'Best squad? Biggest budget? People were getting too carried away' - Lambert assesses Ipswich Town's fading form
PUBLISHED: 12:59 14 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:59 14 February 2020
Ipswich Town have dropped to seventh in the League One table after claiming one point from their last four games. Here's what Paul Lambert had to say about pressure and expectations ahead of tomorrow's visit of Burton Albion.
Q: How do you assess this season as a whole? Right at the very start you told us there would be bumps in the road...
A: Yeah, and everybody thought I was crazy!
Q: Then came that really good start to the season. Did that raise expectations too high? Did you always feel there would be highs and lows?
A: I knew, with the start we had, everybody was getting too carried away. I warned everybody 'you're not seeing the big picture here'. People were getting too carried away saying 'we're going to go unbeaten, we're going to do X, Y and Z'. I knew right away that the bumps would happen.
If we'd started poor and were now on the run that we were on at the start of the season then everyone would say it's a genius turnaround. It's been role reversal.
But I knew, because I've been in the game long enough and I'm experienced enough to know there very rarely comes a season where everything goes well.
Arsenal did it, Celtic, Liverpool now... But it's rare. Most teams have difficulties at certain points in a season.
Q: All your players, virtually to a man, were talking about aiming for the title before a ball was kicked. I guess you're not going to blame them for doing that, you want to see ambition, but was a little bit of you uncomfortable with that? You were the one trying to dampen expectations.
A: The players don't have that experience yet. Experience tells you how to keep a lid on it.
The guys had the belief that they were going to finish one, two or in the play-offs, whatever. That always has got to be there, you always have to have that belief. Whether you want to say it publicly or keep it to yourself is another matter. That comes from experience.
Q: Is there enough quality, character, all of the components you need, for this to turn again for these last 13 games?
A: Other than the second half against Sunderland we've been playing pretty well in the last two games. The indication is that we've got more than enough, without a doubt, to get in there. We're a good side, definitely. All we need to do is finish it off, whether it's a striker, defender or midfielder. Finish off the good work. Stick together with it. Don't alienate each other. You have to stick together.
Q: A week is a long time in football. When you look at the fixtures, it's nine out of 13 at home and a lot of the teams towards the bottom left to play. Do you get a sense this could really snowball again for you?
A: That's the big message, that we've got nine games at home. There are 27 points left to play for at home, 12 away. The home form has not been where you want it to be, but if we can win most of the home games left then we're going to be there or there abouts that's for sure.
Q: We've just talked about the players speaking about top two ambitions. This squad should be up there in this division, shouldn't they? It's one of the top wage bills in the division...
A: Wait a minute, who's told you that? That's absolute nonsense you're talking. I want to know how you can justify that. Why do you say the highest wage bill?
Q: No, I said one of the highest wage bills...
A: How do you know that? Tell me the stats. That's a really poor question. You can't compare Ipswich Town's wages with anyone else's. That's unfair on other clubs.
Size of the club you can definitely make comparisons. Ipswich Town, with what happened in the past here, it's got unbelievable history.
The here and now is totally different. But you can't compare peoples' salaries, that's unfair on the other clubs in this whole division.
What you can do is compare the size of the club, 20,000 people (coming to games), the history gone by... It's an absolutely huge football club.
It's the exact same with Sunderland. It was the same with Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Nottingham Forest, Leeds United - they've all been in this division and took two or three years to get out.
Do we have a divine right? Absolutely we don't have a divine right. Everybody wants to beat us because of the size of the club.
But I think that's a really sad question, that, to compare our finances with other clubs, really sad.
Q: But a lot of these players have played in the Championship, so I think the expectation was that in League One they would be good enough to be in the top two and get promoted this season...
A: Go on then, name me the players...
Q: Ok... Emyr Huws, Cole Skuse... You could go through most of the squad.
A: Go on, keep going...
Q: Gwion Edwards, Kayden Jackson... All but the players you bought in the summer were all signed to play in the Championship.
A: You'd have to ask Paul Hurst about the guys he brought in. Kayden, Jon Nolan, Toto (Nsiala), all those guys done great for us in the Championship and produced some good performances. We just couldn't get the goals that gave us victories.
The guys have given me everything in their bodies, but we don't have a divine right to win the league. You have to earn it. I think that's a really poor question that. There's no substance to it.
Q: The mood is a bit downcast at the moment because fans' expectations were high...
A: Absolutely, because of the size of the football club, name and badge. It's a huge football club with a huge fan base.
But you know the financial terms. Marcus (Evans) has come out and said where it's at. You have to separate those two things (size of club and current financial position).
Q: Freddie Sears said yesterday that 'we maybe have to look at the play-offs now'. One or two fans perhaps raised their eyebrows at that given there are still 13 games to go. Presumably you're still very much looking at the top two?
A: Yeah, of course we are. If we go on a great run then definitely we can do it. Nine games at home and four away. There are an incredible amount of points still to play for. Nobody has won the title yet, nobody has got in the top six yet. There's so much football still to be played. So much.
If we go on a run, and hopefully it can happen, let's see where it takes us. You can't discount anything. We're still going for automatic, definitely.
Q: Freddie also said the players don't want to be left thinking 'what a waste of a season' if promotion doesn't happen...
A: Nobody wants that. Nobody wants to turn around and say 'we have to be in League One again', but you have to go and prove it.
Just being Ipswich Town isn't going to get us out this league. If it was that easy then Leeds United would have *clicked fingers* got out first time of asking. It's difficult. It's a difficult league.
Q: Does the squad feel they are capable of better results? It's 22 points from 20 games now.
A: The results suggest it's been tough. The results at the start of the season were really, really good. At the start of the year the results were good. We lost to Peterborough and Rotherham, then Sunderland. That's football. You've got to earn the right. It doesn't matter what club you're at. It's not just going to come to you because what name you are.
Q: This is one of the best squads in the division though, isn't it?
A: Who's saying that? That's your scenario. You're talking absolute nonsense this morning! Have you been drinking? Have you?
Q: A lot of people do look at this squad and think it's one of the best in the division. I think you've said that, haven't you?
A: I've got my own beliefs with the guys. They've still got to earn the right. You've got to go and play the game and win games.
The biggest thing we've got is expectancy levels. If you ask Sunderland, Leeds United, any of those clubs, they'll say it is the same for them. That's the number one issue, this club living up to history.
Q: Tomorrow's game is likely to be very different to Tuesday isn't it? Burton play a different easy to Wimbledon.
A: I like Nigel (Clough). It'll be a tough game. Again, expectancy levels... Everybody will think 'it's Burton coming down, it will be easy'. It's not easy. We have to earn the right against them. We'll give then respect they are due. It's going to be a tough game.