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Lambert: Hoolahan's fantastic but he is still Canary

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert has spoken of his admiration for Wes Hoolahan (pictured) – but stressed the midfielder is Norwich's player.

Reports over the last few days have suggested Villa are interested in signing Hoolahan and that the Republic of Ireland international is keen on a move.

Canaries chief executive David McNally emphasised on Wednesday on that they had not received transfer requests from any of their squad members, adding that they had no intention of releasing any "senior players".

And on Thursday, Norwich boss Chris Hughton said Hoolahan was "very much a part" of the club and "as important as every other player" in the group.

Lambert managed the 31-year-old playmaker briefly when in charge of Livingston and then for three seasons at Norwich, prior to being appointed as Villa boss in 2012.

And asked about Hoolahan yesterday, Lambert said: "I had him for three years (at Norwich).

"When I was the manager of Norwich, he was fantastic, he really was a big, big player.

"He was excellent. But he is Norwich's player, so there is no point in talking about him. I won't disrespect anybody on that front."

Talking more broadly about Villa's current transfer window efforts, Lambert indicated there had been little joy for the midlands club so far, but revealed Stephen Ireland could make his loan move to Stoke permanent.

Lambert said: "There are lads out there we have looked at and tried, but it just hasn't been possible. There are lads there we have identified that could bring experience to help the younger ones, but some you just can't do."

On Ireland, he added: "I think (Stoke) are trying to do something at the moment."

Lambert was speaking ahead of Monday's Premier League home clash with Arsenal. Villa, currently 11th, will assess the condition of defenders Ron Vlaar and Nathan Baker ahead of the match. Forward Gabriel Agbonlahor and goalkeeper Brad Guzan are fit despite having had niggles.