Lambert: Downes Faces Fight to Get in Team
Friday, 11th Sep 2020 10:53
Blues boss Paul Lambert says he is aware of no further developments on Crystal Palace’s interest in Town midfielder Flynn Downes, who he says now faces a fight for a place in the team.
At the end of last week, Lambert gave Downes a few days off to clear his head, the academy product having been the subject of rebuffed offers of £1.2 million and £1.6 million - rising to £2.5 million after top-ups - from the Eagles before handing in a transfer request.
The 21-year-old was left out of the 18 for both Saturday’s Carabao Cup victory over Bristol Rovers and the EFL Trophy loss to Arsenal’s U21s. In his absence, Andre Dozzell, Jon Nolan and Teddy Bishop have impressed as the midfield trio.
Asked how Downes is and whether he would come into consideration for Sunday’s League One opener against Wigan, Lambert said: "No, listen, the team has done really well, and I think everybody knows the midfield three have been brilliant, so it's up to other guys to get in the team, and they know that.
"I think the team is playing really well at this minute with the football that they are playing and it's up to people to push them out. So we wait and see with all the guys who's OK for today and tomorrow, and we just wait and see.”
He added: "Listen, he's got a fight on his hands to get back into the team with the three of them playing. You've got Cole Skuse hopefully coming back and Emyr Huws doing well, Judgy can play that role, so there's a lot of competition now I think in that area.
"It's probably the strongest area of the pitch that we've got the centre of the park and it's up to people to force their way in.”
Quizzed on whether Downes is available for selection for Sunday, he continued: “I’m just going to look at all the guys now. I’ve not seen them. They had a day off yesterday, so I’ll see them this morning and I’ll judge it from there.
"As I speak to you, I’ve not seen the guys or the physio to see how everybody is and I’ll judge it from there. Until then I don’t know who is available, and who is not.”
The Town manager confirmed that the England U20 international had been back training this week: “He trained the other day after the weekend. But I can’t focus on one person, I have to focus on the team.”
Asked whether there have been further bids, he said: "I've not heard anything, to be fair. As I said before, the two most important people in any transfer are the buying club and the selling club and the hierarchy.
"They are the ones that dictate everything, and if they came with a bid that totally matched Marcus's value, then I'm pretty sure Marcus would listen. But until then, I don't think there will be anything happening.”
What does he see as the best thing for the player right now? “I think he’s going to listen to the people who [consider his] welfare and have his career at heart. The lad’s a really good player. His head was all over the place, which I totally understood.
“It was me, I’d have played [against Bristol Rovers], which was why I did [initially] pick him to play. But he’s still not 100 per cent in the mindset, he’s training, but I still think the lads in front of him at this moment in time have earned the right to play and are playing really, really well.
“I feel a bit for him because of the way it’s gone for him. He’s only 21 and he’s come a long way since we came in. I’d just hope that his head becomes clearer as the weeks go by.”
Has he had a conversation with Downes regarding a way back in at Town if the Palace move doesn’t take place? “Yes, he’s obviously got to come to myself and see how he feels. My door is always open for him to have a chat, which I told him right at the beginning anyway.
“I would just hope that he does reassess his mindset of where he is, maybe still hanging on to October, and maybe the deal might happen, but you’ve got to play, you’ve got to want to play and show people that you can do it and be a professional about it.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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