‘They’ve done themselves, their families and the club proud’ – Lambert on young Town side’s Trophy loss at Crawley
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert declared his pride in a really young team after they lost 2-0 at Crawley Town in the EFL Trophy tonight.
The average age of Town’s starting outfield 10 was just 18.5, with four players making debuts – Dylan Crowe, Levi Andoh, Zak Brown and Jack Manly – and a further four – Zanda Siziba, Tommy Smith, Allan Viral and Ross Crane – making their full debuts.
Defeat to the League Two hosts, who named a reserve side themselves after an epic 6-5 win at Torquay the weekend, means Town exit the competition at the group stages. They now have 10 days off before resuming League One action with quickfire home games against Shrewsbury, Hull and Charlton.
“Do you know what, I really, really enjoyed that,” said Lambert. “I enjoyed their movement, I enjoyed the way we played. They were so good with the ball and there were some really good performances there. I’m really proud of them.
“I just asked them their ages in there. They said 16, 17, 18, 19, 20... The way they played was fantastic.”
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He continued: “I keep hearing a lot people saying ‘results, results, results’ - yeah - but you’ve got to see by that sometimes for the protection of the club and the longevity it. Hopefully it saves the club some money because there are some really good players there.
“We only worked with those players yesterday and, honestly, I thought they were great. They took the ball every time, they played through the middle, it went up to the front, they made things happen, they had a lot of the ball. The only thing that beat us was a bit of physicality, but that’s fine.
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“The first goal was against the run of play. We had all the ball and dominated the game. We had kids in there who can’t get a game in the Under-18s. Wee Jack Manly for example is 16. I thought he did really well when he came on.
“Jack’s normally in bed by five! I watched the kids when I first came in and I saw this little lad and thought ‘he’s a decent little footballer’. I was actually going to play him last year against Colchester, but he was injured or unwell and Tawanda (Chirewa) came in.
“I could go through them all. Zanda (Siziba) in the middle of the pitch... dear of dear, that was top class. Right from the off he was great. I think the first pass he gave away was right at the death. It was a first class performance.
“It’s about having a manager who is brave enough to play them. I had a manager who was brave enough to play me at that age.”
He continued: “They (Crawley) were tiring second half. When you move the ball like that teams tire against you and I knew it was a matter of wearing them down and then we’d start to get in behind. I’m pretty sure if you asked their lads they would tell you that was a shift for them.”
On Town exiting the competition, the Blues boss said: “I’m disappointed to lose, yes, but there’s a bigger picture. If you can see by certain things, which I’ve got to do, I can see that the future of the club could be really good.
“We’ve got so many injuries back home. It was an unbelievably small group that trained this morning. We can’t take a risk with anybody because we’ve got three games in a week coming up and I need to get them back to full fitness.
“I hear every manager talking now about injuries now. It’s a tough schedule. We’re getting knocks and injuries and have to be really careful.
“It’s funny. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when I named the team, but I knew how they would perform for me. It’s my responsibility and they’ve been great.
“The first team guys were great (about the selection). They were carrying knocks. I think maybe some were thinking ‘hang on, this is a bit young’ and were maybe frightened we were going to come here and get beat six, seven or eight. But I knew it wouldn’t happen. My feeling was good and I knew they’d give me everything.
“This football club is built on homegrown guys - Butcher, Osman, Mills. The same in the 90s and 2000s. I will never know if they’re good enough if I don’t throw them in. That’s why I do it. You’ve got to see if they can do it.
“Tonight they looked so mature. These lads are 16. 17, 18. Every one of them I’m so proud. They done themselves proud, they done their families proud and they did the club proud.
“I want to develop these kids into footballers for the football club. I was brave enough to throw them in and get them to play my way. The performance was great against a League Two from kids who are fluctuating between age groups. It was an incredible performance.
“If those kids can keep progressing and keep level heads then the future is good.”