Lambert: I pick on merit
Aston Villa boss Paul Lambert insists he has no favourites and price tags will count for nothing when he selects his side for Sunday's Barclays Premier League derby with visiting West Brom.
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Lambert has welcome competition for places after Villa achieved a shock 4-2 win over Manchester City in the midweek Capital One Cup tie at the Etihad Stadium.
Gabriel Agbonlahor impressed with two goals after recovering from knee ligament damage suffered during the pre-season tour of the United States.
He now will challenge the likes of £18million record signing Darren Bent and recent £7million arrival Christian Benteke to face the Baggies, although Lambert believes all three can play together.
Lambert said: "I'll decide tomorrow (who will play) when I know who's fit. Everyone's in the same boat, I don't have any favourites. I have a group of players whom I trust, no matter who I play.
"It doesn't matter to me who's worth what. It's about who performs on a given day or is performing. The team is more important than any individual.
"That's always the case and we have to get a winning team.
"I hear the Ryder Cup lads talking at the moment, and they're not individuals, they're a team, they want to win. Football's exactly the same. You win as a team, you lose as a team.
"You try to generate competition for everybody, not just among the strikers, but among the midfielders, even on the bench.
"You have to create that vibe that, if you don't perform, then there's somebody there. That's the only way you can get the best out of people.
"As long as they stick together, because everybody will get used, then if they buy into that you won't go far wrong."
Lambert is looking to 25-year-old Agbonlahor to "drive his career forward" after his return to action and the end of a 17-game run without a goal.
He said: "Gabby's at an age now where he's not a young pro and not an elder statesman.
"He's a great stage to really kick on and drive his career forward.
"Gabby has got the potential to do it, no question about it, and Tuesday night at Manchester City proved it's there in abundance.
"He was a bit unfortunate at the beginning when he got injured in pre-season. But the few games I've seen him in, he's been an absolute handful.
"It's sustaining that that is probably the secret, which will enable him to drag his career on, and will probably be of benefit to ourselves.
"Ultimately players have got to go and do the business. That's why they're the most important people in the game, them and those who come and pay to watch.
"I don't think his confidence is going to be much higher than what it is now."
Lambert knows from his days as Norwich boss how hard it can be to stop a striker of Agbonlahor's pace.
He said: "I think pace anywhere on the pitch is an asset and he's got it in abundance, whether he comes in from the left or he's through the middle or whatever. Pace is an asset in the game.
"Once he gets that head down and the ball in front of him, there's not too many who will stop him.
"I came here with Norwich last season and Kyle Naughton [playing at full-back for Norwich that day] is no slouch and Gabby that day was really powerful."