‘You’re delusional if you think they are ready made players’ – Lambert on his desire to strengthen squad
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert insists his injury-hit squad doesn’t have the depth required to compete on all fronts this season.
Having been relegated to League One, the Blues will play at least three games in the EFL Trophy and enter the FA Cup at the first round.
As Sunderland and Shrewsbury have shown in recent years, if you end up in the Play-Off Final and go all the way to Wembley in the Trophy then it's a 60/61 game campaign.
Town's bloated squad has been greatly reduced this summer, with seven players released, six loans expiring and both Ellis Harrison and Bartosz Bialkowski moving on. So far, just four players have been recruited for the first team squad (including two keepers) in Tomas Holy, Will Norris, Luke Garbutt and James Norwood.
Nevertheless, the Blues started the campaign with a 1-0 win at Burton last weekend - and that was with half-fit duo Alan Judge and Emyr Huws on the bench, plus key men Toto Nsiala, Jon Nolan, Gwion Edwards, Teddy Bishop, Jack Lankester and Freddie Sears to return from injuries.
Lambert, who named untested youngsters Bailey Clements, Armando Dobra and Idris El Mizouni among his subs at The Pirelli Stadium, has said he wants to add three players to his squad before the transfer deadline of September 2 and recently made public his frustrations regarding deals taking so long to complete.
Asked if, even without further reinforcements, he felt he had a squad that could have a run at things this season, Lambert replied: "Not for 60-odd games; 60-odd games is an incredible amount you could end up playing.
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"A lot of the guys are still catching up; Nolan (calf injury) hasn't played one game in pre-season and is still catching up, Edwards (groin) hasn't played one game in pre-season and only done wee bits; Judge (wrist) has only played 80 minutes, Emyr played his first 90 minutes in two years at Notts County recently...
"These are all unknowns for us - especially Emyr. He's doing really well, I'm happy with the way he is going, but two years not playing is a long time.
"Judgey has had 80-odd minutes in six/seven weeks and is way short. Nolan has not kicked a ball. Gwion has just started a little bit. That's four right away.
"Toto is not back for a few weeks. The squad is okay, but I think we have to be stronger."
Asked if he would have any reservations about putting homegrown youngsters like Corrie Ndaba, Clements, Dobra or El Mizouni into the line of fire over the coming weeks - there could be as many as eight games in 25 days - Lambert said: "No, none, because they've done it in pre-season.
"But as I said before that is a monumental ask for two players who have stepped out of Under-18 football to go into this type of football.
"I think you're being delusional if you think they are ready made players. They're not. They are just kids learning.
"If the truth be known, if we had a really strong squad, they would be fleetingly in and out. But at the minute they are training with us every single day. That's where the club is.
"We can't do anything else. That's what we have to do."