Aston Villa FanZoner Peter Cameron cannot believe some fans are calling for Paul Lambert's head!
Villa manager is still making his mark
"I'm surprised Lambert is still there." That's genuinely a comment I heard on my first day back at work after a festive period most Villa fans will want to forget.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that there was a particularly bad run of results before a New Year's draw at Swansea provided some light relief but that comment was a complete shock. But then again short-termism is rife in among football fans these days and the age of social media has only served to accentuate this.
Two weeks before Chelsea stuck eight in Brad Guzan's net, Villa were on a six match unbeaten run which included beating Liverpool 3-1 at Anfield and the 4-1 demolition of Norwich at Carrow Road in the League Cup quarter final. The signs were there that this is a team that will develop together into something exciting, but just as the successes at the time were marginally overstated, the poor run which followed it has been blown out of proportion.
Most fans realise that this is a long term plan, an overhaul of the team not just in terms of playing style and staff but in terms of culture. Gone are the days of paying £6-8 million for players who have proven themselves not to be good enough at other Premier League teams and rewarded with long contracts on high wages for the pleasure.
Stephen Ireland's shameful disinterested performance against Wigan is one side of this lingering problem, while the fact Alan Hutton, Stephen Warnock, Zat Knight, Curtis Davies and Nigel Reo-Coker are all plying their trade in the Championship tells another story.
But there are still people who believe that a poor run of games should be the catalyst for drastic change. I've spoken of evolution rather than revolution in the past but the fact might be that what we need this season is a level of both. The revolution started in the summer and the turnover of players that now form the foundations of the first team has been dramatic. Not just the players brought in to the team but those promoted from within from squad members to key players.
Now the evolution needs to happen. The team needs to grow together and learn their trade in the Premier League - and there are certainly signs that this is happening - and more experience needs to be added in this January transfer window to compliment the foundations of youth. In the absence of the real deal, a Stiliyan Petrov type figure in the centre of the park has to be high on the shopping list, while an experienced centre half should also be incoming.
So far Paul Lambert's signings have pretty much impressed me. Christian Benteke has grabbed most of the plaudits but Matthew Lowton has been one of the standout and most consistent performers this year, Ashley Westwood has looked like he's made the step up and Ron Vlaar is massively missed at the moment. Even Joe Bennett, who I had concerns about at first, looks like he's starting to find his feet (and confidence) in the league.
These players were signed for relatively small fees and likely to be on minimal wages compared to previous regimes. For the most part Villa are likely to at least make their money back on most players (if) sold on at a later date. And those who may turn out to be backup players won't be sitting on excessive, disproportionate contracts unable to be moved on (Habib, Steve, Emile I'm looking at you).
The inconsistency of the team is likely to continue for the remainder of the season but there is already evidence to show they are capable of pulling off good results, so as time progresses and with the addition of much needed experience the team will be in a position to move forward in the latter stages of this season as well as the coming years. Patience is key, and we as fans need to respond to heavy and disappointing defeats in the same way the players do, positively.
Paul Lambert has already picked up as many victories in all competitions as Alex McLeish did in the whole of last season, and he's managed to achieve something that took Martin O'Neill four years and in the region of £100 million to do - reach the last four of a cup competition. If you're surprised he's still in a job, I think it's time to stop watching football.