Lambert: Woolfy Needed a Kick Up the Backside
Friday, 30th Oct 2020 11:27
Town boss Paul Lambert says centre-half Luke Woolfenden needed the kick up the backside that being out of the team in the early stages of the Blues’ League One campaign gave him.
Woolfenden, 22, was one of the club’s outstanding performers last season with clubs from divisions above keeping an eye on his progress.
Having suffered a groin injury after starting the opening two cup games against Bristol Rovers and Arsenal’s U21s, the academy product didn’t make a league appearance until Tuesday’s 1-0 victory over Gillingham when he and on-loan Arsenal youngster Mark McGuinness were drafted into the XI in place of Toto Nsiala and James Wilson.
Asked how the former East Bergholt High School pupil has handled the last couple of months, manager Paul Lambert, echoing comments he made at the start of last season, responded: “I think the kick up the backside is what he needed. He needed Wilson and Nsiala to do as well as what they’ve done.
“Another kick in the backside was bringing in McGuinness and everybody knew how well McGuinness had done against us when he played with Arsenal, so Woolfy all of a sudden probably thought last year he was an ever-present and this year he went right down the pecking order.
“There are only two ways you respond. You either accept it or think ‘Once I get back in here I need to hold it down’. So I think it’s worked that way and I think he needed it.
“Is there more to come? He’s not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, he has a long, long road in front of him.
“But he knows he’s got a fight to stay in the team and that’s what you need as a footballer, and the ones that tell you differently are the ones that want to keep playing with no pressure on them. You need to look over your shoulder.”
He added: “I think James and Toto have been playing really well. They’ve played a helluva lot of football in a short space of time those two guys and I just thought okay we’ll freshen it up with the two younger guys in there.
“And I thought they did really well, the two of them, Woolfenden and McGuinness, I thought they did really, really well.
“They’ve got two great experienced guys either side of them in Chambo and Wardy, so really happy with how they performed.
“I think one is 19, and the other is 22, so really young, but I’m really, really pleased with how they played. They are very good on the ball the two of them which is good.”
Quizzed on the differences between the Wilson-Nsiala partnership which started the league campaign and the Woolfenden-McGuinness pairing which made a strong start against the Gills, he added: The fours guys are totally different. Nsiala and Wilson if you look at those two guys against MK Dons, for example, they were absolute cornerstones for us in there.
“We started the season really well, and they’ve been a huge part of it, and I just felt we needed that little bit of freshness because we’ve gone game after game after game with them and I thought that would change it.
“The two younger guys, it was a big game for them the other night because they didn’t know how it was going to go or anything else.
“Are they good on the ball? Yeah, they’re good on the ball. Are they as good at defending physical situations as the other two guys, that remains to be seen, they’ve only had one game, but the four of them all have their own attributes.”
In addition to that quartet, Lambert was reminded that skipper Luke Chambers, currently playing at right-back, is also primarily a central defender.
Lambert says you require that sort of strength in depth with fixtures coming thick and fast.
“I think what’s happened now with the amount of games you’re getting, Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday, Saturday-Tuesday, you’re going to need it.
“This is incredible the situation you’re in. You’ve seen yourself that people can get ill, get injured and you’re going to need it. And thankfully we are strong in that area.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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