Big interview: Stephen Hunt on his contract, goal premonitions and banging on Mick McCarthy’s door
- Credit: James Ager
Stephen Hunt made his first Ipswich Town start in more than two months on Tuesday night. STUART WATSON spoke to the Irishman about his contract, goal premonitions and banging on Mick McCarthy’s door.
Q: Hi Stephen. It must have been good to be back on the field on Tuesday night (3-1 home win over Cardiff)? Your previous appearance was in the 2-1 home win over Sheffield Wednesday back in February.
A: Yeah. I tweaked my hamstring, was out for four or five weeks and then it was hard to get back in the team. I just had to be patient.
Q: How is the match fitness?
A: Err… The match helped. Let’s just put it like that. I wouldn’t say I was at my sharpest, but we won, I played and that was pleasing. That’s eight successive league games we’ve won when I’ve started.
Q: Has that record been mentioned to the manager?
A: (Smiles) Yes!
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Q: Go on...
A: I might have knocked on his door once or twice and put a few of my records in the gaffer’s face. It doesn’t make any difference though because he’s the boss.
You have to make sure you know he’s the boss. And I know he’s the boss!
Q: What was his reaction?
A: ‘Calm down you!’ Listen, I said it in a cheeky way. He knows what I am and how I go about things. I say something and 10 minutes later I think ‘why the hell did I say that for?’ He knows what I’m about and we have no problems.
Q: Have you been banging on his door this week? You must be desperate to face your former club Wolves on Saturday.
A: If I’d played really well on Tuesday I wouldn’t have had to say anything. I was disappointed in how I played, if I’m being truthful, so it’s probably best I keep my mouth quiet this time.
I know I probably needed to be exceptional to stay in the team. It was a game under my belt though and with three games left I just want to play my part.
Q: How do you look back on your time at Molineux? A last-gasp goal from yourself to keep them up, then two relegations.
A: Enjoyment, difficult patches, the last season (relegation to League One) was difficult for sure. They’ve got a team spirit there now though, they’ve got good characters and it’s amazing what that does.
Q: Did you leave there on good terms?
A: You don’t leave on good terms with a team that gets relegated – simple as. Did I have my moments where I enjoyed it there? Of course. The goal at Blackburn (in the 87th minute on the final day of the Premier League season) that I scored to keep them up was a highlight.
My family still live in the Midlands, I liked the area and I wish them well. Just not on Saturday.
It’s been nearly three years since I was at Wolves. I’m an Ipswich player now. We’ve got three games to go and are on the edge of something good for this club. That’s all that matters.
Would I celebrate if I played and scored? More than likely, because they’d celebrate against me.
Q: Would Mick have kept Wolves in the Premier League? You were only in the relegation zone on goal difference, and there were still 13 games to go, when he was sacked.
A: That’s a question for the gaffer! Obviously when he got sacked we were still in with a good chance. Unfortunately we went down that year, which was disappointing.
Q: Cole Skuse finally got his first Ipswich goal on Tuesday night. It’s your turn now surely...
A: I only score important goals! Cole’s goal was certainly important on Tuesday night. I’m delighted for him because he’s been outstanding for us, especially the last six or seven games – he’s been phenomenal.
When he got his 10th booking on Tuesday I thought he was going to be suspended and I kept saying to him ‘come on, forget about it’. Thankfully the deadline for the bookings had passed though.
Q: Is Cole a real players’ player?
A: When you say that you think ‘steady Eddy’, but his passing, his choice of pass, has been phenomenal for the Championship. You have to play the ball in certain areas and he plays the right pass every time.
Q: You mentioned that goal you scored at Blackburn on the last day of the season to keep Wolves in the Premier League on goal difference. Funny enough, Ipswich finish the season at Ewood Park...
A: I said to the missus that I would score the goal that kept us up that year. I swear on my kids’ life that’s what happened.
I genuinely always believed that would happen and I’ve got a good feeling about this year too.
I know I’m way overdue a goal and there’s something inside my head saying that sort of thing could happen for me again.
Q: What do you expect the atmosphere to be like at Molineux on Saturday? What were your experiences with the Wolves fans?
A: I think when we stayed up that first year they were great. When we got relegated they begun to get frustrated with the chairman. I remember coming back after a hip operation, I’d been out for six months, and I got booed off after 70 minutes. I’d literally trained for two days.
So I had a go back at them and told them to start supporting the team and not hammering the players. I think that helped me to be honest with you. I almost did it to get a reaction out of me. It made me forget about my injury and crack on.
I think they probably respected me in the end for that.
Q: Mick McCarthy and Terry Connor got a warm reception when they went back to Molineux. What sort of reception do you think you and Christophe Berra will get?
A: I hope Berra gets a bit of stick. He probably will do and that will make him play better.
If I was them I’d probably cheer us because it might keep us a bit quieter.
Berra’s been exceptional since he’s been here, he’s been brilliant, and nothing phases him. He’s gone up another level since leaving Wolves, picked his game up, matured and he’s flying.
Q: You’re contract expires in the summer. What’s the situation with that?
A: I don’t know yet. I haven’t even spoken to the manager about it. There are more important things going on. Obviously we’ll have to sit down and talk about it at some stage.
Q: You’d like to stay though?
A: Of course I’d like to. If you were to leave this club you’d be sad to leave the lads behind. You go to work every day and you’re happy to see them. You’re not coming and thinking ‘look at him over there in the corner by himself’. There’s none of that. We’re all together.
If anyone is out of line then we all work hard to keep them on track.
If we get promoted I think I’ll be here anyway. I think I automatically get a new one-year deal if we get promoted.