“If I was going to lie to you, honestly I would lie.” – Paul Lambert
If you’re not bored of it already, the Darren Bent soap opera will run until the January transfer window slams close. For starters, there’s at least 500 newspaper articles to be written linking Bent to Liverpool (like every transfer window). Until it’s resolved one way or another, the biggest question is how many more times will the press ask Paul Lambert about Bent? If Lambert’s post-match press conference after the Reading game last week is anything to go on, you could hold an office sweepstake for the answer…
The full transcript to Paul Lambert’s press conference after the Reading game (see below) was focused pretty much solely on the omission of Darren Bent from the Villa squad,and it becomes quite comical as Lambert plays a straight bat to all the 22 questions on his exiled striker.
Do you get the impression that Lambert’s feelings towards the press are a little like ex-Villa boss Ron Saunders? I love Lambert’s line: “If I was going to lie to you, honestly I would lie.” Mr Poker Face personified.
Original post-match press conference after the Reading game
Question: Although Benteke had a big game tonight, people will mention Darren wasn’t on the bench
Paul Lambert: It was the same as Saturday. I just picked the same group that’s deserved that chance to keep going. And I’ll always do what I think’s right for Aston Villa. That’s what I will always do.
Q You do realise you are running a risk when with 10 minutes to go, instead of a £24m signing sat on the bench, you’ve got Jordan Bowery, who, with respect to him, he’s not got the same credentials.
PL But you can’t talk about ifs, buts and maybes. The reality is we won. I’ll always make an honest judgment who I think should play
Q Fair enough. You’ll get slaughtered if you don’t win. But, just for record, I know we’ve been around the houses, but we were all looking at the team-sheet, it was a big game tonight and we were all wondering why you don’t at least have the safety net of putting a proven Premier League goalscorer at least on the bench. Have you got a problem with Darren Bent?
PL None, honestly. Absolutely none
Q You just don’t rate him as a player?
PL No, I do, I do. I’ve got 25 guys to look after. The most important thing is this club and I’ll always make decisions that I think is right for this club. And I’ll live and die by them. That’s the nature of the beast.
Q How did Darren take it when you told him he was not on the bench?
PL I just read the team out. Listen, you’ve got more to worry about when you’ve got a game of football to play. And the lads that are going to take the field of play and the lads that are going to be on the bench, you’ve got to get them focused on the game. And that’s all I try and do, pick a team that I think will win us the game
Q Did he stomp off?
PL Nah, nah. I would tell you. I swear to God I would tell you. Honestly.
Q How would you describe his attitude after you read the team out?
PL Fine. I read the team out and I’ve always done that. As I said, the most important thing is Aston Villa, that’s the most important thing.
Q Have you told him what he’s got to do to get back into the team?
PL Any player that you have, you work hard you get in the side you stay in the side. You play on merit.
Q Does that suggest he’s not working hard enough then?
PL No, I never said that.
Q Well, he didn’t stay in the side, did he?
PL No, but that’s got nothing to do with not working hard enough. It’s just that I’ve got to change things that I think will affect the game.
Q Will you listen to offers for him in January because, for whatever reason, he doesn’t seem to fit the bill for you?
PL Honestly, my main concern is winning games for this club. We’ve got to win games. The crowd are brilliant, they’re right behind you, and I’ll still pick a team that I think will win us games.
Q Can I clarify, you’ve got no problem with his training or application, or anything like that?
PL No, none. Nothing whatsoever.
Q Do you expect him to get a chance before January to win back his place?
PL Everybody is the same. I watch them in training every day and I see how they play and how they train. And then on a Saturday, you pick a team that you think will win.
Q With Benteke scoring tonight, have you been proved right?
PL That’s the game, you live and die by your decisions. As I said, I’ll do my best for this club and I’ll keep going.
Q Does he need an arm around his shoulder, is he miserable, is he down?
Q That record signing? Has there been any kind of conversation between the two of you about getting back in?
PL As I say, I’ll talk with people.
Q There was an internet rumour beforehand that Darren left the stadium and had to be called back to join the group.
PL I haven’t heard one thing. I haven’t heard nothing. As I say, I’ve got to try and win a game.
Q Can you see him playing again under you?
PL Yeah, listen, I never rule anything out. You don’t. I keep saying it, I’ll pick a team and a squad that I think will win. I ain’t going to pick a team and a squad that I think will lose. The game’s about winning. I want to try and pick a team that I think will win. I’ve got 26 guys to look after, some are injured. If you make it just an individual thing, it’s a team game. You need everybody to pull the same way and that’s hopefully what we’ll create here.
Q Can you understand why people are perplexed by this decision, given that this was a guy you made your captain as well?
PL Yeah, I understand your questions. But you get the questions every Friday. It’s the same answers you’ll probably get. I don’t know what else you can write about it.
Q To be fair, to put it into some perspective, it was a big game today. I know you say you don’t look at the table but 28,000 people that came tonight do. We do. And in London, in the newspaper offices, they’re all looking at it and wondering why a man who was signed two years ago to provide the goals to keep the club in the Premier League doesn’t figure under you, given the fact that you blew some smoke up his backside when he came, you made him your captain and now all of a sudden he’s out. And I know you’ve got 20-odd professionals to look after but that’s the reason for asking the question.
PL I understand where you are coming from. I totally respect your jobs and what you’ve got to ask me but you’ll get the same kind of answer.
Q We’re only asking what the punters are talking about.
PL Listen, I totally respect what you’re doing and what your questions are. All I can do is give you an honest answer. If I was going to lie to you, honestly I would lie. I ain’t lying. I’m telling you the truth.
Q If I could put it another way, it’s hard to understand why a team that hasn’t scored a lot of goals can’t find a place for someone who throughout his career has scored one in two in the Premier League for years and years. And you can’t find a place for him even on the bench. We’re trying to see what the thought process is for you making that decision so that we can understand it.
PL I do pick a team as honestly and openly as I can. I think the decision is the right one. You can’t please everybody all the time. You leave out people like Stephen Ireland or Charles N’Zogbia, big players that you leave out. It’s never easy to pick a team because you’ve got that many lads to look after. I’ll say it and I’ll say it again, I’ve got 25/26 lads that I have to look after. But as I said before, I’ve never had one problem with any of the lads.