You’ve got to land the first blow – Lambert

Once, briefly, they were East Anglian rivals, but City boss Paul Lambert believes Roy Keane had that valuable asset that makes an ordinary footballer into something a bit special.

It's called The Edge.

Keane's battles with Patrick Vieira were the stuff of Premier League legend, often starting in the tunnel before a ball had been kicked in anger.

And that's what Lambert likes in his team. The Edge. That something special. That first mental blow of the afternoon.

'It's alright being pretty and nice and all that sort of thing, but I think you have got to have an edge to be a footballer,' said Lambert on the eve of this afternoon's clash against Reading.

'I think you've got to have that nasty streak in you – not to hurt people, but you've got to put people on the back foot if you want to be a top player. All the best ones do it, put people on the back foot before they do it to you. I always think, get your blow in first. That's what the lads have got.'

Footballers rely on their heads and feet, but a lot of what they do is between the ears, getting in the first psychological blows.

Most Read

'That can work both ways. Sometimes it's true, you can win a game in the tunnel. It is up to you how you want to portray it against the opposition.

'Some people don't bother looking at people, some people might go toe to toe. It's when you go out on that pitch you have got to have great belief in your own ability that you're going to overcome your opponent and you have got to have that edge. If you don't have it there's no point in playing.

'The best example I can think was Roy Keane – he won the game in the tunnel, and all top players have that. If you have that as a collective spirit I will guarantee it will go down the line and that's what we seem to have, we have lads that don't want to get done.

'They're not scared because they have proven to me what they can do. If people are going to beat us they are going to have to put us on our backside.

'That's all I ask – if at any given time you are going to get beat make sure you go down fighting.

'They have an edge to them and they have always had that edge and that is what I look for; always have the edge, play on the limit.'

Lambert sends his players out this afternoon knowing that there will be a sense of grievance and even perhaps an added edge in the home support after the circumstances of the 3-3 draw at Reading in November. City were 3-1 up as half-time approached, but then had Grant Holt sent off for a challenge on Ian Harte.

The red card was rescinded, but Harte's dramatic reaction is still fresh in the memory.

For Lambert, it's only about the game – and he believes Harte has been around too long to be concerned about any reaction.

'I think he will know himself coming here what happened,' he said. 'But he's been about the game a long time so I don't think it will faze him.

'That sending-off definitely changed the course of the game and by the referee's own admission he made a mistake. You can't moan about it, it's gone – at least we never got beaten.'

Holt is the only City striker to have scored in the last 10 Championship games, but Lambert says he has faith in Chris Martin and Simeon Jackson.

'I think the thing about Chrissy is, every time he gets a chance, even now, I still think he will score,' said Lambert.

'When he gets the ball I think he will score, it doesn't matter where, he is always a threat.

'Sometimes I take him out of the team because I think he looks tired.

'He is only young, a kid, but he's a natural finisher, one of the best I have seen.

'As a natural finisher he will always hit the target. He makes the goalkeeper work for it.

'The thing about Jackson is his work rate is incredibly high and he needs a break for a goal to go in for himself – he's a great pro about the place as well which is pleasing – I don't have a problem with him.'

Lambert has a full squad to choose from, including Andrew Surman, whose three months on the sidelines because of a knee injury ended in midweek when he played more than an hour of the Norfolk Senior Cup semi-final defeat by Dereham.

'I will decide later on in the day what I think,' said Lambert.

'The main thing was to get lads game time and get Surman through it.

'He is a top player and hopefully this time we can get him through to the end of the season and he's okay.'

Jackson, Andrew Crofts, Henri Lansbury and goalkeeper Jed Steer were all on international duty this week, but returned unscathed.