Lambert: I Think They'll Go for Points Per Game
Wednesday, 3rd Jun 2020 16:27
Blues boss Paul Lambert says his gut feeling is that the League One season will be brought to an early end and decided on points per game, although is concerned that a final decision might not be made at next week’s meeting of the 23 clubs which has now been delayed until Tuesday.
The clubs were set to vote on Monday on whether 2019/20 will be played to a conclusion behind closed doors or curtailed now, with placings, promotion and relegation expected to be decided on unweighted points per game.
However, due to clubs making additional submissions, including Tranmere’s points per game with a margin of error proposal, voting papers weren’t sent out until today with EFL regulations requiring clubs to have five days to consider their vote.
Even before the latest delay, Blues boss Paul Lambert admitted he was becoming increasingly frustrated by the time it is taking to make a decision.
“It’s been going on too long, virtually every other league knows what’s happening. Our league at the minute just doesn’t know,” Lambert told Sky Sports News.
“I know they’re saying June 8th but would it surprise me if it goes longer? I’m not sure. But there’s got to be a cut-off point, that’s the thing that frustrates me. We don’t know whether we can train, whether they guys can come back, we haven’t any idea at this minute.”
He added: ”The problem is that we need leadership from the top to say ‘This is what’s going to happen’. I don’t think you’re going to keep everybody happy but I think everybody would accept it if there’s a decision made.
“If that happens everybody can move on, whether you have to prepare for next season or whether you have to play the games. But there’s got to be an answer somewhere.”
Town are among the clubs who want the season played to its conclusion with the Blues boss believing his side, who are currently 10th, seven points off the play-offs with eight matches to play, would be in with a shout of making the top six.
“We’re not too far off it and we’ll have everybody fit,” he said. “You’ll be playing on a level playing field because you won’t have any fans but everybody would love to get the season finished but the longer this goes on I’m just not convinced it can happen.”
Lambert says he wouldn’t be at all shocked to see the matter delayed further: “It wouldn’t surprise me if we were still talking about this, if it were prolonged, it wouldn’t surprise me at all because I think thus far there’s not been a decision.
“I think whoever is at the top of the EFL, they have to tell us what’s going on, this has been going on too long. We had a start date of May 16th at the beginning, then it moved to May 26th, now [there’s not even a decision when to train. When do we actually train or do we not? I think that for me is the frustrating thing, certainly for our team.
“Normally when you finish a season you know you’ve only got about six weeks off and then you’re back in. At this moment we don’t know what’s going on or what’s around the corner for us.”
Lambert has expressed his frustration with the EFL’s lack of leadership before and feels that they may have been focusing on the Championship to the detriment of the other divisions.
“I think that’s it,” he said. “Football is one organisation, we’re all the same game. Why is League One the league that’s cut adrift at the minute? It doesn’t add up.
“Ipswich is a huge football club, we’ve a lot of fans who want to come to games. But we can only do that with the guidance of everybody else.
“We can’t just go and train, that’s never going to happen until we’re told what’s going to happen. There’s definitely been a lack of leadership from the top to help us.”
The League One clubs are divided on how they want the season concluded with Town among six who have lobbied to have it played to its conclusion with a larger number, almost certainly more than the required 51 per cent, in favour of it being brought to an early end.
“I get all that,” Lambert said when asked about the division’s infighting. “I totally get teams looking at their own thing, I totally get it. That’s why I think whatever decision they make, just make it and if it’s good or bad for you, you have to accept it because everybody across the board is the same.
“The same in the Premier League, the teams in the bottom three don’t want relegation, the top teams want to finish it. Everybody’s doing exactly the same. It’s the same in Germany, I’ve some friends in the Bundesliga and it’s the same, they want to try and finish it and teams don’t want to do it because of relegation.
“I get the self-interest part of it but I think the frustrating thing for us is the decision on what we’re doing.”
How does he think Tuesday’s vote will go? “I think they’ll go points per game, that’s my gut feeling. I hope I’m wrong, I’d love to play the season out but I don’t know the cut-off point and how late it’s going to carry on.”
Lambert says he’s no fan of the season being settled on that basis - which would see the Blues finish 11th, their lowest placing since 1952/53 when they finished 16th in Division Three South under Scott Duncan - but would take it on the chin it if that’s the final decision.
“I’m not an advocate of the points per game thing at all, I don’t think that’s a good way but if it happens like that you have to accept it,” he said.
“We don’t know until June 8th [now June 9th] what is going to happen and we’re so far behind the game the minute because of the testing. Ipswich is geared up for the testing, it’s got everything in place for the first phase, as they call it. But other than that we’re far behind.
“The players themselves are asking ‘When do we start back?’ I said before, how can you have a training start date when you don’t have a games programme date? That’s like your season starting in September and somebody saying that your starting [training] date is May 16th.
“You’re never going to train for that length of time, you need five or six weeks realistically to get everybody fit. Everybody’s trying to cram everything on to get the season finished.
“I saw the Championship chairmen saying ‘How can we play after three weeks?’. And they were right. It’s a dangerous thing for the players but if you’ve been told to try and get it finished then you have to try and abide by it.”
“In pre-season you have that six-week period or so to try and get everybody fit and you look at the Bundesliga, for example, they have five subs, but guys have still been going down injured with longevity of the lay-off.
“You have all those problems to overcome and it’s going to be who’s the fittest, I think, that’s going to have a bit of success.”
But even after the decision on 2019/20 is finally made that isn’t an end to League One’s problems as many of the issues are likely to impact upon the 2020/21 campaign whenever that gets under way.
“Correct, and whether the new season starts in September or October, how do the fans get into the stadium without the vaccine?” Lambert questioned. “I think that’s another hurdle that people are going to have to get over.
“And the smaller clubs, how will they manage it? It’s going to be so difficult. I think there are a lot more questions to be answered.”
Recruitment is another area which is currently in a state of uncertainty with so much unpredictability and so many financial concerns in the game at present, certainly at League One level.
“We’re like everybody else on that front where guys that are out of contract, those with options, even the loan lads, who have done great for us, do they go back to Everton [Luke Garbutt], do they go back to Wolves [Will Norris]? It’s so undecided where everybody is,” he said.
“You might come to a decision where as the season starts you really can’t go out and get anybody because the transfer fees are too high.
“But we’ve some really good young ones that we’re really happy we’re more than happy with that can go an make a mark at the football club.”
Lambert, who played in Germany for Borussia Dortmund, has been working as a pundit on the Bundesliga since it returned and has been impressed with how behind-closed-doors football has been managed, even if he feels it’s not quite the same without supporters.
“I think they’ve done great with it, I really do,” he said. “The game is for the fans, that goes without saying, without the fans you don’t really have a game as such. But I think the games that I’ve watched have been really good.
“The problem is that you don’t have that same intensity. Decisions get made and normally people would be in a frenzy, managers would be going to the fourth official and giving him stick, but there’s nothing of that because the adrenaline’s not there from the support.
“You’ve not really seen that in the Bundesliga, they’ve really accepted the decisions. It’s a major, major miss without a doubt and it’ll be the same here.
“It just illustrates how football needs the fans. It doesn’t matter what you say about it or what kind of coverage you want to have of it, without the people coming into the stadium, it’s definitely not the same game.
“There’s no home advantage with it, you turn up, you could actually play on your training pitch, it’s not any different really. You’ve got none of that real pressure where, for example, if you’re having a bad game and you’re thinking ‘Do I want to take the ball here or the crowd are going to get on my back?’. You don’t have that any more, that’s gone.”
Lambert says he has kept in close contact with his senior squad and also academy players during their time away from Playford Road.
“At the beginning I spoke to the U13s right through to the U23s and the first-team guys,” the Scot said. “I did a question and answer with the kids and it was funny because they were asking questions you expect from young ones. Terry Butcher [who is coaching at the academy] did one as well, which was really good of him.
“We’ve tried to keep that going, with the first-team lads because they’re young as well and they’ve been getting itchy feet. ‘When we start back? When do we not start back?’.
“I thought it was important to go right through to the U13s because I watch them train at night as well, you take an interest in them to see how they’re doing, how they’re progressing and it was good because it gave me a name to a face really. And when I see them at Playford Road I know exactly who they are.”
The Blues boss says he’s kept himself busy during the lockdown having moved into an Ipswich property earlier in the year.
“Cycling, I’ve been doing a bit of cycling,” he said. “Cutting down trees in the garden. Painting, anything that can move in the garden I’ve painted it, just for the sake of doing it.
“But I enjoyed it. I was always a football person, I never did what you might call the hard graft that people do, and I’ve just tried to keep active really, that’s been the most important thing.”
He says he can’t wait for Town to get back in action whenever that might be: “You miss it terribly. It’s unbelievable how much you miss it. In football sometimes you think ‘This game is driving me mad’, but it’s a very tough thing to get your head around when it’s not there.”
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