Lambert: We sleepwalked into drop
PAUL LAMBERT said Stoke City sleepwalked into trouble after their relegation from the Premier League was confirmed by their home defeat by Crystal Palace . The loss condemns Stoke to the Championship after a decade in the top flight, with Lambert unable to save them after he was appointed to replace Mark Hughes in January, taking over with the team in 18th. They have won only one of Lambert’s 14 games in charge but he suggested the damage was done before he arrived.
“Your season starts in July,” he said. “When you don’t get results you sleepwalk into situations you never want to be and we never had enough. I’m gutted for everybody, because it’s a brilliant club. When it rebuilds it will be really strong.”
An error by Ryan Shawcross, club captain and the only player left from when Stoke won promotion to the top flight in 2008, gifted Crystal Palace their late winner from Patrick van Aanholt and he looked close to tears after the final whistle. “It didn’t happen over one game,” Shawcross said. “We’ve not been good enough all season, and ultimately that’s down to the players.”
Scoring goals and an inability to hold on to leads when they did find the net have been two of the most obvious causes for Stoke’s relegation, something Lambert acknowledged.
“It’s people being anxious, worried about what might happen when we’ve got the lead,” he said, when asked about the 12 points they have surrendered from winning positions since his appointment.
“That’s what we’ve got,” he said, about their striking options. “The top end of the pitch, right across it, I don’t think it’s been good enough. We lacked that natural instinct of a goalscorer. Not just a goalscorer, but creativity as well. I don’t think we’re well balanced in that area.”
Lambert admitted Stoke would have needed to rebuild even if they had survived, a process that will begin after their final game of the season, against Swansea next weekend. “The football club will come back fighting because of the support it’s got behind it,” he said. “The football team should mirror the supporters.”
‘Your season starts in July’: Paul Lambert