IT wasn’t that long ago Paul Lambert was being tipped to follow David Moyes in becoming the latest Scottish manager to become an established force in the Premier League.
Football, though, has a nasty habit of veering from the expected narrative.
Lambert instead finds himself scrapping for his managerial life having accepted what is fast becoming the poisoned chalice of taking charge at Aston Villa.
The Scot received the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this week from Randy Lerner following a tumultuous month for the Midlands club.
Being dumped out of the FA Cup by Millwall was bad enough.
But it was the League Cup semi-final exit to fourth-tier Bradford City three days earlier that intensified speculation surrounding Lambert’s future.
One of the most prominent touchline images in recent weeks is of Lambert stood with his hands on his head, mouth open aghast at yet another shocking performance from his players.
He was at it again on Tuesday evening as Villa’s must-win home game against fellow strugglers Newcastle United ended in defeat, the Midlanders now firmly ensconced in the relegation zone and only four points clear of bottom club Queens Park Rangers.
Moyes has sympathy with Lambert’s plight but will have no qualms in ramping up the pressure when the teams meet at Goodison Park on Saturday afternoon.
Villa owner Lerner’s reluctance to invest in the team and an over-reliance on youth have been pinpointed as the chief reasons for their slide down the table.
Indeed, it acts as a warning to other clubs of the folly of such a philosophy.
It might look good on the balance sheet and be a noble approach but, ultimately, long-term idealism must be married to short-term pragmatism.
Speculating to accumulate hasn’t exactly been the method of choice at Everton during recent years in which frugality has been the key.
But the ambition of splashing out £8.6million on Holland international Leroy Fer suggests the purse strings have been loosened to allow Moyes to further bolster his team’s very realistic chance of Champions League qualification and FA Cup glory.
The manager was keeping his cards close to his chest this week as regards where the money has suddenly come from, saying: “In time I will probably explain a bit better, but the chairman has done great.
“He has gone out and found us some cash to use and I am certainly grateful for that.”
How Lambert no doubt wishes his own chairman could follow suit.