Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Lambert cools Townsend 'hype'

Andros Townsend shone for England against Poland
Andros Townsend shone for England against Poland

Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert urged caution over the "hype" surrounding Andros Townsend and insisted his side have a lot more to worry about than just the England newcomer when they face Tottenham on Sunday.

Townsend has burst onto the international scene in the last week after he was thrown into England's final two World Cup qualifiers by national team boss Roy Hodgson.

The 22-year-old, who has been a perennial loanee and fringe player for four years, seized his chance in impressive fashion by producing two excellent performances in the crucial wins over Montenegro and Poland.

Townsend will inevitably be projected as England's brightest light heading into the Finals in Brazil next summer yet, as Lambert knows himself, the winger may not even make Spurs' starting line-up when they come to Villa Park in this weekend's Barclays Premier League fixture.

"This country has got a habit of giving great 'hype'," said the Scot. "Somebody plays one or two good games and they're a world-beater. Tottenham have got an array of players, it's not just him.

"I don't know the lad at all but in the last couple of games for England, he's played well. But if you look at Spurs' team, every one of their players is a top player.

"He's been playing well for Tottenham, even before the England games. But Spurs' squad is huge, they've got a right good squad. The lad Erik Lamela can't get a consistent run of games and he cost them a right few million pounds (reportedly £30million).

"It's up to the club managers who they pick and who they play."

Asked whether Townsend could prove to be as good as Gareth Bale, who departed Spurs for Real Madrid in a world-record deal this summer, Lambert was cautious.

"People jump on that bandwagon after a handful of games," he said. "Gareth Bale did it for a number of years and it's too much pressure to put on Townsend."

Lambert, like his Premier League counterparts, is awaiting the arrival of his international contingent so he can assess the fitness of his squad.

Of particular concern to him is striker Christian Benteke, who has been out since September with a hip problem. The Belgian was called up by his country for their recent double-header despite still being short of fitness but was not deployed by coach Marc Wilmots, to Lambert's relief.

"I don't know how he is yet," said the Villa boss. "He'll come back and will know himself how he's feeling. All I know is he was on the bench on Tuesday, trained for a couple of days and hadn't had any reaction. That might change when he gets back - we'll wait and see.

"I trusted Christian to be honest, which he is. That's all you can do - trust somebody to do the right thing.

"Obviously he didn't play against Croatia and he was on the bench against Wales. I trusted him."

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