|Oxford United 0 v 0 Ipswich Town|
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Tuesday, 1st December 2020 Kick-off 19:00
Lambert: The Negativity Attached to the Club is Huge
Tuesday, 1st Dec 2020 23:10
Manager Paul Lambert hit out at “negativity attached to the football club” in his post-match press conference following the 0-0 draw at Oxford and accused the media of feeding it.
Asked for his assessment of the match, a game of few chances for both sides but with the home team having the better of them, Lambert said: “Really pleased because of what’s happening, absolute nonsense criticism, so for them to be the way they were. Half the team is kids, we’ve got nine injuries.
“I’m really pleased and proud of them with how they performed because the criticism the guys have taken I think has not been right and it’s going to make or break them.
“There are a lot of young kids there and if they don’t handle that, the club’s going to lose good players.”
Has the criticism bothered them? “You [the media] stoke it. I don’t read what you write or hear what you say. You stoke it. I know from their side that they feel it, without a doubt. They’re young kids trying really hard to play football.
“It’s not easy, the expectancy level at the club’s huge. It’s not right, there’s a lot of negativity attached to the football club, and it’s not right.”
When it was pointed out that much of the criticism has been from fans rather than the media, he said: “I’m not blaming anybody, there’s a lot of negativity attached to it. We’ve lost two games, we’re sitting in fifth, four points from first place. That’s not bad. And we’ve got nine guys out injured.
“You’re telling me we’re sitting fifth, four points off the top, OK if Hull win their two games [they’ll be further ahead], but there’s still a helluva long way to go.
“I’ll put that on record. You asked me a question, I’m giving you the answer. It’s unfair, you’ve got to watch you don’t break the kids.”
Lambert was asked whether he was concerned about his side’s lack of a goal threat with the Blues not having scored for three matches.
“Everything you say to me is negative,” he hit back. “I’d hate to be married to you! That [the players available] are what we’ve got, that’s exactly what we’ve got. They’re giving me everything. As long as they give me effort, then I’m totally fine with it.
“We’re up against brick walls with the guys that have been injured. At times we’ve lost guys from forward areas, we’ve lost a whole midfield, we’ve lost centre-backs, we’ve lost every position going. We’ve got nine players out at the minute.
“I’m not going to sit here and criticise the guys one iota. I’m the manager and I’m proud of them.”
Regarding Jon Nolan’s return after two games out with a groin injury, he added: “He shouldn’t have played, maybe he shouldn’t have played because he hasn’t done anything since the Shrewsbury game. But I had to play him because we don’t have Brett McGavin, he took ill during the night, so we had to play him.”
On Armando Dobra’s full league debut, he said: “I thought he did really well. Young kid, he’ll make mistakes like everybody else, really good.
“What you do get with Dobs is great endeavour, you’ve got a devilment there that’s going to stand him in good stead and hopefully he’ll be another good player at the club in the coming weeks, months and years hopefully.”
He said he was pleased with the clean sheet: “I am, I can’t ask any more from them. Half the guys are academy guys, young guys. The centre-backs, Woolfy’s 21, Mark McGuinness 19. Jack Lankester’s a kid, Andre Dozzell’s a kid, Dobra’s a kid. Liam Gibbs was on the bench.
“We’re so lacking in depth because of the injuries we’ve got but I’m really proud with how they played.”
The clean sheet was the first in the league for both Cornell and McGuinness since they joined the Blues.
“McGuinness, I’ve no problem with because I think he’s really good and could be excellent,” Lambert continued. “He’s strong, aggressive, he’s 19. Really, really good.
“Cornell, I thought was really good, he had one save here in the second half. I’m happy with him.”
Lambert was pleased with the impact subs Oli Hawkins and Kayden Jackson made in the second half.
“Oli gives us something different,” he reflected. “I thought Aaron Drinan and Jack Lankester did well for the first hour.
“We put Kayden on and he looked lively and Oli looked lively as well. I’m happy with how we played. We came to a difficult place.”
However, he is disappointed that Andre Dozzell will miss the trip to Plymouth having picked up his fifth booking of the season.
“That’s the way things are going,” he said. “But the point, it stops the run of two defeats. It gives us that point with a long journey on Friday and we go and try and win.”
Any chance of Emyr Huws coming back for the weekend, the midfielder having picked up a back injury in training.
“I don’t know, we’ve got too many [out],” he continued. “I’m not sure when they’re coming back. We’ll have to wait and see”
Reflecting further on an injury situation which saw 12 players - and then McGavin - unavailable, he said: “And we’re still sitting fifth, four points from the top.”
Asked whether the criticism has bothered him, he said: “Did you see what happened at Celtic the other day? The protests outside. I’ve played in front of that, I know exactly what it’s like. Does it bother me? No. Does praise bother me? No.
“I’ve played with big clubs, I’ve been a manager at big clubs. I’ve had a career when the pressure’s incredible, absolutely incredible. I’ve never wilted once and I don’t expect to wilt again, unless Marcus says something different. And that’s no problem.”
Lambert said he’d spoken to Marcus Evans after the game but said the owner hadn’t ventured into the dressing room.
“No, he wasn’t in the dressing room,” he said. “He’s pleased, we had a good chat. No problem, no stress, nothing. He was happy.”
Seven of the side were aged between 19 and 22, which Lambert feels puts the result into context when playing against a more senior Oxford side, who may be down in 20th at present but had a much better 2019/20.
“We don’t have anything else, we have to play the guys,” he said. “And we played against a really experienced team. They’re a good team, they were in the play-offs last year. Karl’s got a good team, so the point was good.”
The other side of that is that Oxford hadn’t kept a league or play-off clean sheet since February, 19 games ago and the Blues managed their first shot on goal in the 90th minute.
Is it fair to say his team didn’t create enough chances? “Yeah, but we’re doing everything we can. The big thing for us was not to lose, definitely not to lose.
“We gave it everything, that little bit of quality is maybe just missing at the minute but the endeavour and the work-rate and everything that goes with it, I’m really pleased.
Coming back to the criticism, it was pointed out that in the last 42 league games they have lost more than they’ve won in a division in which a club of their size ought to thrive.
“You’re one of he guys that the players have got a gripe with because of the negativity you write is incredible,” Lambert responded.
“I don’t read your stuff. You’re probably better hearing it from them. But they’re certainly not happy with you. And I get it because the negativity attached to it is incredible.
“They’re at a big club, some of them are young, some of them have come from different teams. It’s a massive club Ipswich Town, but the negativity attached to it is huge.
“That’s just my opinion on it, but there are a lot of young guys in there, who have to perform.”
Does he feel the criticism is unfair on young players? “And the older guys.”
Last week Lambert was asked about claims he had been harder on younger players himself, something he dismissed before turning back to the summer furore regarding a number of young players not being included in the first-team photo call.
“No I wasn’t,” he insisted. “I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you right now. You want to go on record here? The photo thing that you wrote or one of your colleagues wrote was a load of nonsense because the kids got told [they weren't involved], and [assistant manager] Stuart Taylor told you what actually happened - we couldn’t get them in because of NHS stuff.
“But you go and write a negative thing about them and it filters right through. How does that work? Tell me how it works.”
It was pointed out that the players - Dobra, McGavin, Drinan, Idris El Mizouni, Corrie Ndaba and - weren’t in the squad photo.
“Exactly, and you still go ahead and write it,” Lambert continued. “Because they couldn’t be because NHS is only three letters [the players and staff formed the letters NHS in a socially distanced team photo]. Am I right or wrong?”
Lambert added: “You go and write negativity, it goes right through the club. I’ll tell you what I will do, I’ll stick up for them, I’ll stick up for every player in the dressing room, every guy in the dressing room, I’ll put you in your place because what you’re writing is garbage. I’m telling you you’re creating something that’s incredible.”
When Lambert came in as boss just over two years ago he spoke about the negativity and apathy at the club at that time.
“There was no anger because people had switched off from supporting the club,” he recalled. “I spoke to the Blue Action guys, they told me about the apathy here. I spoke to them all.”
Does Lambert believe the media are feeding or reflecting the negativity? “I think you’re feeding it. You can have a go at me all you want. I’ve been in the game a long time and it’s not helping the guys, it’s not helping them.”
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