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QPR v Villa preview: Lambert - My Lions will only grow stronger
Paul Brown on Rangers clash.
30th Nov 2012
QPR v Villa preview: Lambert - My Lions will only grow stronger


Brown

Paul Lambert heads into the QPR game with a real sense of satisfaction after moulding the youngest team in Villa's Premier League history.

In fact, the line-up against Reading was the most youthful claret and blue side since Mercer's Minors wowed the top-flight in the 1960s.

Boss Lambert is proud of this endearing marker but not as a standalone statistic.

There's not much point having a team of cubs if they haven't got it in them to play like lions.

Lambert is positive they have and it's a belief born from the maturity they showed against Arsenal and Reading in two very different encounters.

Against the Gunners, they proved they can tough it out with the very best in the Premier League.

Against the Royals they showed they can stand up and be counted when there's real expectancy on picking up a result.

Lambert clearly has faith in his emerging side after seeing them come through these huge tests.

But it's not just a present principle. He has faith in the future, tipping them to "grow together". Indeed, he insists they are "nowhere near the finished article."

There's no doubt they are getting better week after week, in the desire shown and the results garnered.

There are 22-year-old midfield artists Barry Bannan and Ashley Westwood pulling the strings in the centre.

There's a multitude of full-backs who have fire in their bellies, Matt Lowton, Eric Lichaj, Enda Stevens and Joe Bennett.

And in Tuesday's capital clash Ciaran Clark and Nathan Baker looked like seasoned veterans despite their youthful exteriors.

Then we come to the forwards, our three-pronged attack offering pace and grace with an average age of 22, bolstered by Gabby - seemingly the granddaddy of the group.

It's a squad clearly coming into their own, as Lambert explained.

"When we first came in, we knew we had to try and change certain things and we've done that.

"We are nowhere near the finished article though. That's the big thing but you keep building and building.

"But some of the football we are playing is very good. You just need results to go your way and the last few games we've done really, really fine.

"Christian is a young guy who will get better and better and then you look at Gabby and Andy, they are young as well. We have the youngest Villa team in Premier League history!

"It is unbelievable what they've done. They've been great. It bodes well for the future because they will grow together. They need to get more experienced but it definitely good for the future.

"And the thing is we are only a few points off mid-table so we're not a million miles away. The young lads have been exceptional since Sunderland. I couldn't ask for any more from them.

"We had a tough run with the two Manchester clubs and Arsenal. It was a really tough period for us to come through. To beat Reading after losing Ron and Enda as well....

"It was not the greatest game Barry Bannan has played but he kept taking the ball which was brilliant.

"Sometimes it takes a big player to take the ball and not hide and he is only a young boy as well. He kept on going and never wilted.

"Ashley has been a revelation since he broke into the side. He has been fantastic.

"The mood is very good ahead of QPR now. But it has been for a while. We got a good result all the way back to Sunderland. We got a terrific result there, we just couldn't hold on against Manchester United but the performance was excellent.

"Manchester City was a different kettle of fish altogether and the penalty incident changed the course of that game. We were excellent against Arsenal, considering with Ron out and Enda coming off and Eric playing at left-back."

There's no question, speaking to claret and blue fans home and away, that the style of play is something the masses applaud, Lambert adopting an enterprising and attacking philosophy.

His players have excellent technical ability. Just look at Westwood, who has already clocked up 91% and 94% pass completion rates this season.

It's an ethos Lambert lives by. But, it's by no means his only one or his number one.

That is undoubtedly an epic "work ethic." It's something he sees in his team.

He added: "That's the most important thing - having a work ethic and having a team. I was fortunate enough to play in some really outstanding teams with guys who played at the highest level. And every one of them the work ethic was incredible. It is vital."

Facing QPR this weekend, with Rangers players eager to impress new boss Harry Redknapp there's no doubt Lambert's Lions will need to match that ebullience.

Judging by the manager's words and his players' deeds thus far, that won't be a problem.

MATCH INFO

QPR v Villa
Barclays Premier League
Saturday December 1 - KO 3pm
Referee: Howard Webb

TICKETS

Tickets for the clash at Loftus Road are SOLD OUT.

AVTV DON'T MISS

Pre-match show - watch now
Memory match - watch now
Manager press conference - watch now

TEAM NEWS

Enda Stevens has been ruled out of the QPR clash after suffering an ankle injury against Reading.

Skipper Ron Vlaar - who missed the win over the Royals with a calf injury - remains a doubt.

But Paul Lambert has been boosted the return to fitness of Aussie utility man Chris Herd.

QPR goalkeeper Julio Cesar is set to miss out with a groin injury but former Manchester United star Park Ji-Sung is hoping to return for the home side.

COLOURS

Villa will be wearing their traditional home kit of claret and blue.

LAST TIME OUT

QPR 1-1 Villa
Goals: Bannan, Dunne [OG]. 
September 25, 2011

MATCH STATS

Barry Bannan - who scored at Loftus Road last season - will be playing on his 23rd birthday.

QPR are unbeaten in the Barclays Premier League against Villa at Loftus Road.

Villa's starting line-up against Reading in midweek was the club's youngester ever in the Premier League - with an average age of 23 years and 324 days.

The boys in claret and blue have kept back-to-back clean sheets.

The last time Villa kept three consecutive clean sheets was in January 2010.

New Rangers boss Harry Redknapp has never lost a Premier League home debut as a manager.

Snap up your tickets and back the boys against Stoke.

 

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