Elliott could be the last piece of Lambert's City jigsaw
Chris Lakey Paul Lambert completed signing number seven for City yesterday morning - timing his run perfectly for the end-of-season promotion run-in. The City boss has brought in Republic of Ireland striker Stephen Elliott from Preston to provide competition, a boost to the current players - and invaluable experience of just what happens when the pressure is turned to the max.
Paul Lambert completed signing number seven for City yesterday morning - timing his run perfectly for the end-of-season promotion run-in.
The City boss has brought in Republic of Ireland striker Stephen Elliott from Preston to provide competition, a boost to the current players - and invaluable experience of just what happens when the pressure is turned to the max.
Elliott has a tough act to follow, with Lambert scoring top marks in his transfer market dealings: regular starters like goalkeeper Fraser Forster and Russell Martin have impressed, while Oli Johnson and Anthony McNamee have been impressive fringe players.
And with a dozen matches in which to seal promotion, Lambert has added what could be the final part of his jigsaw.
Elliott won promotion from the Championship twice with Sunderland, but has found himself out of favour with new Preston boss Darren Ferguson, who gave Lambert some help in the deal-making process.
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“He's an international nine times for Ireland, he has played in the league above us, he was at Manchester City, Wolves, Sunderland - he knows the game, and I just think it was vital we bring in somebody to boost the other lads and keep them on their toes and that's what he will do,” said Lambert.
“Whether it's a striker, a midfielder or a defender I think when you are doing well is the time to boost it on again, and that's my thinking of it. The time to strike is when you are doing well, not when you're struggling.
“It is like any player, if anything happens to somebody else you have to have other people come in and give the other ones a hand and that has always been my view on things, if anything happens.
“He knows what it's about, he knows exactly what it's about - and he knows Wes (Hoolahan) and Doc (Gary Doherty) from the Irish set-up as well - and he is different from what we have got.
“He will chase lost causes, I know that. He will do great for us.”
Lambert has two of the division's most potent strikers in Chris Martin and Grant Holt, who have 32 league goals between them this season, but knows that injury or suspension could easily disrupt the pairing - and the back-up is perhaps shy of the sort of experience a promotion run-in requires.
“You can't rely on young lads all the time,” he said. “Especially at a critical time of the season. You may get away with one or two, but not with four and five when it's critical. You can't rely on young ones all the time - young ones need the older ones to give them a hand, and that's what has happened.
“If you look at Cody (McDonald) he's still injured, Luke (Daley) is injured - we don't really have that much cover.
“Oli Johnson, what he's done is incredible, Chrissy (Martin) is only 21, Grant has been great for us, but if anything happens to them we don't have that many. People say we have got four or five strikers, but two of them are injured, one is young one who is just out of non-league.
“Elliott is an international, he's only 26 - it boosts everybody, it keeps everybody on their toes.”
The transfer market can be a fickle friend and has been the downfall of many a manager. Lambert appears to have it sorted.
“You are hoping - you are never quite sure when anybody comes in,” he said. “It's like when Oli came in, people thought, 'who's that?' or whatever the case may be - and the rest speaks for itself. He has done what he has done and he has been a big favourite of the crowd and excites people and you are hoping Stephen will come in and do the same.”
The chances of Lambert being able to keep Elliott for next season appear to be remote.
“It's a lot to do with finances,” he said. “We can't afford what people were used to in the Championship, we can't do it, we can't do a lot of things we did last year. We have to work with what we have got. It's nothing major, Preston helped us, which is great and we try and get the best out of people who come here.”