Lambert: We Have to Get Through Incredible Injury Situation
Thursday, 28th Feb 2019 15:52
Town go into Saturday’s game against Reading with only two fit senior strikers - Collin Quaner and Kayden Jackson - with Will Keane having joined the Blues' very lengthy injury list. One piece of potentially positive news is that James Collins could be back at the weekend after his hamstring injury.
In addition to Keane, Ellis Harrison has also been sidelined but the Welshman isn’t too far away from a return.
“Ellis is doing OK, his hamstring is getting better,” Lambert said. “He had the virus which I said was going around in the last couple of days but he’s back in this morning. The game is too early for him.”
Given the lack of strikers might he look at the free agent market? “We’re definitely short in that area but if you’re out of contract and tomorrow it’s March, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.
“It’s a dangerous thing to go into that market again, we can’t keep on paying money out. That’s the situation with loans or free transfers. They’re not fit and why are they out there anyway at this stage of the season? It doesn’t add up.”
Lambert is even unable to look at the leading strikers in the U23s squad with Aaron Drinan having been sent out on loan to Waterford in Ireland and Ben Morris (ACL) and Ben Folami (achilles) also both injured.
Asked if the next frontman in line, 17-year-old Kai Brown, who has played senior football previously, albeit in non-league with Grays Athletic, could come into his thoughts for a place on the bench, Lambert added: “There’s no strikers, the two kids are injured, and long term. It’s a horrendous injury list that we’ve got.
“Kayden’s there, in terms of forward players, Gwion Edwards is there, so there are still one or two I can look at so it’s not something which is a major, major concern unless something happened to the other ones.”
He says players - who he wasn’t prepared to name - have been working in training as potential emergency strikers in case they’re required.
“We’re going to have to at certain times, there’s no point in trying to dress it up, we’re going to have to do it,” the Blues manager added.
“I think at certain times that’s important. I think we’re at that stage of the season where it’s not about systems it’s about what’s in your own stomach, how far you want to go and how far you want to work and how far you want to try and achieve something.
“So that for me is important, you have to have the enthusiasm for the game regardless of where you’re playing. And at the minute, since I’ve been at the club, the lads have given us everything.
“There’s not one game really where I’ve come away thinking [otherwise]. Accrington, yes definitely, but most of the games I’ve come away thinking we’ve given it a right go.”
Regarding the strikers who are available, Lambert is confident Quaner can start finding the net, the on-loan Huddersfield man having yet to register for the Blues.
“I’ve got no doubt, he’s a lovely finisher when you watch him in training, great finisher, lovely touch,” he said.
“His run for the goal on Saturday was excellent. I thought it was a great ball by Nolan, a great run from Collin.
“He’ll definitely score goals, Collin. He just needs that one to go in and then hopefully he’ll take-off.”
Asked whether playing in a front two might suit Jackson more than operating as a lone striker, he added: “It possibly could. But it doesn’t matter if you’re playing in a two or you’re playing as a one, your runs are still the same, your hold-up play should still be the same.
“I think Kayden’s done well in certain games and has needed help in certain other games. But I’ve got no downside on Kayden at all. It’s just I pick a team that I think can go and win a game for us and Collin and Will I think were playing really, really well together.”
Does he believe Quaner and Jackson can dovetail as a front pairing? “The two of them have done it at certain times. They play together in training a lot as well. It just depends on who I think goes up there. We’ll wait and see.”
Turning to the players who are unavailable for Saturday in other areas of the squad, Lambert says he talked to Jonas Knudsen, who is suspended for one match, after his dismissal at Wigan.
“I spoke to him afterwards and said that from where I was sitting it looked like a red card,” he said.
“Whether Luke Chambers was on the cover it was hard for me to see that, but if it was up the other end would I have claimed for a red card? Yes, probably I would have done. Did the referee get it right? He probably did.”
Lambert, who will be serving the final match of his touchline ban against the Royals, says Jack Lankester is still out with his back problem.
“He’s going to see a specialist in early March just to see how he’s getting on," he continued.
"He can’t rush that one. That’s a precarious one, a stress fracture in his back, but hopefully Jack will be back before the end of the season, but you can’t rush that.”
On-loan Leicester left-back Callum Elder has also joined the ranks of the injured, which includes long-term absentees Emyr Huws (knee), Tom Adeyemi (achilles), Grant Ward (ACL) and Freddie Sears (ACL), although is not expected to be out for too long.
“Callum was in a tackle, he’s getting better, but he’s out. As I said before, any loan player you get you’re getting him, they need games, they’re not featuring for their clubs.
“I think Collin Quaner in about six or seven months had played less than a hour and you’re trying to get him up to speed and you’re trying to throw him into three games in a week and that’s what’s happened with them all. That’s not an ideal situation that.”
There is more positive news regarding veteran centre-half James Collins: “He’s doing OK, we’ll see how he is come Saturday, I maybe need to change certain things from last week due to Jonas’s situation. I might look at changing the system depending on personnel and who we’ve got fit.”
And Teddy Bishop is back in contention having missed out on a place in the 18 last week having been unwell.
“He was ill, it was bizarre, he had sickness and diarrhoea,” Lambert added. “I said to you before that there was a bug going around, which is still there because Ellis has had it, James Collins has had it, Trevoh Chalobah’s had it.
“The lads were going away from training and all of a sudden the physio would tell you that they can’t come in because they’ve had sickness and diarrhoea.
“Bishop was the other one that had it the other week. He came in on the Friday and trained but I just thought he didn’t look that great even though he trained a little bit.
“He still felt dizzy and if you’re dizzy when you’re playing a five-v-two in a box, to ask you to go and play in a game was going to be too much for you.
“He’d have played because he’d been playing excellently for us in the last few games. But he’s back fit and he’s back training, so he’ll come into my thinking.”
Reflecting on the overall injury situation, he added: “The club’s got a lot of long-term injuries. Freddie’s surgery went well. Wardy’s went well, Tom Adeyemi’s been out for a long time, Huws has been out for a long, long time. The young kids, Folami and Morris, they’re all long term, they’re not just three or four weeks.
“I’ve never known it, for players to be 15 months out, that’s incredible. But it is what it is at the minute, we have to get through it.
“Allied to that we’ll have to get the loan lads up to speed. It’s a big ask for them because you don’t have them in pre-season, you don’t have them fully fit and you’re taking players from other teams that either their club wants them to go and play games because they’re not getting games or they’ve been injured and they’re trying to get them up to speed.
“And I think that’s why Will has probably hurt his hamstring, which is a blow because he’s been playing really well.”
Does Lambert feel there might be the need to look into potential reasons for the volume of injuries? “I don’t know because I’ve only been here three months. Emyr obviously hurt himself before he came in. Tom Adeyemi hurt himself before he came in. Jon Walters, obviously hurt his achilles, Will’s is his hamstring.
“Will’s hamstring is the only real one where he’d really kind of pulled up. But I don’t know what Will did in pre-season, I don’t know what he’s done prior to coming to us, we can only see in the short space of time.
“But we don’t have time, we have to try and let the guys hit the ground running, we don’t have time, we have to throw them in and get them fit when they’re playing their games.
“That’s why you need a pre-season and that’s why you have to try and stop loans coming into your club. If you don’t have loan players, all these situations don’t happen.”
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