‘I won’t kid myself, I’ve been s***... but I feel like I’m finally getting there’ - Judge’s honest assessment of his Ipswich form
Alan Judge has given a frank and honest assessment of his disappointing form during the opening months of the season but the Irishman feels he is now getting back on track.
The midfielder has been far from his creative best so far during 2019/20, struggling to hold down a regular starting place and looking some way short of the player who was expected to be a central figure in Town's promotion push.
The summer was a difficult time for Judge and his family. He was the subject of transfer interest from QPR, which appealed due to the fact his young daughter requires surgery in west London, close to their family home where they were still based following his move from Brentford.
He also broke his wrist while on international duty which robbed him of a pre-season, with those factors combining to ensure Judge has been far from the top of his game in an Ipswich shirt this season.
He knows he's not lived up to his high standards but, with his family now settled in Ipswich after moving to Suffolk in late summer, he believes he is working his way back to his best.
"I felt like I was a little bit back to my normal self," Judge said, following last night's win at Rochdale.
"It's been a tough one since the summer for many reasons but I won't kid myself, I've been s***. I haven't been my usual self.
"There are reasons for that but I've spoken to the manager and we're getting along with that. I spoke to the gaffer two weeks ago, we had a good talk and I let him know where I was.
"Missing pre-season was a major factor for me and maybe now a fully fit me is finally getting there. I needed a bit of extra training and I've been doing it to try and get my fitness back to the levels I need to.
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"Confidence is the most important thing in football. It's the easiest thing to lose but the hardest thing to gain. I'm gradually getting mine back bit by bit.
"My family's settled, my daughter's had her first operation and is waiting for the next one and we love it in Ipswich.
"I feel like I'm getting a bit behind me. I might be an easy one to look at because of what happened in the summer and I understand that, when fans see clubs coming in for players and think they want to go, but I am 100 per cent committed to Ipswich and want to play here.
"It's just about me getting my football going now which I will. What we've seen of me this year isn't the real me at the moment but I'm feeling in the last two games that I'm getting there."
Manager Paul Lambert has rotated his side for much of the season so far, with Judge often a victim of that policy. He's had little opportunity to play in his favoured position, in a central attacking midfield role, instead having to operate from wide areas.
However, the 30-year-old has no complaints and insisted he must earn the right to start games.
"The thing is I haven't been playing well enough to stay in the team so I can't really argue at the minute," he said.
"People say I want to play in central midfield or off the front but I just want to play football.
"I know I have to play well. I haven't played to the standards I set myself last year but I think I'd rather be going through my little dip now than when it comes to the most important part of the season.
"Hopefully I can get better and better the more games I get. When I came here last year it took me four or five games to get going and if I get those four or five games I feel like I'll get back to where I was.
"Because we're rotating I need to play well when I come in and I know I can be better.
"I've had long enough not playing and if I was genuinely happy sitting here on the bench then I might as well retire. That's the drive I have."
When it was put to Judge that the majority of Ipswich fans understood why a move to QPR might have been of interest in the summer, he said: "Yeah, but it's down to me now."
On the 1-0 win at Rochdale, which came thanks to Danny Rowe's first goal for the club, Judge said: "It's an important win and we're delighted all-round.
"We could maybe have had a few more because I thought their keeper was brilliant tonight and made some really good saves, especially the one from Garbs (Luke Garbutt) when he tipped it onto the woodwork and then from me. We had a few chances.
"Our away form is good but we're one of the big teams. As games go on we get stronger and in the second half we wore them down.
"We wanted to get the ball out and switch it as quick as we could and we did that a lot more in the second half."