‘If you start winning games in League One then you won’t get a ticket’ – Lambert begins plotting Town’s return
PUBLISHED: 18:18 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:18 15 April 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Paul Lambert is sure the ‘gut-wrenching’ feeling of Championship relegation will benefit his Ipswich Town players, as the Scot turns his attention to League One.
Drawing 1-1 with Birmingham at Portman Road on Saturday was enough to consign the Tractor Boys to the third tier for the first time in 62 years, bringing an end to 17 successive years in the Championship.
“It's gut-wrenching, it's horrible,” the former Norwich City manager said after his team's fate was confirmed. “You can't put it into words what it feels like. It's like a blow.
“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.”
The Scot arrived at the end of October with Town already in a mess, replacing Paul Hurst, but won just three of his 27 league matches, losing 14 and conceding 41 goals in the process – including a 3-0 defeat to Norwich at Carrow Road in February.
“Your season starts in June/July when you start pre-season,” he continued, speaking to the East Anglian Daily Times. “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 returns to League One, where he arrived at Norwich in August 2009 after his Colchester team had inflicted a 7-1 thrashing on the Canaries at Carrow Road on the opening day.
He inspired back-to-back promotions to the Premier League with the likes of Grant Holt and Wes Hoolahan at the heart of his team, before leaving for Aston Villa in 2012 after steering City to 12th place in the top flight.
The former Celtic midfielder continued: “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.”
Lambert is now looking forward to having a full season to prepare for League One, having not had that with his three previous clubs, arriving at Blackburn, Wolves and Stoke with their seasons under way.
He still has four Championship games to navigate yet though, at Preston on Friday and at home to Swansea on Easter Monday, before two tough final fixtures against City's automatic promotion rivals, away at Sheffield United then finishing against Leeds at Portman Road.
“Whether transfers come in or not, I don't know what's going to happen,” he said. “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.”