Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert received a huge vote of confidence from owner Randy Lerner and new CEO Tom Fox on Wednesday after he signed on to stay with the club as manager through June 2018.
Villa haven't necessarily been the best side ever under Lambert — a pair of 15th-place finishes would support that view — but have had their moments of brilliance, most notably the 48 points gained in 37 matches between February 2013 and January 2014 and of course, the run to open this season.
From the moment he's arrived at B6, Lambert has, like it or not, done exactly what's been asked of him. Two years ago, he managed to keep an extremely young side from seeing the drop with a strong run to end the season and if not for Christian Benteke's injuries last season, the side likely would have picked up enough points for a safe survival.
Many speculated that Roy Keane's appointment as assistant manager over the summer was proof that Lambert was in the hot seat but that doesn't seem to be the case.
At first glance, I really like this move. Lambert has started to figure out how to best utilize this side and in the day and age of Villa being a club that doesn't hit the top-spending sides, he might be the best manager Lerner and Fox could get in. And in terms of matches managed at his current club, Lambert sits joint-third with Arsene Wenger and Alan Pardew being the only two who have spent more time in charge of their current clubs at the top level. I like consistency when trying to build. As an American observer, the "change your manager once every other year" strategy just doesn't make much sense to me. I understand why it exists, sure, but how are you supposed to build a project like the one Villa have been looking to undertake if you can't sell a player on how things are going to look on the touchline in three years?
There's been a certain confidence amongst the Villa team this year and in many ways, I think it's down to having a decent grasp of what the future might look like. And we might be able to look at Saturday's performance as being reflective of this — Fox said that the agreement for Lambert to be handed the extension was "concluded last week."
And all of that said, this doesn't change the fact that Villa could still wake up tomorrow and sack Lambert. Sure, it would cost a bit more cash, but when it comes down to it, this deal wouldn't handcuff the club like Pardew's does.
The other thing — if you want to read into things — is that it's another indicator that points to Randy Lerner having an interest again in the club. Fox also said that "Paul and Randy had been in discussions regarding this move when I came on board," indicating that the latter has a longer-term goal for Villa past "let's just sell the club ASAP."
I wholeheartedly believe that when he sells, Lerner wants it to be to the right person or people. He's always talked about being a "caretaker" of the club and in the meantime, I think he's legitimately doing everything in the best interests of Aston Villa. In many ways, I think he understands that in order to find that right person, Villa is going to have to show improvement. As Shahid Khan's experience last year with Fulham showed, investors probably aren't going to be that interested in buying a club that isn't in the "top seven" right now. (I mean, hell, I think there's a case to be made that buying a club like Reading might make more sense than buying Villa.)
So, yeah, to me, this is a good thing for Villa. There will be stability and a long-term vision to sell players on. And things look a lot clearer now than they did just three or four months ago. And it's only four matches in but things are just... different. And it's nice.