Big interview: Alan Judge on injury comeback, Hyam and rebuilding his career at Ipswich
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town have signed midfielder Alan Judge from Brentford little under three years after he suffered a multiple leg break injury at Portman Road. Here’s what he had to say at his first press conference as Blues player.
Q: What made Ipswich Town an attractive proposition for you? A lot of players may not have fancied it, given the current position...
A: It’s Championship football. I spoke to the manager and straightaway he was very enthusiastic. There were one or two other Championship clubs who wanted to get in on the deal but I’d given my word to Paul and that’s what made me come here.
I wasn’t playing at Brentford and they knew I wanted to play. I’ve had long enough out that I wanted to get back playing and prove to myself I can still do it.
Paul tried to sign me for Aston Villa a while back. I knew of his interest, I knew he knew about me and when someone needs you it’s nice to be wanted.
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To be honest with you it was an easy enough decision. I know people say Ipswich are bottom of the table, but that doesn’t bother me. You want to prove yourself. Why not do it at the hardest point?
I could have gone to someone who was higher in the league and been comfortable and finished the season easy, but I do like challenges. I’ve come through a big one with the injury. Now I’ll just enjoy every minute I have on the pitch.
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Q: This isn’t the first time you’ve had the chance to join Ipswich...
A: The first time I was here my wife was very heavily pregnant and for some reason the deal wasn’t done at the time and I ended up going back to Blackburn. I’d come, met Mick (McCarthy) and went down the stadium but it sadly didn’t happen.
The second time, Mick wanted to know how fit I was last year and I was honest with him that I wasn’t and was still doing my pre-season. It wouldn’t have been fair for me or him if I had come and not been fully fit.
Q: Did you ever have any second thoughts because of the injury you suffered here? No superstitions or anything like that?
A: I just want to play football. It happened here, so what? Ipswich didn’t injure me. Do you know what I mean? It happened here, but they didn’t injure me. That’s it. That’s the way it goes.
If I keep going back to the injury I’ll never move on and that’s just not me.
Q: What exactly was the injury for those that don’t know...
A: It was a tib/fib double break and a few little mini breaks in between that. The first operation went completely fine, but my fibia actually healed too well. I had the second operation and within two or three weeks I was feeling like a new man.
Q: Did you spend any time at Ipswich Hospital?
A: I was literally there for four or five hours and then got transferred up to London. My agent at the time drove down straight from up north, he went to a shop, got a load of pillows, put me in the back of his car and transferred me to London. He wouldn’t wait for an ambulance to come and get me. Don’t worry I was well medicated!
I’ve seen a few of the Ipswich medical staff again this week and it’s good to speak to them now I’m properly with it!
Q: Did you ever worry that might be it for your career?
A: Not really, because I’ve seen players come back from injuries. It runs through your mind for a few seconds of course but once I was in the gym and working hard that was it.
Maybe the first week or two you think ‘that’s my chance gone’ but the way I am I just go for it and keep going.
Q: The timing was bad considering your form...
A: It was because I had agreed a move to a Premier League club just a few days before that. It wouldn’t be fair for me to say who, but it wasn’t the Newcastle one that was mentioned at the time. It was something else.
I’d just made my debut for Ireland as well, so everything all happened in a short space of time. But if I kept dwelling on that then I’d never move on. I think I put all that behind me quite quick.
Q: What a time in your life that must have been. What were those few weeks after the injury like?
A: It was hard because I spent two weeks in bed not able to move. The hard thing was that my missus had two kids she was looking after on her own. I had family come and help.
The one good thing about the injury was that I got to see my family a lot. A lot of footballers don’t get to do that, but I got 18/19 months of seeing my family. She’s had enough of me now though!
Q: Did you hear from Luke Hyam at that time? Have you forgiven him for what happened?
A: Yeah, I’ve never really blamed him because this is football and it’s what happens.
Have I felt bitter about it? Probably, because of my dream of playing in the Premier League, but I’ve never held him responsible because things like that happen.
Q: Has your perspective changed on football, being out so long?
A: Not really, no. I’ve always tried to play every game as if it’s my last. You see other players getting ACL injuries etc. I’ve always gone out there and just enjoyed it. There’s no point playing football and getting angry. You have to play with a smile on your face.
Q: Where are you in terms of fitness? And in terms of the mental side of the injury?
A: I returned to action last January and started my first game in March. Just two or three weeks ago I played three 90 minute games in eight days so I’m there fitness-wise. I’ve taken enough hits now.
Maybe it’s just that little bit of match sharpness which will come. It’s up to myself to get into the team and stay there.
Q: Can you be that player who ripped up the league just a few years ago?
A: Time will tell.
Q: What’s your best position now?
A: No.10. I think Paul knows that. If he asks me to play somewhere else I will but, ultimately, at Brentford I was playing as a winger which is not my position. I was being used as a player asked to take people on but I’m more of passer and a mover.
Q: Have you had to adapt your game since coming back from the injury?
A: I think I just have to be a little bit smarter, get myself into positions a little bit quicker and things like that.
I’m only a year back in, but my stats don’t show that I’m slower or covering else distance or anything. That’s a good thing.
Q: It might be too early to talk about this, but would you be prepared to stay even if it was League One next season?
A: I have to show I can still do it. I’m pretty confident I can and I have to earn my next contract because I’m in a position now where I’m not just going to get given it.
Q: How does the one year option work? Is that for the club to trigger?
A: I’m not really sure, I’d have to speak to my agent a bit more. I think it’s more in the club’s favour... a bit of both actually. I think it’s a reasonable one.
We’ll see how it goes. My family are in London until the summer. When I do things I do things right and, if I’m here beyond the summer my family will be coming with me.
Q: When you look at the squad, how much does it surprise that the team finds itself in the position it’s in?
A: What surprises me most is the atmosphere around the place. It’s not the atmosphere of a team that’s down the bottom of the league. I played for Plymouth when we survived one year and went down the next – the atmosphere was totally different.
Here you wouldn’t think we were down the bottom of the league. There’s a bit of togetherness.
Q: A return to Ewood Park for you on Saturday, a club you played twice for. What do Blackburn Rovers mean to you?
A: They are the team that gave me my chance. They brought me over when I was 15 and I was there until I was 21. When I went back the second time it didn’t work out for one reason or another, the manager liked other players and I went to Brentford.
They will always be a club close to me though.
Q: How do you reflect on your time at Brentford?
A: I had three really good years there. The first year we got promoted, we got to the play-offs the year after and then I had a good individual year the year after that. I had many good times there and met many good people.
Q: It sounds like you still feel you have something to prove?
A: Always. People are always going to want to doubt you, when you’re not playing as much as you’d like you begin to doubt yourself a little bit. Proving things to yourself is always the most important thing.