Thank you Paul Lambert, but what next?
And so the Lambert era ends. Gone are the ill fitting tracksuits which he had to tuck into his socks. Gone are the menacing glares he would give to reporters at press conferences. Gone are the occasions where he'll pick up a microphone in front of the crowd and repeatedly ask "Can I just have two minutes! Two minutes of your time!"
Gone, but never forgotten. But it does beg the question: What happens now?
Aston Villa, if the reports are correct, are getting a top manager. While Villa will move forward, we have to make sure as a club we do the same.
One element that has be mooted by journalists, and something Lambert himself has hinted at in interviews, is the wage structure. Despite achieving survival without any real danger of an immediate Championship return, it looks as though the board's outline for next season is more of the same. That means a near identical budget for the playing staff.
You can see the problem. On the one hand, you absolutely can't blame the board for not wanting to blow too much of the cash after the precarious financial position we found ourselves in not too many moons ago, lest we forget. But on the other, Lambert has every right to want his ambition matched after overseeing our ascent to English football's upper echelons.
He doesn't want to just survive. He doesn't want to just exist in the Premiership for the sake of it. He wants to achieve, and he wants to achieve right this very minute, not another two, three, four or five years down the line.
I like to think that although Lambert and the board would've obviously fought their respective corners, that talks of a major row between them and bust-ups are quite wide of the mark.
Tensions? Absolutely. Heated discussions? Perhaps. Huge rows? Toys out of prams? Clutching each others throats? Give over. "Bust-up" is just tabloid fabrication. There's a difference between full on rows and passionate discussions.
There's a lot of bitterness towards Aston Villa, which is understandable, yet we need to look at the bigger picture and be brutally honest with ourselves. By all accounts Villa seem to have gone about their approach in a reasonably formal way. We snatched him from Colchester without remorse.
Villa fans are hailing him already whilst some members of our fanbase are getting all defensive about it.
How do you think Cardiff and Birmingham fans are feeling as we hype up their managers as if they would be shoe-ins?
Aston Villa are a bigger club than Norwich City. Fact. The whole structure is on a larger scale. There's nothing wrong with admitting that. He won't have mega millions to spend in the wake of their cuts and recent financial losses, but Randy Lerner's pockets will still have more to be found in them than Delia Smith's Piggy Bank. Whilst he'll have a lot of deadwood in the Villa squad to shift over time, he's still got the likes of Darren Bent and Shay Given at his disposal.
We may have finished higher in the league this year, but the potential at Villa is grand, and Lambert will relish the challenge. With a bit of spit and polish and his own stamp on things, he could do wonders there.
And let's face it, whatever club Lambert would eventually wind up at, City fans were going to dislike it. The fact that it's Villa and not a top six club as some have tweeted is nonsense. Excuses would've come pouring out even for top six clubs coming in for him.
The important thing is that we remember him for what he achieved. He hasn't left us in dire straits, he's left us on a high and has left an attractive vacancy for a hungry successor to undertake regardless of the regimented funding they'll have access to.
But what is nice to see is that there have been plenty of tweets and forum comments today wishing him well. The disappointment is something we cannot help, yet it says something about our fanbase that the majority of people are genuinely wishing him well and hope he does well for himself despite his desire to pursue other ventures.
What's left to say?
Dear Mr. Lambert.
Thank you. For everything. You've made our once suffering club into a great entity once again, and we cannot thank you enough. As queasy as it made you feel at the time, your place in the club's hall of fame is well deserved. You made a stupendous impact and took us on an unbelievable journey, the likes of which will be talked about for generations.
Thank you for stuffing us 7-1 on the opening day of our League One season. It was the boot up the backside the club needed to get back on its feet. You then took over and the rest, as they say, is history.
As I tweeted earlier, I sincerely hope the cries of "One Paul Lambert" will still ring around Carrow Road whenever he brings a visiting team over, whoever that might be.