BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 06: New Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert attends a press conference to announce his appointment at Villa Park on June 6, 2012 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)
It's little secret that Aston Villa's scouting network has been a serious handicap during the Randy Lerner era. Even during the best of times the club seemed blind to players from outside the British Isles, and their limited forays onto the continent (and beyond, if you can believe such a thing) had decidedly mixed results that often came at an out-sized cost. For a club of Villa's means to succeed - and hopefully advance to greater means as a result - it requires a aptitude for and commitment to scouring the globe and finding talented, undervalued players before they play themselves into the line of sight of bigger, wealthier clubs. That's not something this club has excelled in doing in quite some time.
With that in mind, Mat Kendrick brings us some very welcome news; Paul Lambert is busy remaking the scouting network from the top-down, dismissing the three most senior figures in the department. While it could be argued that the dismissal of head of scouting Paul Montgomery is a bit premature; he's not had a great deal of time to accomplish much of anything at Villa having been appointed by Alex McLeish and dismissed before his work could be acted upon during a window in which the club actually had money to spend, but Lambert clearly has his own ideas - and presumably candidates for Montgomery's old job - in mind. Given that the new manager's first signing looks almost certain to be Karim El Ahmadi, a player still in his prime years that appears to be exactly what Villa need for the cost of about €3 million, the early signs as to what kind of vision Lambert has in mind are encouraging.
While Lambert could be misdirecting us all and go on a signing binge of Wolves players, but until that happens I'm excited. This club's scouting of senior-level players has been largely shambolic. There needs to be an entirely new approach, and if Lambert is the man that's going to bring it then I'm pretty thrilled. Take a look at what Newcastle United has been able to accomplish in just two seasons since returning to the Premier League. Thorough scouting and high-value signings are the only way forward for teams that don't have the financial firepower provided by perennial Champions League appearances and/or wealthy ownership. If Paul Lambert recognizes just that one thing, we're already far better off than we were this time last year.