‘A hell of a change... It feels like a football club again’ – Lambert reflects ahead of one-year anniversary
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says reconnecting the supporters with the club has been the biggest achievement of his one-year in charge.
Sunday will mark the first anniversary of the day the newly-appointed Glaswegian watched from the stands as Town went down to a 3-0 defeat at Millwall.
Having stepped in after the short-lived reign of Paul Hurst, he was unable to prevent the Blues from finishing bottom and sliding into the third-tier for the first time in 62 years.
Lambert was, somehow, able to generate a feelgood factor along the way though and now has the Blues second in the League One table heading into tomorrow's match at struggling Southend.
"It's been eventful, that's for sure!" said the 50-year-old, whose previous three jobs at Blackburn, Wolves and Stoke all lasted less than a year.
"Do you know what, I've loved it. It's come around really, really quick.
"From the day I walked through the door to now there's been a hell of a change.
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"The fans coming back has been absolutely huge for us. The club feels like a football club again, the identity has come back, legends coming to the club... There have been so many good things."
Reflecting on a year ago, he said: "I thought it was a shame seeing the way the club was when I first walked in the door. I never expected it to not have the colour or the Community Trust (which was recently relaunched). I never expected it to be so tired. I never expected the crowd to be so apathetic as they were towards the team or to the club. But I understood it.
"The biggest thing was to get everybody back in a place where they were thinking 'do you know what, this is our club and this is what we're going to do and we all get behind it'. We need the support to drive us forwards.
"Supporters were coming to the game, but I don't think they were engaging with it and wanting to get into the razz of football really. They were probably coming just to criticise and wait for things to go wrong. You don't have that sense any more. People are just coming to enjoy having a day out or a night out.
"If you're getting more than 20,000 on a Wednesday night (as was the case this week for the 2-0 defeat against Rotherham) it shows you things must be going the right way. That support is unbelievable.
"If they keep supporting the team the way they are and everyone stays in it together then that can take us a hell of a long way.
"There have been so many good things, there really has. The achievement has been bringing the people and the community back to their football club.
"If you ask 90% of people about the way the way the club's moved forwards…
"It's funny, when I'm out and about in the town I get the older generation coming up and saying they love it again now, which is really nice."
Contracted until the end of next season, Lambert was asked if he saw himself being at the club for many more years to come.
"That will depend on (owner) Marcus (Evans)!" he laughed. "I feel really comfortable here, it's a great club.
"It's a long-term project. Oh, for heavens' sake, it could be unbelievable.
"Nothing lasts forever, I will leave at some point, whenever that might be, but right now it's great to be here.
"In football it doesn't matter how long you sign a contract for, you could sign a 10-year deal, it doesn't really matter anymore.
"It's not like the old days where you saw these things through. One minute you're there, the next minute you're away, whether things are good, bad or indifferent. I've seen managers lose jobs even when they're getting results. If you have a fall-out with the owner you can end up going.
"Longevity isn't a great word in football anymore. You just try your best while you're here and try and make this club successful."
Asked whether he felt he had put his stamp fully on the team's style of play, Lambert said: "That will develop over time. There have been some really exciting times, really great moments, last minute goals… I can't ask for any more from the team. They've given me absolutely everything. They play the way I ask them to play, with intensity.
"Anybody who plays under me will say the football we play is exciting. We try and win games, we try and take risks and we try everything we can to win. I can't fault them at all."