“I’ve always been under pressure,’’ said Lambert. “Even as a footballer, especially at the big clubs, I’ve always felt: ‘I’ve got to win.’ When that feeling’s not there, I’ve always felt: ‘I need that feeling again.’ I had a hard upbringing in Glasgow and that has always been inside me, that will to win. I was born in an old building in the city centre, not far from Parkhead.
"I was brought up in that environment that made me really humble. I’ve never been one for flashness. I’ve never been one to take the limelight.
“I took my trait of hard work from dad being a grafter. He was a roof-tiler – that’s a proper job compared to football. The principle they instilled in me was: never get beaten and if you do get beaten make sure you go down with a fight. That’s my make-up.’
“We moved out of Glasgow when I was a kid, went to stay in Linwood. I loved it. We used to play street football; one street against another street. I was playing against guys easily four or five years older than myself so I had to look after myself. I had one or two little skirmishes.”
Lambert’s time as a player at Celtic further strengthened his resolve. “I’ve heard it all before. I’m used to half the city having a pop at me. That’s why rivalry and booing doesn’t affect me. I just want to keep driving on.’’
He nodded at the mention of Sir Alex Ferguson’s mantra about the glow of winning shortening while the pain of defeat endures. “That’s exactly right. If he feels that when he’s getting older that winning is shorter, then b----- hell, I’m experiencing that now at 43. As soon as the game is finished the good feeling [of a win] is gone. It maybe lasts an hour at most. I let it go as quickly as I can. I never dwell on it.
“Yes, I want to win. Doesn’t everyone? I’ve always been good under pressure because I knew I had to win. Celtic Park did that to me. I can guarantee that every Celtic fan going up for that game with Barcelona in two weeks expects Celtic to win. You forget who you are playing against. There are incredible expectancy levels. I have great admiration for what Lenny [Neil Lennon] has done. Being an ex-player there, I know Celtic have to win virtually every game, whether Barcelona, St Johnstone or Motherwell.”
Some of the criticism of Lambert has flowed from Norwich. Lambert has issues with the chief executive David McNally and Bowkett, so any exit was always going to stir tension.
“Whenever I left that was going to happen. When I’m 55, 65, 75, it would be nice to go and watch games there but at this moment in time I don’t feel I would ever be welcome there. That’s sad. We had a great run, a great three years.
"Chris [Hughton, the current manager] is a brilliant guy, and I hope he does well with them, because they are a great club. The fan base is brilliant whether they are in League One or the Championship, they’ll always fill the ground. I’ve heard people say: ‘Norwich fans have got a lot to thank you for.’ No. It’s the other way about. I’ve had a lot to thank them for.
“That’s what I feel hurt most by. I hope one day it does all settle down and people will realise that I wasn’t what certain people were saying. There are lovely people there: Michael Foulger, Delia Smith, Michael Wynn Jones – those three deserve everything good. They are the ones who had all the hurt and criticism before [during relegation to League One]. They are three very good people.’’
Lambert urgently needs a win over
He seeks to rebuild
"I understand people might give us time because of what’s happened before [recent failures] but the Villa fans have been absolutely brilliant with me. The fans go away in their thousands to watch us. At Fulham, my God, they were right behind us.
“I don’t think people [outside Villa] realise how big a club this is with the fans, the history. I’m not frightened by the history. I’ve embraced that. Look at the players who have walked through the door here, the things Villa have won. I like a challenge. Whatever happens, I want to look back and think ‘I gave it a go’. It won’t be for lack of trying.
“How do I unwind? I like to watch different types of games, then I’ll switch off and watch a movie. I can unwind. I don’t like going out shopping. I watch most football things that are on, read up on different football things.’’
Recent reading matter includes Dave Armitage’s gem 150 BC about Brian Clough. “What I loved about that book, speaking to the gaffer [his old Celtic manager Martin O’Neill] and Robbo [John Robertson] is that he [Clough] simplified things for players. Ottmar Hitzfeld simplified things, so did Martin O’Neill. All the good managers do. Never say too much. They simplify your game.
“I also read what he said about ‘everybody who steps out of football [stops playing] thinks they can go and manage but you find there’s a little bit more to it than that’. It’s true. As soon as I stepped out of football I thought I’m going to be great at this. B----- hell, was I wrong? Before I knew it, I was leaving Livingston thinking where am I going to go?”
Lambert has prospered via Wycombe, Colchester and Norwich thanks to a “great back-room staff” and his own man-management ability. “Some players you have to put your arm round to bring the best out of them, some you have to give a kick up the backside. I have never had any confrontation with any player. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.” Including Darren Bent.
“I understand when people get frustrated when they don’t play. That’s normal. I used to do the same. I’d think: ‘Christ, I’m not playing, the manager is this or that’. But sometimes a knock makes you better. To be fair to Darren, I’ve never had one problem with him.
"Our boys are in it together. We’re not good enough just to turn up and we’re going to win. We have to work hard. I went to watch Barcelona train last season, and their work ethic was great.” So is Lambert’s.