|Burton Albion 0 v 1 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 3rd August 2019 Kick-off 15:00
Lambert: We Have to Aim to Be Up There But We've No Divine Right
Friday, 2nd Aug 2019 14:42
Blues boss Paul Lambert believes his young Blues side has to aim to challenge for promotion from League One in the season ahead but warns that they have no divine right to be in that position. Town begin their first third-tier campaign for 62 years at Burton Albion on Saturday.
Asked whether his side have to give it a real go to win promotion, Lambert said: “We have to. We have to try. We don't know [whether we will] because we have guys that have never played at this level.
“We have young guys who have come out of the academy, we've got a really young side and one or two experienced guys, but nobody knows what's going to happen. When we're on song and we've got everybody fit we're a good side."
Does he believe he needs more experience in his squad? “You can get mixed up with experience. Experience only comes with either age or how many games people have played.
“People can play 200 games and only be 21 years old, that's experience because they've played the games. We have to try and boost the squad and that's apparent.”
Despite expectations that the Blues, third favourites with the bookies with the second highest wage bill in the division, will be right up there battling to make a swift return to the Championship, Lambert dismissed suggestions that he and his squad are under pressure.
“You've got to be kidding me on, we're under pressure?” he said. “I played with massive clubs and I've been at massive clubs as a manager, it's been my life.
“If anything is going to happen to me then it happens, it doesn't matter to me, it really doesn't matter to me what happens, whether I'm here or not.
“The most important thing is the football club and the team and the supporters, that's the most important thing.
“It's not me and it's not the staff, it's the team and the club that's the most important, so whatever [owner] Marcus [Evans] does I'm not going to roll out of my bed in the morning and wonder what's going to happen.”
Quizzed on whether not going back up at the first time of asking would constitute failure, Lambert responded with a question of his own: “Why do we have a divine right to go up, you answer me that?
“Sunderland got relegated last year and never got back up and it's a huge club with a huge fanbase.
“You don't have a divine right. You have to earn it. We have to earn the right to go up. What I do know is the club has an unbelievable fanbase behind it that will drive it on, and you can use the emotion of the crowd to drive you on.
“As I've said, we're a really young side with guys that have not done it at this level, guys that have never played at this level let alone anything else. But we're a good side when we're on it, we'll lose games, that's apparent, but we'll also give it a right good go.”
Having had something of a honeymoon period last season with fans enthusiastically backing him and his team home and away, does he feel he is now in a position where he needs to start winning games? “You asked me a question, “Am I worried about getting sacked?’. No, he [Evans] can do it in the morning, or he could do it on Sunday, it doesn't matter, the most important thing is the club, and that's always the case.
“So whether I'm here, not or whatever it's irrelevant, the most important thing is Ipswich Town Football Club.”
He added: “The fans are brilliant, and I've got nothing but praise for the fans, it's a phenomenal support and it's there and they're all coming back which is great, and that's the most important thing, nobody else.”
Lambert says he still gets the buzz at the start of a new season that he used to as a young player.
“The same as what it was when I started playing professional football when I was 15,” he reminisced.
“The same feeling, I love the game, I love the game of football, the adrenaline rush and all of those things.
“The other side of it is a little bit different. But the actual game and being involved with the team and the support is great.
“We'll have a great support up there and we'll be a scalp for a team to beat us, but you have to handle it.”
Turning his mind to Burton, he said: “Tough game, I’ve got a lot of time for [manager] Nigel [Clough], I like the way he goes about it. It’s a hard game, small surroundings and things like that.
“They had a great cup run last year. It’ll be tough but I’ve got a lot of time for Nigel, he’s done a good job.”
He added: “We can only go and try and win. You try and do everything you can to win, and that's what we'll try and do.
“We’ve got injuries and that's apparent, everyone knows who's injured and who's not, but we have to try and get a team on the pitch that in our view is going to go and win.”
Given last season's struggles, does Lambert believe it’s important to establish a winning mentality from the off? “You have to win, yes. You have to win games without a doubt. The game’s all about winning, you have to win.
“There’s nothing better in your own career when you’re able to look back and say, ‘I won X, Y and Z’.
“And when you start to win it becomes a momentum thing. So, that’s what we have to get.”
He says the squad goes into the season with confidence high: “It’s fine, as I said before, whether you win every pre-season game, whether you lose it, nothing can take care of the real ball.
“The lads are good, they know there’s a few of their team-mates injured but if we’re on it, let's see what happens.”
Tomas Holy will be given his Town debut in goal with another debutant James Wilson, whose short-term signing was confirmed earlier today, and Luke Woolfenden, making only his second start for the Blues, the central defenders with skipper Luke Chambers suspended for one match following his red card against Leeds on the final day of last season and Toto Nsiala on Town’s lengthy injury list.
Myles Kenlock is over the illness which saw him miss the trip to Cambridge and seems set to line-up at left-back with Janoi Donacien appearing favourite to start at right-back.
Lambert has options system-wise having lined his team up in formations which have been variations on 4-3-3 during much of pre-season, while he employed a 4-4-2 diamond at Cambridge last week.
The Blues boss may well choose to start with a system involving a three-man central midfield against the Brewers with Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes likely starters.
Lambert says he’s still pondering whether Emyr Huws and Alan Judge are ready to start after their fitness problems but both will probably be involved at some stage. Andre Dozzell and Idris El Mizouni are other alternatives in central midfield.
Danny Rowe, another option in a more advanced central midfield role, could start wide on the right with Everton loanee Luke Garbutt set to make his debut on the left and James Norwood, Town's fourth debutant, the lone central striker. If Lambert opts to go with a two-man attack, Kayden Jackson will partner the ex-Tranmere man.
Town last won on the opening day of a season two years ago when they defeated Birmingham 1-0 via a Joe Garner debut goal.
They last won away on the first day of a campaign in 2011 when two debut goals from Michael Chopra helped the Blues to a 3-0 victory at Bristol City with Lee Martin netting the other.
Burton, ninth last season, 10 points off the play-offs, haven’t won on the opening day since 2015/16. They were beaten 2-1 at home by Rochdale last season as they made a slow start to their League One season following relegation from the Championship the previous season.
Manager Clough is determined to make a quicker start to their campaign this time around.
"As much as we can this season, and I think we will,” the former England international told Derbyshire Live.
"We are much better prepared, mentally and physically, than we were 12 months ago, and we just sense there's a determination now with the players, certainly to get off to a better start than we did this time last season.
"You always want to get off to a good start. If you can win your first game, the difference it makes, the confidence floods everybody. That's what we'll be trying to do.”
Regarding Town, he added: "Somebody said to me [on Tuesday] at the EFL launch that it could be a good time to play them! You don't know. They could come absolutely firing on all cylinders.
"I think it'll be a very good game, because you've got two good footballing sides, and I think it will be a great opening game.
"We are certainly delighted with it. I think when you get that sort of game first, everybody is excited about it.
"And if you can get a good result and it's a good game, it just whets everybody's appetite for the rest of the season.”
Over the summer, the Brewers have brought in goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara (on loan from Manchester United), centre-backs Richard Nartey (loan from Chelsea) and Jevan Anderson and midfielders John-Joe O’Toole and Ryan Edwards.
Yesterday, they recruited Leeds United striker Oliver Sarkic on a one-year contract and today they have added another frontman, Everton's Nathan Broadhead, on a season-long loan.
In terms of exits, they have lost three of last season’s regulars - defender Kyle McFadzean and midfielder Jamie Allen both moved to Coventry and winger Marcus Harness departed for Portsmouth.
However, Clough feels the core of his squad still remains: “When you look at the team from last season, the nucleus is still there.
"We've got John Brayford, Jake Buxton, Colin Daniel, a new goalkeeper who we've been very pleased with.
"There's Stephen Quinn, Kieran Wallace was here, Scott Fraser is still here, Ryan Edwards has slotted in nicely. We've still got Lucas Akins, we've still got Liam Boyce.
"That nucleus is still there, and I think when it's like that, it's easier for the other lads to adapt and fit in.
"For Ryan Edwards’s first game on Saturday, he looked as though he'd been playing with us for a few months.
"It's funny how the new lads who come in say that, they say the way we play makes it easy for them.”
Injury-wise, winger David Templeton is out with a hip flexor injury, while midfielder Ben Fox is a long-term absentee with a knee problem.
New loanee Nartey is expected to train today when he will be assessed having felt a tight hamstring.
Town and the Brewers have only met four times in competitive matches, all in the Championship during the two seasons prior to 2018/19, with Town unbeaten having won three and drawn one.
The teams last crossed swords at Portman Road in February 2018 when the game ended in a drab 0-0 draw with the visitors having had the better of the few chances.
In the second half of a match which was watched by Portman Road’s lowest league crowd for almost 20 years, Blues keeper Bartosz Bialkowski saved from former Blue Darren Bent when through one-on-one and made another brilliant stop in the final minute from McFadzean.
Last time at the Pirelli Stadium in October 2017, Celina came off the bench to curl home a brilliant 89th minute freekick and complete a Blues comeback as they came from behind to beat Burton Albion 2-1.
Ben Turner put the Brewers deservedly in front before Waghorn equalised prior to Celina's late stunner.
No member of the current Town squad has played for Burton, but former Town loan keeper Stephen Bywater joined the Brewers from Doncaster in January 2016.
The 38-year-old made 17 appearances for the Blues in a half-season spell in 2008. Midfielder Stephen Quinn is the brother of ex-Blue Alan.
Saturday’s referee is Ross Joyce from Cleveland, who showed 157 yellow cards and five red in 44 games last season. Joyce will be taking charge of a Town game for the first time.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Donacien, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Clements, Wilson, Woolfenden, Ndaba, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Judge, El Mizouni, Garbutt, Rowe, Dobra, Jackson, Norwood.
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