Lambert: Feed Off Last Season's Disappointment
Friday, 11th Sep 2020 15:03
Town manager Paul Lambert wants his players to feed off last season’s disappointment as they prepare to open their 2020/21 League One campaign against Wigan Athletic in a live-on-Sky behind-closed-doors game at Portman Road on Sunday afternoon (KO midday).
The Blues finished in 11th in their first third tier campaign since 1956/57, their lowest position since they ended the 1952/53 season 16th in Division Three South back in Scott Duncan's time as manager.
Largely as a result of last year's disappointment, Town are ranked fifth favourites for the title along with Charlton and Fleetwood behind Oxford, Portsmouth and joint-favourites Sunderland and Peterborough.
Asked whether he feels his players should try to forget last season or feed on it, he said: "I think you have to draw on some disappointment. I think you have to. I think you'd be a fool not to. You can't treat last season with neglect and think it never happened or only half of it was good or half not so good.
“I did that during the lockdown, I went back on things that we could have done better, or we could have done better as staff or a team, come up with different ideas and different scenarios.
“You can't take your eye off of what happened last season, but again you have to go again this year and try everything we can to go up. But at this moment in time, they're playing well and that's the good thing.”
While the focus is usually on managers after a disappointing season, do the players accept that they failed to reach the standards required?
“I think you’ve got to. If you’re strong, if you’re mentally strong you will look at your own performance and how well you’ve done," said Lambert, who told some members of his squad one or two home truths when they returned for pre-season training in July.
“It’s very easy for a player to hide behind a manager, but I’m pretty sure if you’re big and strong enough you look at yourself in the mirror and say you’ve never done it. That’s where you get the right answer, if you look at yourself in the mirror you get the right answer.”
Reflecting on the Blues' strong beginning to last season which took them to the top of the table in the campaign’s opening months, Lambert reflected: “I think it made a rod for our own backs, the start. If you reversed it and we started the season brilliantly and finished as strongly as we started it, everybody would think you’re a genius.
“I always think your consistency is huge right through the season because you’re going to have little blips somewhere along the line.
“The [division] was really strong, really, really strong and I think people were getting carried away thinking Ipswich were going to automatically going to go up. There was still a long, long way to go.
“And from January, we never got going for two months, never got going at all, whereas I always think you’ve got to finish the season strongly because that’s when you start to go to what I always call ‘the well’ to get the success.”
Does he believe the players have grown since last season and as a result are now more focused for a promotion push? “I think they’re hurt definitely with how we finished. Especially the young ones, I think the young ones will hide behind the older players, thinking the older ones can get the flak. But the young ones have got to get the flak as well, they have to take it as well because they’re part of the team.
“If they don’t take it, I don’t think they’re progressing. They have to know that football is a professional sport because the game's about winning, you have to win.
“If the young ones grab that, because they have talent but sometimes there has to be a bit more than talent, you have to have a little bit of nastiness in your game to have success. They have to grab it as well.”
Lambert says he looked for leaders when making his three summer additions, 35-year-old Stephen Ward after his departure from Stoke, Oli Hawkins following his release by Portsmouth and keeper David Cornell, who left Northampton, while he was also keen to add another veteran Irish international, 33-year-old centre-half Richard Keogh to his squad before the former Town schoolboy joined the MK Dons.
“Without a doubt. Ward’s come in and has been brilliant,” Lambert added.
"His body language, his enthusiasm, his mouth, his professionalism has been fantastic. I’ve really enjoyed working with him in the last few weeks. Just that positivity around about him and to help the older ones here, for the young ones to see what it’s like to get to the top level. Stephen Ward for me epitomises what it’s like to get to the top level.
“Big Oli’s been a breath of fresh air. He says things which are incredibly funny but he doesn’t even realise what he’s saying. I think Oli’s going to be a handful. I’m happy with those two guys which came in.”
Lambert says it’s important to stay focused on each match rather than the season's overall longer-term target: “If you look at the teams in the past that have been in League One for a right few years, I think if you keep that pressure on, that chasing, chasing, chasing, I don’t think you’ll get out of it.
“You might get out of it in five or six years, but you have to focus on the game and what’s in front of you now, and this moment is now.
“We have to focus on Wigan on Saturday and then we have to focus on Fulham and then Bristol Rovers. I think it’s the here and now that we have to concentrate on.”
He says his players understand that as one of the bigger clubs in the division they’re a target for opposition sides wanting to inflict a bloody nose.
“Yes, without a doubt,” he said. "Hopefully we’ll get the crowds back soon, I don’t know the way things are going at the minute. We have to get the crowds back.
“If you aspire to be any top player, you have to play in front of a crowd. You have to play with pressure, you have to play with criticism. You have to take all these things on board and hopefully the guys are starting to realise what they’re in.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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