Wes could be the ace card
Chris Lakey SLIDESHOW: Paul Lambert has backed Wes Hoolahan to shine in the Championship this season. The midfield maestro ran rings around Newcastle defence on Saturday as City chalked up an impressive 2-1 win over the Premier League new boys.
Paul Lambert has backed Wes Hoolahan to shine in the Championship this season.
The midfield maestro ran rings around Newcastle defence on Saturday as City chalked up an impressive 2-1 win over the Premier League new boys.
Hoolahan created the first of Chris Martin's two goals with a magnificent show of craftsmanship, the likes of which bamboozled League One defenders last season, and left managers and players alike purring at his tricks.
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“It was phenomenal,” said Lambert. “When he's on form he's unplayable at times, the way he plays the game.”
Lambert believes there's more to come from the 28-year-old Irishman.
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“I have no doubt Wes will step up to the plate,” said the City boss. “He's a terrific footballer, his ability is always there. Teams might want to man-mark him, but when you are that type of player you have got to expect to be followed, but he's got the ability to beat people.”
Lambert played Hoolahan behind the front two in a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Simeon Jackson starting alongside Martin - a pairing that could run out against Watford a week on Friday, given Grant Holt's thigh injury.
Lambert admitted Holt was only a 50-50 chance to make it for the Championship opener, but saw enough from the front two on Saturday to ease any concerns in that department.
“I thought him (Martin) and Jackson were excellent,” said Lambert. “Jackson has come in late in Germany (on tour) and he is probably playing a bit of catch up, but I thought him and Chrissy Martin were excellent.
“No matter what you say about Chrissy Martin, he knows how to finish with a football, that's for sure.”
Lambert played six of his seven summer signings, with Steve Smith absent because of an ankle ligament injury, and while he has until August 31 to add to his numbers, it appears unlikely.
“There are a few lads - the two Smiths (Korey and Steve) are out, (Stephen) Hughes has been out, (Zak) Whitbread is out, Jens' (Berthel Askou) baby has just been born, Grant's out, so we have a few still to come back, so it's not too bad,” he said.
“I will weigh it up and if I think that we need something then I will discuss it with the powers that be.”
The signs are that the new boys are settling in well, although Lambert was keen to spread the praise after a morale-boosting win.
“You have to give the current group that were here, they have taken to them and they have made them feel part of the football club, which is important and I think playing here today gave them an expectation of what to expect when it starts for real,” Lambert said.
“It was a terrific test for us, they are a really good side. You can see why they won the league last year - a really good side and to win was nice. But it doesn't really matter at the end of the day, it was a friendly.”
Points may not have been at stake, but Lambert was able to take away positives.
“That we are a really good side when we pass the ball - very good,” he said. “We have a lot of players missing at the minute, but we have a pretty strong squad and the way we played the game I thought was excellent.
“We will try and entertain as well, but we have also got to win games and winning is what really matters at the end of the day and if you can do that by playing terrific football you take it. If not you are going to have to grind it out at times. It's hard to judge a friendly, because Newcastle are a week later than us starting, so it's hard to judge, but the pleasing aspect is the way we played the game.”