'It's an absolute disgrace... this club needs a rebuild' - Lambert returns to Accrington with phase one complete (but plenty still to do)
PUBLISHED: 06:00 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:10 18 October 2019
We saw a different side to Paul Lambert following Ipswich Town's last visit to Accrington Stanley.
The FA Cup humbling prompted the Blues boss to brand the club's fall from grace 'an absolute disgrace' and insist a complete rebuild was necessary to move the club forward.
Lambert cut an angry figure after that game. The first few weeks of his reign were full of positivity, if not positive results, with much effort put into connecting with supporters following his appointment at a time when the club was in a perilous position. he spoke regular of how his players were giving him everything and how he couldn't ask any more from them.
But he couldn't hide his frustration following the 1-0 cup exit. He insisted certain individuals wouldn't play for the club again (it proved to be a final appearance for Jordan Spence) as the Town boss let his true feelings known after admitting he had perhaps protected his squad during those early days.
Things got worse before the green shoots of recovery began to emerge, following relegation from the Championship, but Lambert returns to the Wham Stadium nine months on with his side sitting top of League One and with a positive outlook.
Attendances are up, both home and away, and there's a growing connection between the club, its supporters and the community at large. Significant work has gone into revamping the club's training ground, as well as Portman Road after the Town boss insisted the two bases lacked identity and had been allowed to become tired and run down.
That's stage one of the necessary rebuild Lambert spoke of in January, with the Town boss insisting there's still a long way to go before he would begin to consider the job being anywhere near complete.
He's right, of course. Promotion back to the Championship is the first step they must take on the pitch, but it's how they perform if and when they make it back that will dictate whether years of apathy can be truly dismantled and repaired.
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"The club has moved on an incredible amount since that game," Lambert said ahead of the Blues' second trip to Accrington.
"The community's huge, there's a really good feeling between the club and the Town as well as the supporters and the football club.
"It's all coming back and the Community Trust is in a good place. It's small steps but it's in a really good place at the minute.
"That game was one where we changed the team and expected the lads to step up but it never happened. It wasn't good enough.
"We're miles away from where we want to get to but we have got the support back, which is the catalyst for things starting to rebuild again.
"We had to do that side of it because it wasn't working before and we had to bring people back to the stadium.
"We've started the season well but the catalyst is the support - not just the fact they are coming but the atmosphere they're creating. It's vibrant and it's spreading around the four stands which is important.
"We've been here a year now and the football club has come a long way. Off the pitch the infrastructure is getting there and I've said before if you don't have it, when the team falls it falls from a great height. But with infrastructure it will only fall a little bit and then kick on again."
So what would things look like when the rebuild is complete?
"If this place got going this could be huge," Lambert said. "If it really wanted it could get to the Premier League. Dear oh dear you wouldn't get a ticket."