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Lambert: Strange Environment But I Don't Think It's Affected Us Too Much
Friday, 11th Sep 2020 14:21

Blues boss Paul Lambert feels his players have coped well with playing at an empty Portman Road, despite it being a far from ideal situation.

So far, Town have played two competitive games behind closed doors, the 3-0 Carabao Cup defeat of Bristol Rovers, then the 2-1 EFL Trophy disappointment against Arsenal’s U21s on Tuesday, both at Portman Road where the Blues also play their next two matches, the League One opener against Wigan on Sunday, then Tuesday’s Carabao Cup second-round match against Fulham.

“It’s difficult because you need the fans there, they give you that extra yard, I would say,” Lambert said.

“It’s just a strange environment at the moment. But I think football-wise, we’ve played really well, really, really good football and I’m happy we’re ready to go.

“I thought against Bristol Rovers we played excellently for 90 minutes. For 45 minutes against the Arsenal guys [we were too], which was a hard game for us because psychologically everybody thinks it’s the EFL Trophy and there are all those questions. But the Bristol Rovers game was exceptional.

“I don’t think it’s affected us too much. Everybody’s the same, every team’s the same and you have to get used to it as quickly as you can.”

He says players need to motivate themselves more without fans present to urge them on: "That’s it, I think self-motivation is huge, you have to motivate yourself to play in front of the lack of crowd. That is vital. As I said before, I think we’ve handled it really well and we’ll go and try and win on Sunday.”

Do the coaching staff also have to play a greater role in motivating their teams? “That comes in the dressing room, before the game, at half-time, when the game starts, you’re always like that, you’re always animated.

“It’s just strange, everything’s strange. You can hear your own voice carrying as well, that’s the other thing. But for the guys, that has to come from themselves.”

Asked whether the situation might help some of his players, having said some of them may have struggled with expectation last season, he said: “It could but you don’t want that, you don’t want to see a player want to play in front of no crowd or want to play in front of 2,000 people. I don’t want that as a manager. I want my players to want to play in front of 50,000, 60,000, 20,000.

“That’s the game, the game is not playing in front of nobody, that’s not normal. To be a footballer and have that mindset of wanting to have that pressure of playing in front of people, of wanting the pressure where if you make a mistake people criticise, wanting the pressure of doing something great and people saying ‘Well done’. That’s football. Football’s not playing in front of nobody, it’s not professional sport.

“And when the fans come back, enjoy it, express yourself. Play in front of the people, play in front of everybody, get the enjoyment, take the criticism when it comes, take the bad moments when they come, take the good moments when they come. That’s professional sport and professional football, we need the supporters back when it’s safe.”

Lambert is frustrated that it could still be a while before fans return to watch matches from stadia rather than on TVs and laptops at home.

“That’s the sad thing, with the goalposts always moving with the Government and the R-rate going up, nobody knows when, where or how many is going to be allowed in,” he said. "Nobody knows at this moment and it’s a really strange situation.”

Lambert is also concerned that financial impact of the continued lack of supporters coming through the gate will start to have an impact on teams in League One and League Two.

“I don’t see how it can’t, I really don’t,” he said. "If they [put back] this pilot test or they [put back] fans coming back in, how do football clubs get over it? That for me is the big question.

“And the way things are going with the Government at the minute and reviewing fans coming back into stadia, I really don’t know how they’ll do it.

“I think there’s got to be help somewhere along the line whether it comes from the Premier League down or the Government. How do the football clubs survive?"

Photo: Matchday Images

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