Sunday 22 July 2018

'I’ve not seen anything like that' - Paul Lambert breaks silence on ‘unacceptable’ behaviour within Stoke squad

Stoke City manager Paul Lambert
Stoke City manager Paul Lambert

Jonathan Liew

Paul Lambert has spoken out about the “unacceptable” behaviour of certain players at Stoke City as they ended their decade in the Premier League with a 2-1 win at Swansea. Lambert is believed to have been shocked by the attitude and lack of professionalism amongst a few senior members of the squad when he arrived at the club in January, and after recording just his second Premier League win in 15 games he spoke out for the first time about some of the problems he encountered behind the scenes.

“Listen, there was things going on that, if I let that away, my standing would drop,” Lambert said. “I was never going to have it. I’m too professional. I’ve been at big clubs myself, know how the game works, and that was unacceptable, what was going on. Massively unacceptable. My god, I’ve not seen anything like that.”

Naturally, Lambert wasn’t going to name any names. But one player known to have displeased Lambert is Ibrahim Afellay, the former Barcelona forward who was banished from first-team training in March after a blazing row with Lambert during training, and told not to return. There were reports, too, that Jese Rodriguez, a costly loan signing from Paris Saint-Germain, was punished after failing to show up at training and arriving late on numerous other occasions. Saido Berahino and Kevin Wimmer, meanwhile, both disappointed with their lack of fitness and general approach to the game. None featured in the club’s relegation run-in.

Lambert said he had no regrets about his hard-line stance. “Absolutely not. I’d have done it again. Because it was wrong. And if I’d never done it, I think the good guys at the club would have felt they didn’t have much help. And anyone knows me knows that I’m fair, but my standards are high. But it is what it is. There’s a core of good guys, the ones that have with me for the last few weeks or so.”

It was the “good guys”, as Lambert put it, that gave him hope for Stoke’s future in the Championship as he outlined his intention to remain in his job for next season. Recently it emerged that there is a break clause in Lambert’s contract that either party can activate by the end of June, but Lambert said that he had been given assurances over his future.

“The chairman said a couple of weeks ago I was [safe],” he said. “Whether that remains, I’ll wait and see. What happens next week, I don’t know. Football’s a great game for one day you’re there, the next day you’re away. But I couldn’t have done any more. I gave it everything.

“I love the club. What a top football club it is. I would have paid to watch ‘Delilah’ at the end [long after the final whistle, the travelling Stoke fans gave a spine-tingling rendition of the club’s traditional anthem]. The club has a great support behind it. My god, it was absolutely unbelievable.”

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