‘Top players can take the criticism and crack on’ – Lambert explains Downes comments
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says his public criticism of Flynn Downes was designed to help the youngster reach his potential of being a ‘top player’.
Following last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Wigan, the Blues boss, unprompted and more than once, highlighted the 20-year-old midfielder’s failure to stop the cross ahead of the home side’s stoppage-time equaliser.
That came just a week after he said ‘I’m never really into blame culture’ when asked about a defensive calamity involving Bartosz Bialkowski and Jones Knudsen for a goal conceded against Stoke.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow’s home game with Reading – the team rock-bottom Town are currently trying to catch in 21st – Lambert said: “I think Flynn Downes is going to be a really, really top player; I really do. And I think top players can take the criticism and crack on with it.
“I think he’s certainly one of the kids who can deal with it. If you want to get to the top level of football you have to be prepared to feel criticism at certain times.
“If you go with kid gloves on then they can think ‘that’s acceptable’. Well it’s not acceptable to allow a cross come in like that.
“If you try your utmost and it comes off your foot and still ends up a goal then you’ve tried everything you can.
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“I think the disappointment with Flynn was that he matched the guy running but never really affected the ball.”
In a candid club interview earlier this month, England Under-20 international Downes revealed he struggled with anxiety last season during a drop in form but has since learnt not to ‘beat myself up’ so much.
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“Listen, he’s been brilliant for me since I’ve been here,” said Lambert. “He’s been absolutely great. I can count on one hand the amount of mistakes the kid has made.
“But I think you’ve got to push young players to the limits.
“I would never have had the career I had without managers pushing me at certain times and constantly being on my tail.
“Even at Borussia Dortmund, when I had my highest point, I always had a manager that was on at me to perform, to perform, to perform.
“I don’t like people underachieving. It’s important for me to get the best out of the younger ones – and the older ones too
“I think that’s why the crowd appreciate everything that’s going on, because they appreciate the way the lads are giving everything they’ve got. You can’t ask for anything more.
“As I’ve said to the lads, you can’t play the game without enthusiasm. Regardless of how talented you are, if you don’t have enthusiasm for the game and a hunger for the game it doesn’t matter how much talent you have in your body.
“If you’re not going to match that it doesn’t work. If you have that drive and hunger to perform then you won’t go wrong.”
He added: “I know there is a really, really good player in Flynn, someone who could be an exceptional player, and I’ll never take the devilment out of his game.
“But it’s about doing it every week, every week, every week. You have to perform in every game and every training session. There’s no despite. That’s what you have to get inside of your head.”
WHAT DOWNES SAID ON LUTON LOAN...
“I had gone from playing for the U18s, to being in the first team here. Then I got picked for England (U19s). Everything was on a high but then when things started to drop off for me, my head started to go.
“I was going home thinking I wasn’t fit enough and that I needed to do more. Then the anxiety over that started to affect me in training. It started to get to me mentally. I was going into training and over-thinking stuff.
“That’s why I had to get away. The gaffer spotted that and going to Luton made all the difference to me. It was something new. I didn’t know what to expect but the change worked wonders for me.
“The mental side is everything. You can be the quickest player, the strongest but if you are not bang on it mentally then your body won’t do it.
“That is what I have learnt. I have changed my look at that. I don’t beat myself up now if training doesn’t go as well as I wanted. I used to.”