Lambert on 'gut-wrenching' relegation and why he believes Ipswich Town will come back stronger
PUBLISHED: 18:18 13 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:18 13 April 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert says the confirmation of relegation to League One is ‘gut-wrenching’, but the experienced Scot insists the club will come back stronger.
The Blues’ fate was finally sealed this afternoon with a 1-1 draw at home to Birmingham City – an abject first half display followed by a spirited second half response.
It leaves them 13 points adrift of safety with just 12 left to play for.
A 17-year stint in the Championship has come to an end, with the club now set to play in the third-tier for the first time since 1957.
“It’s gut-wrenching, it’s horrible. You can’t put it into words what it feels like. It’s like a blow,” said Lambert, who replaced Paul Hurst in hot-seat at the start of last November.
“It’s quiet in the dressing room. What do you expect? They feel it. It’s difficult to explain. There are a lot of young kids who haven’t experienced this before. The older lads maybe haven’t ether.
“It might not feel like it at this moment in time, but it will be an incredible learning curve. They’ll come back stronger for it, they really will.
“My view is that this club could be brilliant again. It might take a little bit of time, but it could be so good here.”
Reflecting on today’s game, Gwion Edwards goal (46) cancelling out Lukas Jutkiewicz’s opener (7) for the seventh 1-1 draw in 11 games, Lambert said: “It was a game of two halves. Birmingham were better than us first half and I thought we were better than them second half.
“You’re going to get that with young players at times. You’ve got to remember these kids have come through academy football and right into the first team.
“Number one they are going to learn on the job – that’s the only way they are going to learn.
“Number two, it’s not like they’ve been brought here from other clubs and had experience at other clubs in the Championship. They haven’t.
“Fleetingly they’ve had one or two games, but the majority have been thrown in. That’s why I think there are a lot of good things to look forward to.
“Your season starts in June/July when you start pre-season. That’s when you need to be ready. It doesn’t start in August, it doesn’t start in November/December.
“I’m absolutely gutted for everybody at the stadium. The supporters have been absolutely unreal. I think they put a lot of supporters to shame with the way they are. It’s phenomenal. It’s overwhelming. You see it again at the end of the game today. It’s incredible the support.
“We’ll analyse what went wrong. I can’t comment on what happened previously. I can only comment on what I’ve seen from November onwards.
“I’m gutted for everybody here; supporters, players, staff here and at the training ground.
“On the flip side there is so much to look forward to here. I think it’s exciting. From what I see it might take a bit of time, you’re going to get performances like that with young players at times, but all credit to them second half – we were excellent.”
Lambert, who hasn’t had a pre-season or summer transfer window at his previous three clubs (Blackburn, Wolves and Stoke), continued: “Whether transfers come in or not, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think the club needs a couple of bodies in to try and help and freshen it up. Some lads will move I guess. The loan lads will probably go back.
“But there are lot of good things to look forward to. There’s a major connection with the supporters, an incredible connection. The secret is to keep that.”
He continued: “You can’t expect to go down to League One and spent £5million on a player. It’s impossible. There’s got to be a plan and a strategy which I’m pretty sure will happen. That will be quite clear in the next few weeks what will happen.
“If you’re looking for us to buy players for five, six, 10 million it ain’t going to happen. It’s impossible. We have to see how the young ones progress alongside the experienced ones here and build in the right manner. If you keep getting loans you’ll stay in the same position.
“It’s not my way, the loans. Other managers make a go of it, but my view is I want to build the football club the right way.”
Asked if he felt the damage was done before he took the job this season, Lambert said: “I never said the damage was done, I said the season starts in July. I don’t know what happened in July, or August, or September or October – I really don’t know. I’m not going to be unfair on anybody. I can’t comment because I wasn’t here.
“But if you’re a footballer, and I was one myself a long time ago, I know you get to July and know what you expect of yourself as an individual and of your team-mates and of your club. I knew what was at stake. I never came into any season with my eyes closed. I knew what I had to do as an individual. If I wasn’t prepared for a season then it wasn’t the manager’s fault, it was my fault.”
Asked he took the job expecting to keep the club up, he replied: “Of course you do. Everybody would tell you the same. A lot of managers don’t take jobs in the middle of the season because there are so many things you have to sift through and turn over. But everybody always thinks they can do something.
“What I can’t fault is the level of support, the players’ effort and commitment. This team is going to be really good if given a little bit of time to develop. With the supporters the way they are it could be really good.
“If you start winning games in League One then you won’t get a ticket. You’ll fill it. That’s how passionate the support is. It’s a massive club with a fan base behind it. If you start winning games on a regular basis then you’ll do well to get in.”