Big interview: Luke Chambers on his play-offs pain, the captain’s huddle and Ipswich Town’s not so secret weapon Teddy Bishop

Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers. Photo: Sarah Lucy Brown - Credit: Archant

Ipswich Town are second in the Championship table heading into their Boxing Day clash at fellow high-fliers Brentford. STUART WATSON spoke to captain Luke Chambers about his personal promotion history, leadership and confidence in the camp.

Q: Hi Luke. How good did that win over Middlesbrough feel on Saturday?

A: We knew it was always going to be a tough game, but we tried to approach it like we do every home game. I thought we got on top quite early on, Tommy (Smith) went close with a header (in the first minute) and I think from that moment on we were always going to give a good account of ourselves.

I thought, as long as we played our game, and didn’t let anything affect us, then we’d have to much for them, if I’m honest.

Q: It looks and sounds like confidence in the camp is sky high.

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A: I think the lads are playing with a lot of confidence. Winning games breeds confidence. We’re second in the league. Sometimes being that high can bring extra pressure, but I think the lads are thriving on it. It seems to be bringing the best out of people.

We’re very pleased with how things are going. When things do go wrong, like against Leeds, we are capable of coping with that. I think most of the lasd have been here for a year, 18 months together now and we’ve learnt from last season when we threw away a lot of points. We seem to be maturing as a side. There’s a lot of experienced players here.

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Q: That ability to deal with set-backs, be it going behind in a game or losing a match, could be key couldn’t it?

A: I think so. The boys don’t seem to be panicking at all when we go behind. We always fancy ourselves to score. With the boys up front firing as they are we know we’ll always get chances. And at the other end we’re keeping it tight and have one of the best defensive records. That will always give us a chance home and away.

The way we’re playing at home, especially, we’re always going to be a team to be feared. No-one will fancy playing us at Portman Road at the minute.

Q: The table at the end of the season is the one that matters, of course, but can you enjoy the moment?

A: We’re nearly halfway through and there’s still a hell of a lot of football to be played, but it’s nice to be second. We’re on 41 points. I think a few of the lads have joked it’s three more wins and we’re safe! We’re all having a bit of fun.

We know that it’s match day when it matters. It’s going good at the moment and, if we continue to play the way we are, I can’t see us not being up there for the rest of the season. We’re playing with so much confidence.

Q: Could the January transfer window play a big part in whether you can maintain this form?

A: If we can keep everyone fit, and possibly add a few in January, then it will help. I don’t think we’ll be losing many, from what the gaffer’s been saying, which is good news. We’ll just keep grinding teams out, play the way we play and maybe one or two new faces could make a difference.

Q: What’s your promotion history like?

A: I’ve had two automatic promotions – one at Northampton to League One (2006) and one at Forest to the Championship (2008). I’ve played in four play-offs though and not made the final once. If we get to he play-offs the gaffer will probably leave me out!

I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in those promotions campaigns and it’s the best feeling. The one I’m missing is this next one (Championship to the Premier League).

We’re not getting carried away though because there’s a lot of football to be played. We’ll just keep concentrating on the next game.

Q: So, given what you’ve just said, would you take a play-off place if it was offered to you now? I think I can guess the answer...

A: Not a chance – no, no way! I think we’ve got a great chance (of automatic promotion). The boys have tasted it now, everyone in the town is buzzing. We just want to keep doing what we’re doing.

Q: What’s the secret behind the team’s success at the minute?

A: Successful teams generally have the same attributes. They work hard and they put the ball in the back of the net when chances arrive – we’re doing that at the minute.

“We’re probably the hardest working team in the division, in my opinion. Everyone was talking about how Middlesbrough had done a job on Derby and how hard working they are, but they came down here and got shown what hard work was really.

Q: Ipswich being second has surprised some. Did you as players expect to be up there?

A: Maybe we’ve been under the radar a little bit, but with the manager we’ve got there was always going to be a point we were going to start pressing towards the top of the league. The way he sets his teams up and the way he’s had success in his career as a manager... It was always going to be a matter of time.

Maybe it’s happened sooner than people expected, but I think the boys have always been quietly confident. Hopefully, if we can keep everyone together and everyone fit, and get in a groove, like we are at the moment, we can just keep ticking each game off as it comes.

We had a difficult start, five points after five games, but since then we’ve not really looked back.

Q: As you’ve mentioned, there are some experienced players in the squad, but some exciting youngsters too.

A: The young boys have done fantastic. Tommy (Smith) just seems to go from strength-to-strength. He found himself out of the team but has been a brilliant professional. Since I’ve been at the club he’s improved with every game, in my opinion. I think if he continues to play the way he is there will be teams sniffing around him. I can’t see why teams won’t be looking at Christophe (Berra) at the minute either.

Mingsy (Tyrone Mings) and Bish (Teddy Bishop), people are talking about them all the time, but that’s inevitable with their age playing in a team that’s in the top six of the Championship.

Bish will handle it no problem. He’s a great lad who’s settled in straight away. The lads love him. He’s certainly producing the goods for us at the moment.

Q: How far can Teddy go?

The sky’s the limit for me. He’s one of the best young players I’ve seen. I’d like to keep it quiet really, but I don’t think he’ll be kept quiet for very long.

He’s played against (Adam) Clayton and (Grant) Leadbitter on Saturday and come out on top. They’ve been top Championship players for the last five or six years.

He’s around experienced boys that will help him and I think he’s got a great career ahead of him. It think it’s only a matter of time before he plays in the Premier League. Hopefully he can make it there with us.

Q: He looks so comfortable on the ball.

A: As soon as I have it I just look for him. Just get rid of it! You know what he’s going to produce. He can get out of tight situations. Every time he gets the ball his first thought is to go forwards. Maybe we were lacking that a bit the last couple of seasons.

We’ve been very solid for two seasons, but he’s given us that little bit of extra going forwards. Mingsy stepping in for Cressy and has given us another dimension with his pace going forwards. We’ve got more options going forwards with the two wide players too.

Tabby has been doing tremendous for us as a winger recently. Everyone’s doing well. You never know in the Championship though, there’s always something waiting around the corner that can smack you on the proverbial.

We’re going to enjoy every minute, but we’re not going to get carried away. I’ve learnt there is always a set-back around the corner. It’s about how you handle the ups and downs of football.

Q: Brentford away on Boxing Day. To many they are the surprise package this season. How do you see them?

A: I think they’;re similar to us, really. They’re trying to play football the right way, as they say; though I don’t think there is a ‘right way’.

They try and play the ball out from the back and they’ve got players who can score goals and players that can hurt you. They’ll be tough opposition, but I think they’ll be worried about us as well.

I’m not surprised by how well they are doing because this league is so, so tight and anyone can beat anyone. You can see how teams who get a settled side can go on a good run.

Q: As captain you lead the pre-match. Is it just you who does the talking?

A: It is me. No-one else says a word really. They all look at me like ‘shut up you idiot!’ It’s always nice to get together. That’s the only time you get a little bit of quiet with the lads before a game. I’ll just say a few words of either rubbish or inspiration – it’s whatever they want to take from it. They always seem to respond fairly well and I’ve been privileged to play with them as captain.

Sometimes if I’ve heard something through the week, maybe another team’s manager, or if someone has commented on us, I’ll mention that. It’s generally what’s been happening in the build-up to the game. It’s generally the same sort of thing.

We’ve had decent starts to games, but I’m not going to take any credit for that. I just try and make sure everyone is on it.

Q: Does opposition managers describing you as ‘physical and direct’ annoy the players?

A: To be honest, nothing seems to affect this group. I’ve never known so many professionals, whether they are in the team or out it, to be so encouraging. Whether that’s the management who have instilled that or just the characters we’ve got, I don’t know. Probably a bit of both.

Everyone knows, wherever they are asked to play, what their job is and what’s expected. If they don’t give it then the others lads, or the management, won’t accept it. If someone says something about us we just think ‘we know what we have to do to beat you’.

Q: Dare I say it, but are you actually enjoying playing at right-back at the moment?

A: I did actually say earlier that I’m enjoying it! I’m starting to get forward now rather than just being one-on-one against a winger, which isn’t my forte.

I want to be playing centre-half, I’ll never shy away from saying that, but we’re second in the table and I’ve played at right-back for the last however many games.

I do like it when Ando is in front of me because I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as he does.

Q: Talk me through that flick in the build-up to the first goal at the weekend then!

A: Ha! I knew Didzy (McGoldrick) would read it! A little while ago I’d have got it back from the throw-in and looked to get it up the line. Now we’re trying to build things up, trying to play a bit more and get our better players on the ball.

If I can give it to Didz, Skusey, Anderson, Bish, then they are all better footballers than me. I’ll only be trying that sort of thing in the top corner of the pitch though, not anywhere else.

Q: The trademark fist-pump celebration in front of the Sir Bobby Robson stand was probably the most protracted and passionate one yet at the weekend.

A: A lot is made of teams coming down here – they’re second, your fourth, they’ve got the best away record, you’ve got the best home record – so when you win 2-0 it’s just... It’s not even enjoyment, it’s a little bit of relief really.

I expected us to win, I thought we’d win, but once we got to two or three minutes left I just said to myself ‘we’ve done it again’. All that tension boiling up during the week, it’s just a relief really.

The celebration has come from the fans really. They’ve initiated it and I enjoy doing it. The lads give me a bit of stick though!

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