Dortmund - A brief stint it may have been, but Paul Lambert’s single season at Borussia Dortmund is one that left not only a lasting impression on the Scotsman himself but also made him a figure of legend amongst the BVB faithful after winning the UEFA Champions League in 1997.
After coaching the likes of Norwich City FC and Aston Villa FC in the English Premier League, however, the 45-year-old returned to the Ruhr district club this week after accepting an invitation to spend some time observing his old club in training.
bundesliga.com made use of the rare opportunity to catch up with the former midfielder. In our exclusive interview, Lambert talked about how it felt returning to Dortmund, the experience of watching BVB up close and personal and Borussia's chances in Wednesday’s mammoth UEFA Champions League encounter with Juventus - the side he beat in the Munich final almost 18 years ago.
bundesliga.com: Paul Lambert, how have you been spending your time in Dortmund and how does it feel to be back?
Paul Lambert: It’s very rare that I’ve been back due to always being working, so now I’ve got some time to go round different teams and have a look, and Dortmund’s obviously a place where I had some really good memories. I knew [Borussia head coach] Jürgen [Klopp] from doing my UEFA Pro Licence and I knew [sporting director] Michael Zorc as obviously he was the captain when I played here. They were kind enough to let me come here and watch them train for a week and it’s been great, a big eye-opener.
bundesliga.com: What are you hoping to get from spending a week here?
Lambert: I think it’s just a great experience. Jürgen’s been fantastic for this football club and watching him and the team’s been great. This is a fantastic club as everybody knows and it’s just a great privilege for me to come back and watch them.
bundesliga.com: Have you taken a lot from the few days that you’ve been here?
Lambert: I think you never stop learning. It’s new for me to come and watch a team like this and see different things. It’s a football club that I have really fond memories of, but I don’t think you can go away from here not having learned anything. So far it’s been a really good experience for me.
bundesliga.com: Spending time with Jürgen Klopp must also have been fun as well…
Lambert: He’s a fantastic guy and a major part of this club after what he’s done, and we’ve certainly had some laughs, with Michael Zorc as well. There are still some people here from my time at the club - Teddy [Wolfgang de Beer, a former team-mate and now the club’s goalkeeping coach] is another - and it’s just been great.
bundesliga.com: You mentioned you were always working in the last few years, but did you find time to keep abreast of what’s been going on in the Bundesliga?
Lambert: Absolutely, yes. You still like to follow how the club is doing and as I said before it’s a special football club. The fanbase is incredible - everybody knows what the fans here are like - and I've managed to get back once or twice to watch games. I still like to see the club doing well. Most of the '97 team went to Wembley to watch the Champions League final [in 2013], which we were unlucky not to win. But it’s a real honour to play for this club and it was a special time for me to play there, winning the Champions League as well.
bundesliga.com: Speaking of the Champions League, BVB have a massive game this week against Juventus in the second leg of their last-16 clash. How do you rate Borussia’s chances of progression?
Lambert: I think they’ve got a great chance, I really do, especially being at home. The fans will really help them, but Dortmund also have world-class players in their squad. There are goals in the team and they’re one of the best sides in the competition, and if Dortmund produce what they’re capable of, I don’t see why they can’t qualify.
bundesliga.com: FC Bayern München have already reached the last eight and are considered one of the favourites to win the Champions League this season, but do you think Dortmund have what it takes to go all the way?
Lambert: Absolutely. Bayern are obviously very strong, a great team with a great coach, but it would be a big success [for the Bundesliga] to have two teams go through to the last eight.
Interview by Bernie Reeves