Paul Lambert defends 'brilliant' O'Neill despite Sunderland sacking

The Aston Villa manager insists that his former mentor is a fine coach, however badly his time at the Stadium of Light went, recalling their success together at Celtic
Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has hit back at the criticism heaped on Martin O'Neill following the Northern Irishman's sacking by Sunderland in March.

The Scot spent a number of seasons playing under O'Neill at Celtic and he leaped to the defence of his former boss after eccentric replacement Paolo Di Canio labelled the squad unfit and full of perenial underachievers.

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"It's shocking. It's awful to hear some of these things being said and it's probably people who haven't been a manager who are calling him these things," Lambert told the press.

"Listen, I worked under Martin at Celtic for five years and he was a breath of fresh air up there. He was absolutely brilliant. He took Celtic by the scruff of the neck when it was dead on its knees, got us to a European final and winning trophies again.

"That was a really tough thing to do in that period because Rangers were a really good side then. A top, top team.

"I've spoken to Martin since he left Sunderland and he's fine. I am sure he will be back in the game soon."

O'Neill spent five years at Villa Park before moving to Sunderland in 2011, having previously managed Lambert at Celtic from 2000 to 2005.