Lambert: Winning Breeds Confidence
Friday, 9th Aug 2019 14:13
Town boss Paul Lambert says there’s “a really good feeling at the football club” as the Blues go into Saturday's opening home game of the season against Sunderland, his side having got their campaign off to a winning start by beating Burton Albion 1-0 at the Pirelli Stadium last weekend.
“Football's great because you never get too high and you never get too low,” Lambert said when asked if there had been a buzz around the club after last Saturday’s victory.
“Winning breeds confidence, it breeds momentum and there's a really good feeling at the football club.
“The fanbase is huge and there'll be a great atmosphere on Saturday. Sunderland will bring a big crowd and two big clubs will go head to head and we'll see what happens.”
A crowd of around 23,500 is anticipated for the visit of the Black Cats with Lambert keen to continue to build momentum in a game which is expected to played in a high wind. “We'll try,” he added. “We’re a young side and we'll lose games, we'll win games and we'll draw games, but we'll try.
“One thing we have got is a lot of energy, we've certainly got that. And hopefully with the backing of the support we do play well and when we get chances we can take them.
“I said before, there are so many difficult games in this league, we'll win games and we'll lose games because we're slightly light in certain areas.”
With that squad being light in some positions, young players such as Flynn Downes, Luke Woolfenden and Myles Kenlock may find themselves having to play 40 or more games during a season for the first time in their careers. Is Lambert confident that they can cope with that?
“I don't know,” he admitted. “It's the first time so nobody knows what can happen in a season.
“A lot will depend on the lads themselves and whether they can stay injury free, keep their form and if they can play well enough.
“Nobody knows, you're in untested waters really with a lot of them. It's trial and error with a lot of them because it's the first time of asking but I'm pretty sure it's exciting for them.”
Last season Town won only three times at Portman Road and while home form will have to improve significantly if the Blues are to challenge for a return to the Championship, Lambert says results at Portman Road aren’t the be-all and end-all.
“I'm not a great believer that it's just your home form that will win you a league, it's your away form as well,” he reflected.
“It's not just the home form that's going to be the key, if we win every home game and lose every away one then we're not going to do it.
“For me it's both, you have to win home and away. If we do that then we've got a chance, and if we don't do that then we don't have a chance.”
Lambert hopes that his team can repay fans for last season's faith and the on-terrace enthusiasm in the months to come.
“We'll try, as I said before, this place was like a morgue before we came in,” he recalled. “You were reporting it, so that's probably why it was like a morgue, if it was any of these questions I can understand why!
“The support has been brilliant and if they can keep that support and bounce off the team then that's my main concern, the support and the team.
“If you have success, then everybody will have it together. As I've said before, you sacrifice the ‘me’ for the ‘we’, then once you've had the success, then you have the ‘me’.”
The Black Cats are favourites to win the division, with Town third behind Portsmouth, but Lambert says he pays scant regard to the bookies.
“Number one, I'm not a gambler. Number two, I don't understand the odds,” he insisted. “But what I do understand about football is you have to earn the right to win games, and you have to earn the right to get out of a league.
“So, there will be loads of teams that think the same. Marcus came out and said [budget-wise], we're a team [in the] top 10 [in League One], not top two or top one, we're only top ten. You put your mathematics hat on and work that out, so we have to earn the right to be up there.”
Does he believe it’s a mental challenge for Sunderland to bounce back after two Wembley disappointments last season, having lost in both the Checkatrade Trophy and play-off finals.
“I tell you what, I'd rather have gone to Wembley than have not gone to Wembley,” he said. “They had a good run at it and just missed out on it. It’s disappointing but I'm pretty sure footballers get over things pretty quickly.”
If Town beat Sunderland having won at Burton on the opening day, they will be pleased with their start to life in the third tier, but Lambert warns there are further challenges ahead, not least at Peterborough in a week’s time.
“Two tough games, we can say this next week as well because it'll be the exact same, every game is hard,” he added.
“We don't have a divine right to turn up and win. We have to earn the right to win games and let's see what happens."
One Sunderland player is well-known to Lambert, the Town boss having played alongside him late in his career at Celtic.
“Aiden [McGeady] I played with when he was a young lad at Celtic and he's had a really good career," he remembered.
“He's a really talented footballer, so he's probably a big part of their team. I know he had an injury last season, but he's probably a big part of their team.”
Black Cats boss Jack Ross has said he wants his side to be more versatile this season, and illustrated that by starting them in a 3-5-2 system in last week’s 1-1 home draw with Oxford United.
Lambert believes there is adaptability in his squad as well but not in all positions: “You've got versatility but it's not the right areas where I want versatility, that's apparent, everybody can see that.
“I can change what I want to change and we'll see, maybe I'll change the system tomorrow and the personnel, we'll wait and see.”
He says as a manager you’re constantly learning about your players: “I think you always do. Young lads will make mistakes and they'll play with no fear and all those sorts of things.
“We're really a young side, but if they have that energy and that drive we'll win games and we'll lose games. That's always going to be the case, it'll be murky waters, up and down, it's always going to happen. But when they're on song they're good, they're really good.”
Tomas Holy appears certain to make his home debut in goal, while Myles Kenlock and Janoi Donacien are likely to be the full-backs.
Lambert will almost certainly recall skipper Luke Chambers to the centre of the defence following his suspension despite the clean sheet at Burton with either Luke Woolfenden - who is yet to make a home start - or James Wilson - another home debutant if he's involved - dropping to the bench.
Both central defenders have been praised for their displays at the Pirelli Stadium and a case could be made for both of them with Wilson more experienced but Woolfenden more match fit having been involved throughout pre-season.
In midfield, Cole Skuse and Flynn Downes are likely to continue in the centre with Luke Garbutt, making his home debut, on the left and Danny Rowe, who would be making his first home start two and a half years after joining the club, on the right.
James Norwood will make his home debut up front and Lambert could opt to start Alan Judge, very impressive having come on for the last half-hour at Burton, behind the lone striker with Kayden Jackson among the subs.
Andre Dozzell, fit again after missing the visit to the Pirelli Stadium with a knee problem, is also likely to be on the bench, alongside Emyr Huws. Sunderland will be without winger Duncan Watmore, who has suffered a knock, while striker Charlie Wyke and midfielder Ethan Robson both remain injured.
Winger McGeady - a sub against Oxford -and midfielders Max Power and Chris Maguire are all getting closer to full fitness after earlier injuries.
Wearsiders’ boss Ross says his side need to aim to win at Portman Road if they’re to be where they hope to be this season.
“We knew this would be a difficult fixture, regardless of when it would fall on the calendar,” the Scot said at his pre-match press conference.
“But for us, in order to be where we want to be this season, we have to go and look to get the win.
"I think once the dust had settled on last weekend, the players looked back on the game and we spoke and they were of the same opinion as me, that parts of the play were good and if we could replicate those and add in that final quality we lacked, we have every chance of winning at Ipswich.”
Having spent a year in League One, does Ross have any advice for new boys Town? “Even if I did have any advice to offer I wouldn’t want to do that. They’re going to be competing with us to try and get promoted.
“But they have a very experienced manager in Paul Lambert and I think any club in this league will view them as a big club and will recognise it when they go to Portman Road, and the size of the crowd and the history, it makes it challenging.”
Ross, who was interviewed for the job as manager of Town prior to taking his role at the Stadium of Light before the Blues appointed Paul Hurst, dismissed the suggestion that Saturday is a good time to face Town.
“No, I never really look too much like that,” he insisted. “I think you have to play every team home and away and although that sounds simplistic, the plan never really changes on how to play against them.
“We found that last year. I don’t think any game got harder or easier, depending on when they played us. We always knew this would be a tough game and a challenging game, but one which we should look forward to because it’s a good venue to go and play in.”
Historically, the sides are closely matched with Town having won 23 of the games between the teams (23 in the league) and Sunderland 20 (18) with seven (seven) having ended in draws.
Last time the teams met was in February 2018 when Joe Garner’s 10th of the season and an Adam Matthews own goal saw Town to a 2-0 victory over the table-propping Black Cats, their first ever win at the Stadium of Light and their first on Wearside since 1989.
Garner netted a brilliant low strike on 35 and Matthews stabbed over his own line in first-half injury time.
In September 2017, Town hit five at Portman Road under Mick McCarthy for the first time as the Blues thrashed the already-deep-in-trouble Black Cats 5-2.
Waghorn opened the scoring against his old club in the sixth minute, Billy Jones equalised four minutes later but Spence restored the impressive Blues’ lead when he headed home Waghorn’s corner on 27 to make it 2-1 at the break.
In the second half, Waghorn created the best of the night for Celina and then Town’s fourth for McGoldrick, his Ireland team-mate McGeady pulled one back via a brilliant strike for the Wearsiders, then sub Grant Ward added the fifth a minute from time.
Former Blues skipper Grant Leadbitter rejoined his boyhood club from Middlesbrough in January.
Leadbitter, 33, signed for Town from the Black Cats in September 2009 for £2.65 million and went on to make 120 starts and six sub appearances before leaving for Boro on a Bosman in the summer of 2012.
Saturday’s referee is Neil Hair from Cambridgeshire, who showed 102 yellow cards and seven red in 30 games last season.
He has booked eight players in his two matches so far in 2019/20 without issuing a dismissal. Hair will be refereeing his first Town match.
Squad from: Holy, Norris, Donacien, Emmanuel, Kenlock, Clements, Chambers (c), Wilson, Woolfenden, Ndaba, Skuse, Downes, Dozzell, Huws, Judge, El Mizouni, Garbutt, Rowe, Roberts, Dobra, Jackson, Norwood.
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