Lam­bert: We sleep­walked into drop

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - SOCCER - NICK MILLER

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

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