The last time Paul Lambert was involved in a fixture between Aston Villa and Norwich City, the opposition’s supporters belted out his name amidst surreal scenes at Carrow Road.
On Saturday, Lambert should brace himself for a similar experience – only this time the chants emanating from the away end at Villa Park might not be quite so kind to the 43-year-old Scot.
Lambert’s bitter legal dispute with his former employers provides an intriguing backdrop to an early-season contest not exactly short of significance on the pitch either, with both sides occupying lowly positions in the formative Premier League table.
Last season, when Villa’s travelling supporters grew tired of mocking their own manager during a depressing final day defeat at Carrow Road they quickly turned their attentions to saluting Lambert in envious recognition of his achievements at Norwich.
On that fateful May afternoon in sunny Norfolk, the away fans were not the only claret and blue representatives seduced by his vibrant Canaries brand of football, which at that time was the very antithesis of uninspiring Villa.
Just as impressed were the club’s hierarchy, who acted promptly in removing Alex McLeish from office the following day and soon set Lambert the challenge of transferring his East Anglian success story to the West Midlands.
Villa’s interest in the bright young manager set in motion a chain of events which is poised to come to a head during a potential watershed weekend for Villa.
All the complexities of Lambert’s switch from Carrow Road to Villa Park, which clauses were breached and by whom will be studied and settled at a Premier League tribunal, most likely at the end of the season.
The career-driven boss and his scorned former club both maintain they have been short-changed during the souring of a relationship once strong enough to take Norwich from the depths of League One to mid-table respectability in the Premier League in just seasons.
However, whether Lambert was wronged by Norwich or vice versa, the tribunal wrangling is merely a sideshow to the main event on the football field on Saturday afternoon. Lambert is currently experiencing difficulties in his early attempts to lift Villa out of their morale-sapping malaise of recent seasons.
The positive momentum he generated during back-to-back promotions with his old club is proving harder to come by at a club bemoaning a fall rather than celebrating a rise.
While the Villa of late have had no problems stringing losing runs together, even managing a sequence of one win is proving to be a major task right now.
The claret and blues are one place above the Premier League dropzone with just five points – one win, two draws and five defeats – from their first eight matches.
With a daunting November fixture list pitting them against Manchester City and Manchester United, amongst other stern tests, a win this weekend looks to be their best chance for now of keeping their heads above relegation waters.
It won’t be easy. In Norwich, they will face opponents not only with the motivation of meeting Lambert but also with the momentum of their first Premier League victory under new manager Chris Hughton, against Arsenal, last weekend.
Forget petty compensation squabbles, it is precious points and professional pride that will decide which set of supporters is chanting Paul Lambert’s name the loudest come the final whistle at Villa Park on Saturday.