Chambers on the summer decisions which cost Town, learning painful lessons, Chicago links and bouncing back from League One
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town captain Luke Chambers reflects on what went wrong during a disastrous season and looks to the future following relegation.
Can you put into words your feelings at full-time, following the draw with Birmingham?
LC: It’s hard to say really. We were obviously very disappointed but the game probably summed up the whole season, really.
We had possession and created chances but they just didn’t want to go in.
It was the realisation I suppose. I didn’t know what the results were but we kept pushing it to another game, another game and another game but we were always running out of time.
Then you come off the pitch and it’s bizarre, with the fans staying behind and then the reception that they gave us.
It’s very difficult to put into words but perhaps the only positive to come out of this season is the support we have managed to have behind us.
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It’s absolutely tremendous.
Obviously your lowest point in football? You hadn’t been relegated before.
LC: Yeah, definitely.
I have tried to do everything I can to keep the boys going and stay positive, helping as many as I can along the way, but we’ve fallen short.
We haven’t just fallen short, we’ve fallen way short. There are still four games left and we’re still a long way away from where we wanted to be.
There was obviously optimism at the start of the season and for whatever reasons decisions have been made that have ended up costing us as a club, and we find ourselves where we are.
A few days on, how are you feeling? What’s the vibe around the training ground?
LC: It’s bizarre; the lads don’t seem to change. They just crack on and work and work and work, but we just haven’t been good enough.
Maybe the lads have been resigned to that fact. No matter what we’ve tried, and however well we’ve played in games, we just haven’t been able to find that winning formula.
That’s not been for the past few weeks, that’s been from August, even July time.
How tough is it going to be, getting up for these last four games?
LC: As a player, whatever happens you just have to go out and play the games.
That’s the message I have said to the boys and we just have to keep ourselves going and keep ourselves right, because at the end of the day the manager will be making his decisions, not just over the next four games but with an eye on where we are going to be next season.
He’ll see what people’s characters are like and how they are going to react to this situation.
It’s not time for a holiday, why don’t we try to finish second from bottom? There are teams in front of us that we can try to catch and if we can win some games between now and the end of the season that will certainly give everyone a bit more of a lift going into next season.
How much responsibility do you need to take as players?
LC: Everyone should – everyone, players, everyone and there’s no hiding from that fact.
So anyone that doesn’t think they are responsible for this situation is kidding themselves.
For me, personally, it’s massive. It’s on my shoulders, I’m the captain of the club, captain of the team and I’ve been involved in four wins this season. That’s bizarre and shouldn’t have happened.
I think we can all say we’ve made mistakes as players, on and off the pitch, but you have to take the rough with the smooth at the end of the day. “You have to have it in your character to be able to bounce back and be ready to go again.
We need to look at this three or four month period and make sure we get it right going into next season because we’ll be the big scalp now.
We’ve always had conversations about money in the Championship – what we’re spending and who we’re signing – and now we’ll be the team that everyone wants to beat.
They’ll all raise their game when they play us so that will be a big test for people’s characters and for them as players.
You must be amazed you haven’t had more stick from the crowd. Arguably the atmosphere was worse inside the ground when you were finishing 12th this time last year.
LC: Absolutely crazy.
I don’t know why that is but all credit to the fans. It’s their football club at the end of the day and they’ve been tremendous.
Last year and even when we made the play-offs and the year after when we were seventh, the vibe and atmosphere around the stadium wasn’t like it is now.
The fans would be well within their rights to be abusing the players because it costs a lot of money to come and watch football – not just at Ipswich, everywhere.
All we can do as players is try and reward them for that. Maybe we can go on a journey next season where we warrant that applause and backing, because I don’t think we’ve done enough as players to warrant that applause and support.
It’s not just been at home or just recently, either. It’s been the whole season and it’s been fantastic.
When did you realise the writing was on the wall? Was there a point you realised ‘we’re in big trouble here’?
LC: It’s always difficult to talk about this because decisions were made which have cost us.
We lost 48 goals out of the 57 we scored last season. I don’t think you can strengthen other teams in the Championship the way we did and think everything was going to be ok.
I don’t think we’ve recovered from that or recovered from selling one of the best centre-halves in the league for what we’ve sold him for.
It’s pretty plain to see where I think it’s gone wrong.
Lessons need to be learnt, then?
If you look at the division we’re going to go into now, then Sunderland have signed Will Grigg in January. He’s scored bundles of goals in League One, came to the Championship and didn’t really score.
Then he’s ended up back there and they’ve ended up paying £3million for him in the January window.
They are things we might have to look at because these are the players who are getting teams to the top of their division.
They are the lessons we need to try and learn because we need players who have been there and done it in League One, not just players from the Championship dropping down.
We need players who want to be at the club.
Maybe for players who have played against us recently and are coming out of contract, Ipswich would be a place for me that I would want to come to because the support we’ve received is fantastic.
So it’s worth spending a bit of money to try and get out of the division?
LC: Yes, but wisely, obviously.
I know there are a hell of a lot of good players out there who are out of contract this summer, so maybe you don’t need to spend lots of money.
We do need to get the right players at the right price, obviously, but the draw of Ipswich Town in League One is going to be bigger than most.
How has it been as captain? Would you say you have taken on a bit too much at times?
Even my game has probably suffered a bit while trying to patch every hole.
It’s easy to say ‘concentrate on your own game’ but when you’re out there in the thick of it it’s very, very difficult.
I’ve had some good games, I’ve had some poor games but nobody is free of criticism this season.
It’s been a very, very tough.
We were 100 per cent behind every that went on in the summer, there was not one player who stepped out of line and thought ‘this isn’t right’. To the day the previous manager (Hurst) left us we were fighting every single corner and did everything asked of us because there has not been one bad egg in the dressing room.
It’s not been through the want of trying but we’ve lacked in areas this season, which has cost us.
It must have been a bittersweet moment on Saturday night, picking up the Supporters’ Player of the Year award?
LC: Obviously it’s nice to have the support because people go through patches at football clubs where they are not good enough or get the criticism and make mistakes. That’s part of football.
But to have the backing of the fans is great. They have possibly seen what I’ve been trying to do for the club and keep us going.
It’s nice to pick up but it won’t be one I’ll be sticking on my mantelpiece and be really, really proud of because ultimately it’s led to us dropping down a division.
I’m not in it for personal gain, I’m in it to create a winning mentality.
I came here seven years ago to make it to the Premier League and I thought that was the plan, but slowly and surely we’ve found ourselves dropping down the league to where we are now.
That should be something that galvanises the squad – it certainly will for me and it will drive me even more now to try and get this fantastic club with fantastic support back.
Can you do it next season, bounce straight back up?
LC: I think so, I feel we can if we make the right decisions and get the right players in to help the boys that came up a division this season, the young boys and even the experienced players who have taken a lot on.
I think everyone will be in a position where we have a clear vision of where we’re going to go and I do believe we will be right up there.
It won’t be easy though, will it?
LC: No and anyone who thinks it’s going to be an easy season needs a bit of a reality check, really.
We, as players, know it’s going to be very, very difficult. We have lads who have played in that league as recently as last season – including a young player in Josh Emmanuel who got promoted from it – so we just need to marry it all together and bring a few more in.
We need to stick together to achieve what we want to achieve. The powers that be will have their opinions on players and who they want to stay and who to promote from the youth team because there are certainly players there who can add to the squad.
There are players out injured, players on loan like Luke Woolfenden who have done really well and others who can step into the team.
There will be quite a big change in playing staff, I would imagine, so that’s a big job for the manager and I think he’s looking forward to it.
Does Paul Lambert talk to you about his vision, as manager to captain?
LC: We spoke loads, especially early on in his time here when he was trying to pick everyone up.
He has his vision for the club and I think Marcus is buying into it all as well. Everything he’s asked for so far he’s received and I think the support he’s received from the fans has been great.
He came in with a few question marks having previously managed up the road but fans seem to have taken to him brilliantly.
If we can stay in the same boat moving forward then it’s going to be a strong club.
How important was it to get your future sorted out in the last few weeks?
LC: It was ideal.
I spoke to the manager who told me his plans for me and that he wanted me around, but I’m not just signing here to see out my days, I’m signing here to play and be successful next year and beyond.
I spoke to Marcus personally and he was of the same idea that he wanted me around as well, so it’s nice to have that backing.
Then it’s topped off with the fans giving me the support they have over the last few weeks and months.
It’s been nothing short of fantastic because it’s been a tough time.
You were linked with a move to Chicago Fire in the MLS before you signed…
LC: When you are coming out of contract, regardless of whether you’ve got an option, there are always things going on behind the scenes.
But it was never in my mind to see anything else out.
Yes, maybe I could have gone and signed for someone else in the Championship on a free and played for another couple of years at that level, but my aim now is to get this club promoted and then play again in the Championship the year after.
Surely these won’t be the last two years of your playing career?
LC: No, I don’t feel that at all.
There will be questions of age and this, that and the other but age is just a number when you’ve looked after yourself.
In my career I’ve pretty much been able to average 40 games a season and I don’t think that’s going to change going forward.
You all know me well enough by now to know that whatever it takes to get on the pitch, I’ll be trying to do that.