not about to sell the club .
    But of course much of what has been said above will in all probability be taken into account when the new contract was drawn up
    As for MON’s contract well he had a degree in Law so whilest he had a legal team as back up he was involved in drawing it up himself

    • Not missed. Lerner wanting to endorce Lambert was covered in: ‘Lerner may have wished to open contract talks to maintain stability in the club and give his manager and the team confidence, which is welcomed given the managerial changes at the club in the last three years and those of other Premier League clubs, most notably Fulham and Swansea, in recent weeks.’

      • think perhaps the wording of my comment could have been better ! By statement of intent I was reffering to Randy and his commitment to the club in light of the rumours about the club being sold, which were around @ the time of the announcement . By backing Lambert he seems to be reinforcing his own commitment to the club

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