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Refreshed and ready

A look back on Paul Lambert's Molineux arrival

It was a busy Molineux Monday as new Wolves Head Coach Paul Lambert was officially unveiled to the media. Experienced local journalist David Instone, gives his take on the proceedings.

*

No amount of pre-Conference briefing could have covered all the bases.

 

"Have you been working for Grattan's catalogue?" asked one prominent interviewer. "You look like Italian Mafioso," said another, with further reference to the sartorial sharpness and enviable tan.

 

There was also a light-hearted exchange about a lack of worry lines and a likeness to Brad Pitt.

 

It was the Midlands media's way of saying Paul Lambert really looked rather refreshed and well after his time out of front-line management; a different man to the battle-weary figure he cut in his final weeks with Aston Villa.

 

Twenty months on from his departure from the Second City, Wolves' new head coach was back among familiar faces; proactive and utterly professional.

 

In this very room, we had welcomed Graham Taylor in 1994, Dave Jones in 2001 and others since.

 

Managerial unveilings are nothing new and tend to follow a similar pattern; except Lambert asked to turn up early for his this afternoon, so he could mingle and chat informally to those in the Hayward Suite before the microphones and spotlights were switched on.

 

This is his new dawn, a fresh opportunity as part of a regime still collectively feeling its way in. His future is gold and black but he knew questions from a claret and blue past would be thrown at him.

 

"I don't think Wolves fans want to see their manager talking about Aston Villa and I am only speaking about them because I have been asked," he said, going on to state that he kept our West Midlands rivals up, took them to a Capital One Cup semi-final and on the first two steps of the journey that ended with their 2015 FA Cup final appearance.

 

Yes, we became used to seeing a deadpan, even worried, expression as he felt compelled to repeat the same message over and over again in the Randy Lerner era but Villa survived for three years on his watch and went down in the first full season after his departure.

 

He is happy to let what has happened to them under subsequent managers dictate how the football world judges the job he did there.

 

Notwithstanding the satisfactory six-month spell with Blackburn on which the 47-year-old Scot embarked a year ago next week, he has essentially swapped the dying embers of an American businessman's time in English football with life across the patch in the pay of enthusiastic new Chinese owners.

 

You sense he wished there was no international break and Preston away could come round much quicker.

 

His batteries are not only recharged after precious family time but topped up by the extra spark of some months spent looking and learning.

 

Having done his pro licence more than a decade ago alongside Jurgen Klopp in Germany - 'a brilliant football country' - he has been to see how they do things at the top clubs, cosying up to Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich, Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and counterparts at Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and, very recently, Leipzig. "They tend not to forget your name," he said by way of subtle reference to the fact he was a Champions League winner as a player with Dortmund.

 

His keenness to become a student of the game, picking up on innovative training methods, has gone down well with those in power at Molineux.

 

Lambert noted the popularity of the 'Sporting Director' position in Germany – often a former player who acts as the first upwards call in the chain of command for a coach or 'trainer'.

 

He thus sees Kevin Thelwell as nothing but an invaluable help as he embarks on his one-year rolling Wolves contract with the promise to do 'everything I can to make this club successful.'

 

Such is the Glaswegian's CV that we can assume he has rebuffed some offers during his time out and waited for the right opening.

 

"This has always been a huge club," he added. "Nothing I heard (in the talks) made me think it wasn't for me if I were lucky enough to be offered it."

 

Exactly 100 days on from the arrival of Walter Zenga and 14 Mondays after the media conference to mark the occasion, Lambert acknowledged that football is a different game these days, with turnover high among both players and managers.

 

Indeed, no fewer than four other Midlands clubs – Coventry, Villa, Shrewsbury and Derby – made changes at the helm this season before the infusion here of Scottish blood instead of Italian blood.

 

And, in case we forget, England waved goodbye to a boss after one game.

 

Experienced press conference observers know that most in this profession in 2016 are sufficiently media savvy as to make a reasonable immediate impression.

 

From being led out on to the Molineux pitch for photographs to being interviewed on camera to being quizzed by the radio reporters in an executive box and to sitting with the local and national press in a tight group on virtually the exact spot where he might just sit on the top table at a forthcoming Fans Parliament meeting, Lambert certainly did that.

 

He insisted he would expect a very strong say on transfer targets and believes there will be some elbow room in the January window if reinforcements are necessary.

 

At 30-plus, he sees the senior squad as being too heavy but will give every chance for existing players to catch his eye and knows he must get more from them than has been extracted during these trying recent weeks.

 

There was no fudging of the weekend defeat he viewed on TV after despatching his new backroom recruit, Stuart Taylor, on a watching mission in the flesh.

 

"We never got close to Derby at the start and the horse bolted," he admitted. "We didn't get going. It wasn't there in the first half."

 

A glance at the Sky Bet Championship table will not deflect him from his ultimate target. There was no talk of pulling clear of any danger or consolidation; just a vision of rapid improvement and challenging at the right end.

 

Fosun, like any owning group, are highly ambitious to taste the Premier League, where Lambert has spent four years.

 

He led Norwich to a mid-table finish in the first of them and succinctly sums up his task now by saying: "I will thrive on it, not be weighed down. I love the Championship but want to be in the big one."

 

He knows Wolves have been up there before, repeatedly on top of the pile no less in their halcyon days.

 

As a Hall of Famer at Norwich and with Scotland, for whom he won 40 caps, he plans a trip to the Molineux museum at the first opportunity and, what's more, will be disappointed if any new signings don't want to go around there as well.

 

The plan now is to prepare to hit the ground running at Deepdale....he remembers taking over Norwich at a low ebb just after a 7-1 home defeat against HIS Colchester side and seeing the whole place boom almost from the word go with players and fans united. He wants to see that formidable bond replicated at Molineux.

 

It is what is inspiring him. It is why he is prepared to risk that relaxed demeanour and those carefree looks.