‘We let ourselves down a bit... now we need to refocus’ – Chambers on Ipswich Town’s need to handle the promotion pressure
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town captain Luke Chambers has been reflecting on disappointing defeats to Rotherham and Peterborough and looking ahead to tomorrow’s game at Sunderland. Here’s what he had to say at this morning’s press conference.
Q: Last weekend did feel a bit self-inflicted...
A: Absolutely it did. We started really well, then - bang - we give a penalty away, then a really silly second and it's like 'oh, how did that happen?' So yeah, I do feel it's not panic stations because we inflicted that result on ourselves really.
Q: So it's not as if Peterborough are 4-1 better than you?
A: I don't think it was a 4-1 game. You try and see why things have gone wrong. It's would be easy for me to just say 'we were crap, we were s***, we got battered'. I don't think that was the story of the game if you look back at it.
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Giving them a 2-0 lead was always going to give us a mountain to climb, regardless of who we are, the history of the club and what fan base we've got. It's difficult when you put yourself in that position rather than someone doing that to you.
Q: Did you, as a captain, put your arm around Will Norris after that mistake?
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A: Of course. Mistakes are part of football. In the Sunderland game earlier in the season, I was the one who made the mistake which cost us two points. It happens, especially when you play at the back, even more so as a goalie.
But his personality is big enough and he is more than strong enough to bounce back. He knows he should have cleared the ball. There's no need for any of us to go up to him and say 'you should have done this' when it's glaringly obvious.
For me, he's done really, really well when he's played and he's a tremendous part of this squad who we need from now until the end of the season.
You have to move on from things like that otherwise it eats away at your confidence and you can never be the same player you were when you were playing well.
Q: How disappointing, maybe worrying, have the last two games been?
A: I wouldn't say worrying. I would say very, very disappointing. Obviously you go into those games trying to take as much as you can out of them and give a good account of yourself, but I think we let ourselves down a bit, definitely so - especially last weekend.
We started well, but gave two silly goals away and once you do that against a team who have been as ruthless as they have been it's always difficult to get back into the game then.
We've dwelled on it for a couple of days then we've just fully focussed on the next one in front of us because that's all we can do.
The gaffer has just said 'we need to refocus now, get yourselves away, come back in and we'll attack these next 15 games'. I think that pressure has maybe lifted a bit. I think we got ourselves so het up with 'we've got to win, we've got to win, we've got to win' that it takes an edge off your performance a little bit.
Q: Are you capable of beating a top side in this division?
A: Absolutely. You can make of that what you want. We've had good stages in the season, we've had poor stages and we're now looking to replicate what we did in the first 15 games across these last 15 games.
Q: Why do you think you haven't beaten one of the big hitters so far?
A: If I knew the answer to that I probably wouldn't be sat here. I don't know. Maybe we put so much emphasis on ourselves to beat them that sometimes you can try too hard and do things that aren't natural to you.
I haven't really got the answer why we haven't, but we need to try and do that between now and the end of the season.
We find ourselves fourth in the league having not won one of those games you've mentioned. We've got to put a run together now between now and the end of the season. That will require beating someone in and around us.
Q: You say the last two games weren't worrying. They've worried supporters. Do you understand why it would do that?
A: Absolutely. They are well within their rights to demand better from us. I don't really like coming here sitting and talking because it's not going to help anyone me talking on the radio. I don't want to do it, but it's part of my job.
The talking has got to stop. We've just got to produce on the pitch - simple as that.
Q: This Sunderland game is a big one, isn't it?
A: Yeah, it's massive. It's a big week coming up, three games in a week (AFC Wimbledon away, then Burton at home), and we're looking forward to it. We've got something in mind that we want to take. I think we're better when we're playing regularly and have games in front of us.
Q: The away form this season has been exceptional...
A: Yeah, and we've got to continue that, then we've got to strengthen our home form because we've got a lot of games at home left. It's case of getting through this week and then it will be clear what we've got to do between then and then end of the season.
Q: Sunderland also have a weight of expectation on them. Will the aim be to turn that home crowd tomorrow?
A: I think the pressure is on everyone in that bunch at the top of the league now, none more so than us. It will be how we handle it and how we perform. We haven't done that in the last two games. Before that we won three and drew two and were top of the league, so it can change so quickly.
When you lose a game it feels like the end of the world, for me personally it's awful, but it's about refocusing for the next game. There are 15 games left, 15 cup finals - simple as that.
Q: Are you looking over your shoulders at all? The chasing pack have some games in hand. It's all closed up.
A: No, not really. I haven't looked at the league really, I just know how we're ticking along. People can think what they want. Whatever appears in the media becomes gospel, so it's just how you handle that situation. You look at it and use it as fuel to drive you on, to toughen you up and focus you on the job in hand.
Q: The pressure is only going to build now. Have you got enough big personalities, characters and leaders in the group to handle that?
A: I think we have. The turn of the year was something we needed to sort out and we did that.
I don't think there is any shame in being beaten in the last two games because of the way the opposition was playing.
As a big club like Ipswich we haven't got a given right to beat anyone in this division. We all want to get back to the league above, that's no secret, but you have to just take your medicine when it comes. It's how you respond and recover.
We had a very difficult period before Christmas and we bounced back from that and ended up back at the top of the league. There's no reason we don't get to the end of next week in a different position again.
Q: Would it be a failure to miss out on promotion this season?
A: Yeah, of course. We need to bounce back as quickly as possible. I think we've got a strong group of players, a group that is still learning, even at this level. A few of the boys haven't played at this level consistently. We need to produce when the pressure is on. Whatever division you are playing in, when you play for Ipswich Town the pressure is there.
Q: It looks like you're enjoying the new system, with yourself and Luke Woolfenden given freedom to attack.
A: I feel I'm very fit, so it suits me personally. Woolfy is obviously a very good footballer. I think James Wilson has done well too.
In the last two games we haven't played it as well as we would have liked. We started well against Peterborough and it looked as though we would go and make a difference in the game, but when you give good teams an opportunity they more than likely take it.
Putting the last two games aside, the system seems to be working so far. I'm enjoying getting forwards. I'd rather be forwards than defending. If me and Luke can help out in attack and make things happen then we're all for it.
We're enjoying playing regularly and in the same position.
I've not got the best reputation for being a right-back! But I'm pretty sure I was in the team that made the Championship play-offs when I played right-back, so I can't have been too bad at it.
Obviously I've never made any secret that I want to be centre-half. With how fit I feel and how strong I am, I do feel I've got something to offer in this role. I think I've shown that in the games so far.
If picked I'm looking forward to doing it again tomorrow, if that's the way we go.
Q: Gwion Edwards misses the next two through suspension, but you two seem to have struck a nice partnership up the right...
A: Yeah. I think Gwion plays better when he plays regularly. He's played himself into a nice little position for us.
What's been a big loss for us is Kane Vincent-Young. He came in and set the stadium alight and has been a big loss. Hopefully we can get him back for the run-in.
Janoi (Donacien) has been fantastic when he's played. If that's the way the gaffer decides to go, if he keeps the same system, then he can give a hell of a lot more going forwards with me as that insurance behind him. He's a very fast lad, he's good at attacking and when the shackles are off him a bit he can blossom in that position.
It's up to everyone to fight for. The gaffer has made no secret that if you're performing well now then you're going to stay in the team. So there could be changes afoot after the last couple.
Q: The rotation policy appears to have stopped. How did that come about? Did players have a say in that?
A: I think the gaffer has obviously made his decision that at the turn of the year, with us looking for some more consistency in our results, he'd go for that. That's the way it's gone and that's the way it's turned out.
We could have been sat there on five straight wins having lost the two points at Wycombe and not getting the win at Oxford when we felt we should have had a clear penalty and potentially them getting a red card. The games could be so different. We could go back through all of them.
The gaffer has put the pressure back on us. 'You've got the shirt and it's up to you to stay in the team'. I think that's the way it should always be as a player.
Q: To get through the January transfer window and still have Luke Woolfenden and Flynn Downes in the building, how important was that?
A: We were never going to let them go I think. Whether people even bid enough money to even make Marcus (Evans) pick the phone up... That's probably what happened.
They've been fantastic. And we shouldn't be looking at those two to get us out of any holes and produce absolute wonders for us between now and the end of the season. They've done absolutely brilliant to get to where they are.
Flynn, for me, has been one of the best players in the division, as has Luke. We've still got a very defensive record and he's a major part of that.
Q: Nobody really knew last summer how this season was going to pan out following relegation. If I'd have offered you fourth with 15 games to go, would you have taken this scenario?
A: I think so. Fourth and three points off automatic, from the crap we went through last year and the way the place was, yeah, I think we probably would have taken that. I think everyone connected with the club would have taken it.
Because we had such a great start things are a little bit tinged with disappointment at the moment and rightly so. We can't be getting beat 4-1 at home by one of our promotion rivals.
But at the end of the day it's three points and things can turn around so quickly. We can't get too disappointed and we can't get too excited. It's now about consistency between now and the end of the season.
Q: You've talked about the weight of expectation. Sunderland certainly have that too. Last year that probably paid a part in them not managing to go up. Could that play into your hands tomorrow with them playing in front of a big crowd?
A: Every team that does well, the pressure builds, the expectation builds and that transfers through to the pitch. It's how you handle it. We handled the first 15 games, transforming the mindset of the club and the team fantastically well.
We've almost got to go back to that and remember what the pressure was like before games then to be able to produce what we need to produce between now and the end of the season.
They are under a lot of pressure because of the size of their club. Whether they've got the players for it, or whether we've got the players for it remains to be seen.
The situation we're in now... can we handle it? I think the answer is yes. We're in such a good position still. We responded on January 1st and there's no reason why we can't respond again.
Q: It sounds like you've broken up these last 15 games into blocks and set yourself some mini points targets.
A: You've got to keep it realistic. Every game is three points. If you can take as many of them as possible, not lose too many, it's simple maths really. It's a simple game. We need to produce the performances we did in January again.
Q: Do you have to remind yourselves what you did, not only at the start of the season, but at the start of this year? Can these last two games be seen as anomalies?
A: We turned a corner. Then Rotherham outplayed us and deserved to win, but still we could have got something out of that game. That's how close the margins are in this league.
We gave Peterborough a 2-0 head start, we're chasing the game and get caught with two sucker punches. They are games you can sit back, look at and think 'right, what have we done right, what have we done wrong'.
It's a 15-game season now. Everyone has raised their games against us so far. It's up to us to raise our games against everyone else now.
Q: This is what you've wanted as a player challenging for promotions. The play-off season aside, you've not had this type of pressure during your time at Ipswich. This is the type of pressure the lads should be thriving on, isn't it?
A: Exactly. We should be thriving on this pressure because it's such a fantastic opportunity, regardless of the division we're in, to really, really put ourselves in the history of the club.
We became a negative part of the club's history last year and now we have an opportunity to make positive history.