Lambert wants Villa to come of age
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists his players cannot use youth and inexperience as an excuse any more.
Lambert's two years in the job have seen him place great faith in players who are relatively young, lacking in Barclays Premier League experience or both.
With Villa having ended each of the last two seasons in 15th place, the Scot is in no doubt an improvement is needed in 2014-15 and over the summer he has notably brought in signings with plenty of action in the division under their belts in Joe Cole, Philippe Senderos and Kieran Richardson.
It also appears that seasoned English top-flight campaigners already on Villa's books but previously out of the first-team picture, such as Alan Hutton, Darren Bent and the fit-again Charles N'Zogbia, will be getting a look in this term.
And at his pre-match press conference ahead of the club's Premier League opener at Stoke on Saturday, Lambert said about the rest of the squad: "They are not young any more. They have had two years of it.
"You can't keep going with that excuse. You stand up and take it now. You can only get away with that for so long.
"(Eighteen-year-old midfielder) Jack Grealish is young. But the rest - they are men now."
Villa started last season in impressive style with a 3-1 win at Arsenal, and Lambert would gladly take a repeat outcome this time around.
But he is also mindful that a good opening result is of little consequence if it is not built upon, given Villa lost their next three league games after the victory at the Emirates Stadium, and seven of their last nine at the campaign's conclusion.
"The last six or seven weeks of the season were ridiculous," Lambert said.
"I don't want to go through that again.
"We had a hard start, but we only picked up three points. You need to try to get as many points as you can from the beginning."
It has been a summer of uncertainty in many ways for Villa, particularly with the club still owned at this point by Randy Lerner despite his announcement in May that he was intending to sell.
Nonetheless, Lambert is adamant the midlands outfit are "really healthy".
"This is a fantastic club, and the state of the club is what it is," the manager said when asked about the situation with Lerner.
"The club is a really healthy place.
"The main thing for me is to get the team going and improving a lot on what we did last year.
"As I have said before, the last two years have not been good enough. We have to aim a lot higher than that. As a group, everybody, we have to do better."