Lambert: As Good a Group of Youngsters as I've Worked With Numbers-Wise
Thursday, 14th Mar 2019 18:05
Boss Paul Lambert believes Town’s emerging youngsters are as good a group of kids as he’s worked with in his career in terms of the number of them coming through at the same time.
On Tuesday at Bristol City Myles Kenlock, Josh Emmanuel and Andre Dozzell started, while Idris El Mizouni made his first-team debut from the bench, Teddy Bishop was another late addition, while keeper Harry Wright was also among the subs.
Flynn Downes has been a regular for Lambert since he took over at Town but was ill on Tuesday, Jack Lankester is currently sidelined with a back problem, Tristan Nydam was on the bench at West Brom on Saturday and young Irish defender Corrie Ndaba has travelled with the squad to the last two games having recently been offered his first professional deal.
In addition, another defender, Luke Woolfenden, is on loan at Swindon having broken into the first team last season, while young strikers Ben Morris and Ben Folami have both dipped their toes into senior football but are currently out with ACL and achilles injuries respectively.
“Numbers-wise and with everybody coming through at the same time I would say yes,” Lambert said when asked if the group of youngsters was as good as any he had previously worked with.
“You’ve seen it yourself how well they’re playing. I think they’re getting well and truly complimented, which they should.
“But there shouldn’t be any pressure on them because they haven’t arrived or anything like that, they’ve a lot of hard work to go.
“But they’re on the right path and if they keep listening and working hard then they’ve got a chance but they have to keep the hard work because you get nothing without the hard work.”
Does he want to make Ndaba his next debutant? “Corrie’s been training with us because he’s a left-footed centre-half which are gold dust for you, a left-footed centre-half.
“I know the club had a couple here [Adam Webster and Matt Clarke] and let them go, which I don’t think was the right thing to do.
“I think Corrie’s got a chance, I think Tristan has got a chance, Woolfenden’s got to come back, so there’s a right good handful of players that could come back and make an impact whatever league we’re in.”
When he’s looking at blooding youngsters does Lambert consider the integrity of the competition? “I owe other teams nothing, I don’t owe them anything. We’re Ipswich Town, more than anything, I’m playing the kids but it’s not a gift, it’s not a present for them to say, ‘Here, go and have a career playing football’. I’m playing them because I think they might do something.
“I’ve always said that, to get in the side you have to want to do something, you have to be prepared to go through it.
“But it’s not a gift, it’s just not because I think you’re a nice footballer. I’m playing them because I think something might materialise. I don’t owe anybody anything. That’s for sure.”
He says he keeps an eye on young debutants, such as Tunisian Olympic squad member El Mizouni, after they’ve made their first steps into the first team to see how they react.
“If I thought they were getting too far ahead of themselves I’d pull them back down,” he said. “This is the difficulty with young players, you don’t want them to think they’ve arrived.
“I just think that when a footballer thinks he’s arrived then he’s in trouble. Then the complacency comes in.
“Until the day you stop, then you think, ‘OK, I have had a good career or a done a good job’. But virtually every single day you have to be bang at it and I don’t want a culture of kids doing well and then coming in in flash cars and things like that, I don’t think its healthy.”
He added: “We have to have a plan. If we decide to go that way and we can’t go out and spend millions and millions, we have to have a pathway for kids coming through.
“But also the kids have to be good enough to come through. There’s no point in saying, ‘Put kids in everywhere’ but a handful might not be good enough to get through.
“But at this moment, we’ve got a nucleus of lads who are more than holding their own in the team.
“But I’ve got to say that with a lot of caution as they need time to develop. They might have two or three really good games and maybe one or two where they fall off the pace, but that can happen, as long as they’re in the standard. As I’ve said before, the future’s incredibly strong.”
Lambert says he’ll need to augment all that young talent with some experience in the summer.
“They’ll need a little bit of help, I think,” he said. “Whether that happens, I don’t know. But you can’t stop their pathway.
"Why should I go for a loan who is not any better than one of the young ones? One, I’ll save Marcus money probably, and two, go with what you’ve got here and what you believe in is a kid’s pathway to making a career, if they’re good enough. Not if they’re not good enough.
“If a player’s there that I thinks a helluva lot better than a young one, then absolutely you look at that to give the young one time to develop. But if he’s not any better then you can’t look at it.”
Meanwhile, one youngster who is yet to feature under Lambert is right-back Barry Cotter, who made a significant impression in Mick McCarthy's last game in charge, the 1-0 victory over Barnsley last April.
“Barry’s done alright," Lambert added. "As I’ve said before, to get in the side you really have to get motoring, I think you have to be really on the button.
“Is he behind James Bree? Yes. Is he behind Josh Emmanuel? Yes, absolutely. Behind Jordan Spence? Yep. He’s down there but there’s no set given, you have to just keep working hard and when your chance comes you’ve got to impress me and take it. It’s not a gift, you have to earn the right to get a game.”
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