‘I’m playing them because I think they can do something... we’re still in the fight’ - Lambert on his young Blues
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Paul Lambert insisted he is playing the club’s young players because he believes they give him the best chance of staying in the Championship, rather than simply planning for the future.
There were six academy products in the squad for the Blues’ 1-1 draw at Bristol City last night, including a debut for midfielder Idris El Mizouni, with Myles Kenlock forcing the Ipswich equaliser as his driven cross was turned into his own net by Lloyd Kelly.
Lambert has already stated his desire to build around the Blues’ youngsters in the future and was proud of the way his side performed in a game he believes Ipswich deserved to win.
“We had six academy kids in the squad and another two at the training ground, injured or unwell (Jack Lankester and Flynn Downes), and for us to come here and play like that was incredible,” he said.
“Guys who have not played for a bit like Andre (Dozzell) and Josh (Emmanuel) came in with changes from a team which did brilliant on Saturday because we had to have the edge again.
“We were the better team. We had a wee spell where we lost a goal against the run of play but we started the game brilliantly and were knocking the ball around.
“It’s not a normal situation, playing like that at the bottom of the table. I’d love to have wins but the future of the club is a lot healthier.
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“To have six academy kids is unbelievable. It’s not happened since the great era of Wark, Butcher, Eric Gates, George Burley. It’s exciting. It probably threw everybody, nobody saw it coming, but I had it in my head what I wanted to do with them and it’s really exciting for the team.”
But Lambert insisted giving game time to his crop of young players is as much about the present as it is the future.
“I’m not playing them because we’re relegated, I’m playing them because I think they can do something,” he said.
“We’re still in the fight. You guys have written us all off and talked about preparing for next year in League One – no we’re not, we’re still relegated and the fight’s still there.
“The more you write it the more people will say ‘oh, they’re relegated’, but we’re not.
“If the kids are good enough to play then it doesn’t matter if we’re in the fight or not. They have to learn and they have to learn football and the professional level of the game.”
Again discussing comparisons with the Blues’ current situation and that of Sir Bobby Robson’s sides of the 1970s and 80s, Lambert said: “I’m not comparing those kids to that era because they were a great team growing up together.
“But in terms of numbers we’ve got six, maybe even eight guys coming through. They have a hell of a career to have before they match that group.
“That group was iconic and that will never be taken away from the club’s history.
“If they develop and keep their feet on the ground they have a hell of a chance.
“This is a really exciting time for the club, if the club goes this way.
“As I’ve said before I don’t want to get loan after loan because you are developing players for everybody else and throwing your money into the wind.
“It doesn’t make sense because you have to have that pathway for young players to come through.
“You can only really take a loan player if they are 100 times better than the kids coming through. If they’re not, then I ain’t interested in them because the kids are really good here.”