‘Parts of it were like a bomb site’ – Lambert praises Evans for splashing the cash on ‘horrendous’ training ground
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 November 2019
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert has thanked owner Marcus Evans for spending in excess of £100k improving the club’s ‘horrendous’ Playford Road training ground.
Ipswich Town manager Paul Lambert has thanked owner Marcus Evans for spending in excess of £100k improving the club's 'horrendous' Playford Road training ground.
Speaking to fans at the Supporters' Club AGM on Thursday night, Lambert recalled the moment he took charge of the club just over a year ago.
"The training ground was horrendous, it really was," he said. "For the size of the club it should never have got like that.
"When I first came in I went 'is the ink on my contract dry because if not I'm doing a u-turn'.
"Honestly, parts of it were like a bomb site. There wasn't a recovery place for the players to go, there were no badges to indicate where you were, the security and fencing was poor meaning anyone could just come in off the street.
"The walls were grey rather than blue. Why? Everything was really, really tired. The little things that needed sorting seemed never ending.
"The whole bloody thing was a mess. The professionalism of it wasn't right. It wasn't giving a good first impression to anyone.
"I remember having a chat with Marcus (Evans) and, to be fair to him, he's been brilliant. He recognised that the training ground wasn't at the level a football club like this deserves."
Fitness coach Jim Henry explained: "There has been a significant investment on that side of things over the last year. The recovery suite alone was in excess of £90,000 that Marcus spent. So far, everything we've asked for we've got.
"We've got a GPS system which is basically a Premier League set-up. Lee (O'Neill, general manager of football operations) put that in place at the start of last season.
"We have a Michelin star chef at the football club now (Adam Gooderham). Lee managed to lure him away from a restaurant. That's a massive advantage because giving the players the right food is so important.
"Marcus has spent a lot of money over the last year bringing things up to scratch. We're definitely getting there."
A state of the art gym was installed during Paul Hurst's tenure, the green hut at the heart of the training complex was painted blue earlier this season, muddy areas have had new turf laid, while it's understood that Evans is now spending a further £100k on installing new fencing around the complex.
"We're not just rebuilding a football team here, we're rebuilding a football club," said Lambert. "A football club needs an infrastructure. If it does, and the team isn't performing, then it can only fall so far and then bounce back. If that infrastructure isn't there then it falls from a great height.
"We're getting there. We've still got a long way to go, but it's much better than before."
With Town currently top of the League One table, several supporters used Thursday night's event at Portman Road to thank Lambert for re-enthusing them about the football club.
"Do you know what, I find it really staggering that you actually thank us for giving you something back when that's our job," said Lambert.
"I really appreciate the thanks, but that disconnect should never have happened in the first place."
He continued: "You're never quite sure when you come into a football club how low it is. When I came in I thought 'dear oh dear, it's actually lower than I thought'.
"From the first minute I thought 'where are the fans?' There was no atmosphere. I felt sorry for the club with the way it was dipping and dipping.
"As I've said before, there's no game without the supporters so getting that fixed was my first port of call. I met a lot of people to find out what had gone wrong.
"We had to try and play some sort of exciting football. We had to try and give the fans some sort of enthusiasm for the game again. Slowly but surely it started to build and build and build.
"The crowds have gone up, but it's not just the numbers, it's what's actually happening in the stadium. Whether we're playing good, bad or indifferent the atmosphere is there. For me that's been the biggest turnaround."
Lambert added: "Sometimes you need to go back to go forwards. We've gone down a level, but what it has done is galvanise the support. If we all left tomorrow, at least the club has got the support back.
"This club was too big to stagnate. It's in a lot better place than it was a year ago, that's for sure.
"Whether we'll be successful I can't say, I really don't know, but the big thing is that the fans are saying 'we like the atmosphere and we're enjoying the games'. That's the biggest compliment we get. Hopefully that continues."
If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Ipswich Star. Click the link in the orange box above for details.