Keane’s brooding presence on the touchline at Villa Park in his new day job has seen the team in claret and blue make an unbeaten start to the Premier League season, although the tradition of being knocked out of a cup by lower-league opposition was upheld by Leyton Orient in midweek.
It’s early days for Birmingham’s top-level under-achievers of course, although the locals say that referees don’t give two 50-50 decisions in the opposition’s favour now that grey beard comes hurtling at them from the dugout.
As for Hull, the less said about the first hour the better but at 2-0 down and time running out the Tigers did eventually make a fight of it and their Irish contingent were in the thick of it. Robbie Brady came off the bench to spark the comeback, which saw Stephen Quinn and Paul McShane also make contributions.
And then there was Jack Grealish. The 18-year-old came off the bench at 2-1 to cause all sorts of chaos with his quick feet and no fewer than three Hull men were booked for hacking him.
“Welcome to the league, Jack,” said Lambert. “He’s got a chance, there’s no doubt about it.”
Villa could have been forgiven for thinking they had the game wrapped up by half-time. Gabriel Agbonlahor opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Andreas Weimann doubled that advantage with a cool finish in the 36th minute. Hull’s three-man defence, featuring new recruit Michael Dawson alongside Curtis Davies and McShane, struggled, and their colleagues rarely menaced at the other end.
Until Quinn flicked on a free-kick and Nikica Jelavic headed home with 15 minutes remaining that is. Villa did have chances to restore the two-goal cushion — substitute Darren Bent wasted the best in stoppage-time — but the home side needed a wonder save from Brad Guzan to stop Jake Livermore finding the top corner.
“That first half was the worst I have seen in my two years at the club,” said Hull manager Steve Bruce. “We needed a response and thankfully we got it.”
Meanwhile, Shay Given’s shock recall to the Republic of Ireland squad for the games against Oman and Georgia has been backed by Lambert.
Given has played just once for Villa since January 2013 — against Leyton Orient in Wednesday’s Capital One Cup defeat — but Lambert still thinks the 38-year-old has got what it takes to play at international level.
“If Shay gets picked to play for Ireland there is no way he will let them down. I think the call-up is great for him. He is a top goalkeeper and he is probably back because of his experience and not just as a footballer but as a guy. I think he is great as a guy. ”
ASTON VILLA (4-1-4-1): Guzan 7; Hutton 6, Vlaar 7, Senderos 7, Cissokho 6; Westwood 7; N’Zogbia 6 (Sanchez 64, 6), Richardson 6 (Grealish 75, 7), Delph 7, Weimann 7; Agbonlahor 8 (Bent 85). S
HULL CITY (3-5-2): McGregor 6; Davies 4 (Rosenior 46, 6), Dawson 5, McShane 7; Elmohamady 5, Quinn 7, Huddlestone 5 (Aluko 71, 5), Livermore 5, Robertson 5; Ince 5 (Brady 57, 7), Jelavic 6.
Referee: Mark Clattenburg.