'I'm sure they'll get right behind us' - Lambert on return of fans to Portman Road
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert is excited about the long-awaited return of supporters to Portman Road tomorrow.
For the first time since a 1-0 defeat to Coventry back on March 7, the Blues will be able to welcome fans into their Suffolk home for a League One top-six clash with Portsmouth.
With attendances in Tier 2 regions capped at 2,000, Ipswich have selected which of their season ticket holders can attend via ballot.
With Burton coming to Portman Road next Tuesday night too, Lambert said: "The one positive thing the club has got is the fan base behind it. You're hoping they'll come and it's going to drive us on again.
"I saw it at Plymouth last weekend, their support was really good and they got right behind them and drove them on. You'd have thought there was more than 2,000 in the stadium. Even when they went down to 10 man you could feel a little bit of atmosphere.
"The fans coming back, for me, is a great thing, albeit only 2,000 to start with. They'll certainly help us and that's what we need. We need the support behind us. I think it's a great thing.
"I think it will be really good. I think everybody is desperate to come back to football.
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"The Plymouth fans drove their team on and and I'm sure our fans will do the same for us. I'm sure they'll get right behind us."
Lambert has come under fire from a sizeable number of fans on social media of late and the Blue Action supporters group have placed banners calling for him to be sacked at the training ground and stadium.
Playfully asked if any choice words being aimed at his, the referee or players' direction at any stage would add to the feeling of it being a proper football match again, Lambert laughed: "That's just coming from you (in the press box)! I'll go back to it. Dear oh dear, I've managed massive clubs, I've played at big clubs. That's been my life since I was 15 years old. It doesn't affect me, it really doesn't.
"I don't think the fans will do that at all. I've had so many well wishers. It's been an unbelievable amount of people who have written to me and been great. The ITFC supporters' group and all that. They've been absolutely brilliant.
"I don't have a problem. I just don't want it to affect the players. That's the important thing. I'm sure the Ipswich fans will come tomorrow and get right behind us."
With their game based on a domination of possession, the Blues have had to be patient in many games this season and a lot of goals have come in the second half.
Asked if the presence of a crowd urging the team on could affect that, Lambert said: "That could happen for some individuals. Some individuals might think 'the crowd's on us' or 'the crowd's willing us on' and they might try something.
"The crowd can affect any footballer. It's individual mindset and how they handle a crowd. It's how they want to take the ball or feel when it's really tight and you've got people round about you. Some guys might just think 'I'll kick it on' and some guys might think 'it's no problem, I can comfortably bring it down and manoeuvre it'.
"It will affect different individuals differently. But as a team you're hoping everyone holds it together and sticks to what you believe in, because we don't have the players to play long ball. We have to try and play the way we want to play.
"The crowd certainly give you that drive, to go and press and do the other side of the game. It has been tough with no crowd. Nobody has experienced this before, playing professional football with nobody there.
"The motivation has to come from within. You don't get that same nervy feeling, and I think you've always got to have nerves going into a game, a little bit of trepidation about what could happen and what might happen and what will happen. You've always got to have that. Without it it's definitely not the same game. You need that to be generated by fans."
Ipswich only registered two wins against teams who finished above them in the table last season - at Fleetwood and Gillingham early on in the campaign - and that trend of being unable to beat promotion rivals has continued this campaign, with defeats to Doncaster, Lincoln, Sunderland, Hull and Charlton.
Asked if it would be good to get that monkey off the back, Lambert said: "It would be. It would be even better if we had a massive strong squad that gives us that chance. But that's where we are the minute. As I said, we're competing really well. We're not playing great every week, but we're competing well.
"Last Saturday, I never realised we had 67% of the ball away from home. That's a really good stat. We're forcing the issue with teams, we're trying to play good football and we're trying to win games.
"I've been really happy. I've been happy with (Armando) Dobra coming. (Jack) Lankester and (Keanan) Bennetts have contributed. They are all young kids... Brett McGavin. It's really good, I'm really pleased."
He added: "Confidence has never gone away in training. Everybody knows the injury situation we've got. They know we've got big, influential, experienced players, really good players, out.
"Thank God the younger ones have come in and helped. As I said before, if I wasn't brave enough to throw them in then they wouldn't get that chance. That's the great thing about it. The kids have been given a chance in the first team. They know the way we want them to play. They know the work rate we demand from them.
"The league position is good. Ideally you'd want to be first, but due to the circumstances there's never been a problem."
On Portsmouth, he said: "I think they'll be around about it again. Last year they were in the play-offs. It's a strong, physical side. Kenny (Jackett) has done a good job wherever he's gone. It's another tough game and we'll have to try our best with the players we've got.
"As long as we keep competing the way we are at the minute we'll definitely be competitive that's for sure. The last game against them, the cup game, was a really good game."