Lambert Looking Forward to Meeting Up With Old Friends O'Neill and Keane
Thursday, 14th Mar 2019 17:29
Paul Lambert is looking forward to seeing his former Celtic boss Martin O’Neill and ex-Blues manager Roy Keane, who was his assistant at Aston Villa, when their current club Nottingham Forest are at Portman Road on Saturday.
Lambert played under O’Neill for five years at Celtic from 2000 to 2005 and then worked alongside Keane at Villa between July and November 2014.
Lambert thoroughly enjoyed his time playing under O’Neill: “Brilliant. I had five years of absolutely brilliance at Celtic. When he first came in we needed a manager like him because Celtic is an absolute monster of a club and you’re only as good as your last pass up there and you have to win.
“Sometimes the jersey is too big for players who can’t handle it. I had eight brilliant years up there, but the five under the gaffer was five that were relentless.
“Absolutely brilliant, good players we played with, a great management team, the gaffer, Robbo [John Robertson] and Wally [Steve Walford] . A European final in which we just fell short.
“We played in an era were Rangers were really strong as well, an incredibly strong Rangers side and we had some really great battles and he was a great manager to play under.”
Why was he such a good boss to play for? “I just think the way he came into the club and we needed a manager like him, that type of manager.
“He was a really good player himself, he won two European Cups which showed he was a helluva a player himself.
“It was just the way it happened at Celtic during that five-year period. I think the hardest championship I won was my first one because the [prospect of Rangers winning] 10 in a row was hanging over us.
“But then we won a few under the gaffer and some cups and the European journey was fabulous. It was just a great, great time and we had a really, really good side.”
He says the two have stayed in touch, even if O’Neill doesn’t always phone back quite as quickly as he says he will.
“I played in a charity match for Lee Miller, who sadly passed away, in the Celtic select against Manchester United and the gaffer took the team that day. So I saw him in the summer.
“When he tells you he’s going to call you back within two minutes it’s about four months later he’ll give you a call. I’m looking forward to seeing him. I had a great time under him.”
While Town fans may not be delighted to be reacquainted with former boss Keane on Saturday, Lambert says he has always got on well with the Corkman.
“Obviously I knew about Roy and I played against him, Dortmund against Manchester United and there’s just always been that mutual respect of being really good footballers,” he reflected.
“I always got on well with him, I never found him as some people probably find him. I think he’s unfairly criticised for a lot of things, he’s a proper football guy and we had a lot of fun at Aston Villa behind the scenes.
“There were a lot of good moments and I’m looking forward to seeing him. We still keep in contact.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the two of them, they’re two good guys. Steve Guppy, who I played with at Celtic, I think is at Forest as well, so I’m looking forward to seeing them.”
Lambert dismissed the suggestion that he was brave to appoint Keane as his assistant at Villa as he was potentially putting his job under threat given the Irishman’s high profile.
“I never felt that one iota. Just to let you know, I did alright myself in my football career, you know!” he laughed
“That was never the case at all. We got on really well and we had some really good moments. A real football man, a real football guy and he has got a real sense of humour.”
He says Keane was well aware of the hierarchy at Villa and that it was Lambert who ultimately made the decisions.
“I was the manager absolutely, Roy would tell you the same,” he said. “The manager always gets the final say. He’s the one that always has the final say.
“We got on well as guys, on and off the pitch it was great. As I say I’m looking forward to seeing him and whatever happens on Saturday we’ll have a chat after the game.”
Lambert says he and Keane talked about his unsuccessful spell at Portman Road between April 2009 and January 2011.
“Of course, but we spoke about loads of things, not just what happened in his past career or anything like that,” he continued.
“It’s like anything, when you retire you have little moments when you think, I remember that time when I was here or there or wherever. I think he enjoyed his time down here.”
Lambert believes Keane, whose last Town match was coincidentally a home game against Forest, can go back to managing a club of his own.
“Yes, I’ve got no fears on that,” he insisted. “Roy’s personality, he could do it, no issues. He’s done it, he’s not a novice at it, he was a top, top player. He’s done well, he got Sunderland promoted so he’s not a novice, he knows the game.”
Despite most viewing O’Neill and Keane as chalk and cheese character-wise, he says he can see why they work well together.
“Yes, it doesn’t surprise me,” he added. “I think everybody outside of it probably has major questions but for me they’re just normal guys that have got a job to try and do for each team and I’m looking forward to seeing them.”
He says there are similar contrasts among his coaches at Portman Road: “The staff here at the minute, we’re not all the same, we have matters of opinion and bounce things off one another but ultimately the manager has to make the choice of what’s happening. I think it’s a healthy thing.”
Meanwhile, Lambert had praise for another man returning to Town on Saturday, striker Daryl Murphy.
“What is he 35 and still going, which is great,” he said. “I know he did well here when he was here. I don’t know the lad at all, but I know he’s had a good career.”
Photo: Action Images
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