North Stander: So, Lambert says: ‘Brilliant. Honestly, I’m really, really happy’.... Seriously, are you kidding me?
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North Stander TERRY HUNT takes a look at Town’s defeat at Lincoln on Saturday and says fans are getting jittery once more.
Football managers are renowned for saying odd things immediately after games - but Paul Lambert’s comments following his team’s dismal defeat at Lincoln really take it to a new, ridiculous level.
I’ll remind you how Lambert summed up Town’s display as they slipped to a second successive defeat: “Brilliant. Honestly, I’m really, really happy. We’re a right good side.”
Now, I can understand him not wanting to criticise his players in public but, honestly, to describe that performance as ‘brilliant” really is insulting to the fans. “Mediocre, average, and lacklustre” are three words which seem much more appropriate.
We were all looking for a big reaction after the midweek debacle at Doncaster, but all we got was a game in which we had loads of possession but barely managed to trouble the Lincoln keeper.
After last season, understandably we fans are very jittery and there’s a lot of talk about deja vu. It’s now up the players – led by Lambert – to dispel those fears and start winning again.
Can they do it?
I have no concerns about the quality of our squad. Player for player, we are among the strongest in what is, admittedly, a pretty dreadful division.
But, as we all know, football is not just about talent. It’s also about strength of character, overcoming setbacks, showing bottle. That’s where I have worries about our squad.
Inevitably, last season’s collapse is at the forefront of all our minds. As soon as things started going against us, we were unable to respond.
Our finishing league position was, frankly, an absolute disgrace.
Will it happen again? Bluntly, the signs don’t look good.
Once again, we are showing how we can dispose of the weaker teams in the division. But put us against top six contenders – Doncaster and Lincoln, for example – and we can’t handle it.
We’ll probably do ok in the home games against Gillingham and Crewe. Both are sitting just below halfway in the table and shouldn’t pose too many problems. But Sunderland away? I expect that will be a very different story.
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A comment from James Wilson during a midweek interview really worried me.
After the Doncaster defeat, the defender admitted there might have been some “complacency” after our flying start to the season.
That word stopped me in my tracks. Complacency? What on earth did our team have to be complacent about?
Yes, they had a good start, but they really only beat teams who are likely to finish in the lower half of the table.
What kind of club culture allows complacency to creep in after only half a dozen games? It seems absolutely extraordinary to me.
Going back to Paul Lambert, he was wrong to blame the referee for the defeat and also appearing to defend Jon Nolan for his ridiculous red card challenge . The ref might have made some strange decisions, but he didn’t lose us the game. And Lambert should have been furious with Nolan, who will now miss three games when we are short of central midfielders.
All of the above might seem unnecessarily negative.
Maybe it is. We are, after all, sitting pretty in the play-off zone. We will, as I’ve said, probably win our next two games against poor opposition.
But, even if we do, it won’t reassure me that anything has changed. The squad still seems to have the same frailties as last season, and we all know how that ended.
If we come away from the Stadium of Light with three points then I will admit I’m wrong, but, sadly, I can’t see that happening. I would love to be proved incorrect.
More immediately, Lambert needs to make changes in defence for the Gillingham game. After a surprisingly good start to the season, Toto Nsiala has now reverted to his old, clumsy self. The penalty he gave away at Lincoln was simply unnecessary. He needs to be replaced by Luke Woolfenden, playing alongside James Wilson.
I would like to see young Arsenal loanee Mark McGuinness in action, but Wilson deserves to keep his place.
So we move on. The games are coming thick and fast. We really could do with getting some of our injured army back in action.
The reaction from Town fans after the Lincoln defeat was pretty damning, and shows just how jittery we are after what happened last season.
It’s now down to the players - and the manager - to show us they have learned lessons from that debacle.
I have to say, at the moment, I am far from convinced.
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