Big interview: Freddie Sears on Ipswich Town fighting relegation, rumours of discontent and Hurst’s methods
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town are bottom of the Championship after 13 games. Here’s what striker Freddie Sears had to say about the threat of relegation, rumours of discontent and manager Paul Hurst’s methods.
Q: Saturday was obviously a painful watch for the Town fans. What was that one like to play in?
A: Tough, frustrating… I don’t think there were many positives to be honest, which is disappointing after the result we had before the international break (3-2 win at Swansea).
The only positive, probably, was Jack Lankester coming on and making his debut and showing what talent here is in the academy here.
Q: Do those kind of games linger? Are you like a bear with a sore head on Saturday night and Sunday morning?
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A: Yeah, you’re thinking ‘what’s gone on there?’ and ‘how has that happened?’ The international break sort of kills the momentum, but it was a home game and a game we needed to win. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to do that.
Q: It can’t happen again can it?
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A: No, it can’t. But we’re going to Leeds next, so it’s not going to get any easier. We have to roll our sleeves up and dig deep, I suppose, because there are no easy games in the Championships.
Q: Did the players get together for a debrief?
A: There were words said after the game in the changing room, a quite honest discussion, which normally happens after a disappointing result. It wasn’t just a disappointing result, it was a disappointing performance.
Maybe the lack of energy, the lack of… everything. Just nothing seemed to go right. I basically watched the game for 90 minutes and it wasn’t enjoyable for me. The fans obviously didn’t enjoy and I don’t think any player out there enjoyed it either.
You have a chat with a few of the boys over the weekend and try and get to the bottom of it and work out how we make it better. You come in Monday and go again on Wednesday night.
Q: Did you find the answers you were looking for in those chats?
A: Good question. I think more hard work, keep putting in the time on the training ground… It’s been tough.
There are a lot of new players here. That’s obviously not an excuse, but it’s the truth. Since last season there has been a lot of change here and the starting 11 is a completely different starting 11.
It’s Championship football, it’s hard, and QPR done a job on us at the weekend.
Q: Is there enough Championship quality in the squad?
A: Erm… *puffs cheeks out*
I’m not sure to be honest. That’s a good question.
Just look at last season, we lost a lot of good players… I know the stand out players are Waggy, Garns, Webby, which they are, but there are other players like Callum Connolly, Bersant Celina, Cameron Carter-Vickers who were all proven Championship players and a few of them have played in the Premier League.
It’s tough. The boys have all come in, they’ve got different attributes and different ways of playing, and sometimes it doesn’t click right away. Unfortunately at the minute we haven’t got that time. We’re bottom of the league and the worst team in the league at the minute.
It’s up to us to try and change that and get everyone pushing in the right direction. It’s tough, but you’ve got to stick with it.
The next three, four games are really important.
Q: You made the step up from Colchester, then in League One, to the Championship. Is the difference now the number of players who have made that step up together?
A: Yeah, I think so. When I came in it was different. I came in as one and into a dressing room with Bezza (Christophe Berra), Chambo (Luke Chambers), (Cole) Skuse - a team of men and Championship players. It was pretty easy for me to adapt because of that.
For the first few games I was on the bench and the old manager (Mick McCarthy) worked me into the team, which was good.
It seems to be now that four or five have gone straight in. That’s not anyone’s fault, but it’s tough. That’s football. We’ve signed the players and we’ve got top be ready.
Q: Can you understand why supporters are worried at the moment?
A: Yeah. It’s tough. It’s a tough league. To be honest, since I’ve been here, we had the first two years of finishing 6th and 7th and after that it’s been a bit of a struggle.
I’m not sure we can compete with the top six teams anymore in this division. You want to try and compete and get up the league, but the money that’s being spent in this division… it’s like a mini Premier League.
Just look at someone like Villa, all the money they’ve spent and they’re still not up there. It’s a real tough league. We’ve just got to do what we can and stick together.
You feel sorry for the fans because it seems to be going the wrong way at the minute. Everyone has just got to stick together and try and have a real good go for the next four or five games.
Q: How different is it under Paul than under Mick?
A: It’s different. The new manager has come in with new ideas, good ideas, but the ultimate aim in football is winning games. If we were winning games every week it would probably be a lot better.
At the minute it’s a difficult period for everyone. We’d like to be in a better position and the gaffer would like to be in a better position. If we was then there probably wouldn’t be as many questions asked as there are at the minute.
Q: Do you all believe in him; what he’s trying to get across and what he’s trying to do?
A: I think we do. The gaffer’s a good man. Everyone is playing for the gaffer at the minute.
I think it’s results. You start getting a few wins and it starts looking rosy again. At the minute we’re losing and we’re not getting that rub of the green. Saturday was obviously disappointing, but before that I don’t think there were too many games, maybe Middlesbrough, where the opposition was better than us.
There’ve not been lots of games where we’ve been really outplayed, but we’re conceding sloppy goals and not getting enough chances to score goals so it’s going to be tough.
Q: You’ve got to go to Elland Road and stand up now…
A: It’s going to be tough because they are probably one of the best teams in the league. But we’ve got nothing to lose. I don’t there are many expecting us to go to Elland Road and get a result apart from the 24 players and coaching staff in the dressing room.
Q: You’re one win this season did come at Swansea…
A: Yeah. You’ve got to go into every game believing you’ll get a result. We obviously rode our luck at times at Swansea, but we got the result I think we deserved in the end. The weekend before at Birmingham we were 2-0 up and couldn’t see that out.
I think playing away probably suits us better at the moment.
Q: How about your own form? How are you finding playing up front on your own?
A: It’s been a frustrating season for me. I picked up an injury in the Blackburn warm-up, tweaked my groin a little bit, played the game, and after that have been struggling a little bit. I’ve not been fully fit, not been in, sometimes I’ve been left out.
I’m just glad to be back in at the minute. I’m feeling really good now and hopefully can push on from the Swansea game.
Q: As much as people have praised your performances, you must want a goal?
A: Of course, that’s what strikers are there for. At the minute though I think the most important thing is getting the wins, no matter who scores. We’ll take a scrappy 1-0 win every day of the week.
Q: And you need the correct service. There’s no point pumping up long balls to you is there?
A: It’s tough. We’re playing one up front at the minute. On Saturday I was trying to win headers against two 6ft 4in centre-backs. Swansea was different. Away from home you can afford to play on the counter-attack a little bit. At home we need more creative spark and to take the game to the opposition rather than waiting for them to take it to us.
Q: You must relish Andre Dozzell being fit? You linked up so well at Swansea.
A: Dozza’s brilliant. He’s only young but he has got that bit of quality. He can find you out of nothing and has that extra creative spark. I think his challenge is coping with the Championship. He’s a young lad and it’s a tough league. Three games a week may be too much for him at the minute, but he does have that added bit of quality.
Q: How hard is to play under the pressure you’re under at the moment?
A: It’s tough. Obviously you’re under pressure all the time, but there’s a lot more of a spotlight on us at the moment.
I listened to TalkSport last night and heard Matty Holland talking. To a certain extent a lot of the stuff he was saying was right. It’s sad to see at the minute what’s happening at the club.
That’s football. There’s always pressure. If we were winning games then it wouldn’t be spoken about. It’s down to the players to turn it around.
Q: So you feel former players are allowed to have a say?
A: Definitely. Everyone’s allowed a say. We could do with a Matty Holland now playing in the team, but that would cost a lot of money the way the game is today.
Everyone can have their say, but it’s down to the players on the pitch to get the results and try and push this club back up the league.
Q: Matt Holland said in that interview that he’d heard Marcus Evans was already talking to other managers. How does that affect players when things like that are being said publicly?
A: It’s obviously difficult to hear. I listened to the interview. I know Matty, I’ve seen him around a few times and we always have a good chat. He’s a true Ipswich legend and he can say what his point of view is and what he’s heard.
It’s a little bit hard for players though. And I suppose if the manager’s heard that then it’s not nice for him to hear.
But we’re in a position at the moment where people are entitled to have an opinion on the club because we’re bottom of the Championship.
Q: The manager said after the game on Saturday that he takes his share of the blame, but that the players have to take their share of responsibility too. Is that fair?
A: Yeah, I think it is. The players are the one son the pitch. We’ve not been good enough this season.
But I think we’ve used the most players, we’ve not had a stable team… It’s been difficult.
I can sit here and make excuses, but at the end of the day it’s down to the players. We have to take full responsibility for that.
Q: Paul has been quite blunt at times and he’s worked you all very hard behind the scenes. Has it been a big adjustment for you as players?
A: It’s been different. From week one in Alicante we knew it was going to be tough. It’s probably the hardest pre-season I’ve done since I’ve been a professional. It was tough, it was mentally tough and it was grinding. We managed to get through it.
The manager has come in, put his stamp on things and made some bold decisions. Obviously Bart has been left out, Jonas has been left out lately. Sometimes it upsets people, but you’ve got to do what’s right for the team.
The most important thing is winning games and at the minute we’re not doing that.
Q: Matt Holland also spoke about rumours of discontent behind the scenes. Is that how it actually is?
A: A lot of things go on at football grounds that people don’t know about. The manager is a good guy and speaks to us. Sometimes you leave people out though and they’re going to be upset and not going to be happy. They might say something to someone else and then a story is out there.
It’s tough. At the minute we’re bottom of the league. A lot of those things, if we were mid-table or higher, I don’t think anything would be made of it.
At the end of the day we’re bottom of the league and people are going to make judgement and little things will come out here and there.
Q: So do little things go on behind the scenes when teams are at the top end of the table and it just doesn’t get out?
A: Yeah, definitely. People get frustrated at football clubs all the time. Things get said, some people take it better than others, but you always move on. When you’re winning a lot of games a lot of things get swept under the carpet.
When you’re at the bottom then, naturally, you see a lot more of those discontent type stories coming out.
Q: Playing up front on your own, is that something you like doing?
A: To be fair I see myself as being part of two up front. But I’d rather be up front and down the middle (than on the wing).
It worked at Swansea, it didn’t probably work as well on Saturday. I’ve done it before, I did a few years at Colchester, although I know it’s a different level.
My best role, for me, is two up front with someone to play with. I think two up front is a bit out of fashion at the minute though and has probably killed me football wise.
If I was picking the formation I’d pick two up front, but I’m not the manager and I don’t get paid to make those decisions. A lot of teams now are playing the 4-3-3 or the one up top. That’s the modern game.
Q: Going back to the long balls up to you, that’s obviously not what you plan on doing as a team. Is that more a case of players lacking confidence on the ball?
A: Yeah, we obviously don’t work on that in training because it would be ridiculous. I think confidence is massive. I go back to the West Ham (pre-season) game and the way we were playing it around. There was nothing on that game, obviously. The Blackburn game we had good spells.
Confidence is a big factor in football. If you’re a bit nervous you want that extra touch or maybe you just boot it long. That’s confidence. I’m sure if we were winning games of football it would be a lot better because there are good players here and training is good.
I think I heard the manager say it was like a different set of players on the pitch Saturday than he had seen in training. That’s fair, to be honest, because the training is really good and then it got to Saturday and was terrible.