Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers opens up about abuse from supporters, being in the dark over new deal and the need for new signings

Will current ITFC captain Luke Chambers make it into Terry Hunt's top 100 Town players? Picture: Ste

Will current ITFC captain Luke Chambers make it into Terry Hunt's top 100 Town players? Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers has given a brutally honest interview ahead of tomorrow’s visit of fellow Championship strugglers Blackburn Rovers. Here he labels fans’ ‘abuse’ of Jonathan Douglas ‘unacceptable’, talks about being in the dark about a new deal and admits the squad needs the boost of some new signings.

Jonathan Douglas was booed at QPR

Jonathan Douglas was booed at QPR

You were off yesterday through illness. How are you feeling now?

“I’m alright, yeah. We’re halfway through the season and it’s probably catching up. I’m feeling alright though.”

How’s the mood in the camp at the moment?

“Well, it’s probably where it should be at the minute. We’re not overly pleased with how the first half of the season has gone or pleased with the result last week.

“We’re looking to try and put that right and try and put that sustained run together, because that’s something we haven’t managed so far.”

Town manager Mick McCarthy

Town manager Mick McCarthy - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

There did look a gulf in confidence between yourselves and Lincoln last week with them flying high in their league and Ipswich struggling. Is that fair?

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“It looked like that. It was an opportunity for me to watch the game from a different angle last week. That was a very different experience for me having played most of the games for the last few years.

“It certainly seems that way (the gap in confidence). They came here flying, with absolutely nothing to lose, enjoyed their day and almost got what they were after.

“We managed to get something out of the game though and gave ourselves an opportunity to give a proper account of ourselves on Tuesday night.”

Owner Marcus Evans at an Ipswich Town match

Owner Marcus Evans at an Ipswich Town match - Credit: Warren Page

There wasn’t your usual fist-pump towards the fans after the win against Bristol City recently…

“There was a little one.”

It was a bit subdued though…

“It’s not really the right time to be giving them at the minute. We’re not really riding the crest of a wave, like we have done in previous years.

“Things are tough at the minute and everyone involved with the club – players, fans – are finding it very difficult.

“People are making their feelings known and we’ve got to stand up and take it.”

What do make of players getting singled out for abuse? Jonathan Douglas seems to have had a fair bit of negativity directed towards him? You’re close to him aren’t you?

“We’re all close in there. As a player, when one of your team-mates is getting that sort of stick it is, for me, unwarranted and unacceptable. But you’re never going to win a fight if you’re picking a fight with the fans.

“He’s getting abuse when he gets subbed on. Why would anyone ever want to play for the football club again if you’re running on the pitch as a sub and getting booed by your own supporters? I don’t get it. If that was me I’d be like ‘I think it’s time for me to leave now’. How do you come back from that?”

“They’re entitled to give their opinions, but I think the lads appreciate what he does for the team and what he’s done in a very difficult time for us.

“For me it was very, very disappointing, especially during that game at QPR when he came on (and there were significant boos from the away fans).

“That was no small thing. I think the lads almost went ‘hang on a minute, what’s happening here?’ That was during the game and that’s never a good thing.

“We need to try and pull in the same direction. I know we’re not playing great at the minute, but we need to try and stick together and get though this difficult period.

“It’s a long season and as much as everyone is getting frustrated, we need to try and stick on the same page and try and get ourselves out of, not a mess, but the difficult period we’re having.”

Is Jonathan Douglas old enough and tough enough to deal with it?

“Yeah, he’ll laugh and brush it off. He’s a strong character. Everyone goes through periods in their career where they get singled out or scapegoated. He hasn’t got any other thoughts on it than that being the case.

“He’s been made to feel pretty crap, but we’re backing him and know when he’s called upon he’ll do a job for the team.

“People have their opinions – that’s what football is all about. Everyone has an opinion, whether it’s right or not. You generally hear the ones which have the negative opinions the most.”

Do you worry about the manager’s future? His fate is in your hands as players.

“We haven’t spoken about the manager’s future. We see everyone fighting his corner. We’re all backing him to the hilt.

“He’s done that for us individually and collectively since he’s been here.

“We’re having a tough period that we’re not used to, we’ve been used to fighting for the play-offs.

“We need to stand up, take the abuse we’ve been getting and put in better performances. No-one has played particularly well this year in the whole squad, maybe Tom Lawrence aside.

“Everyone has had their bad games and good games, there’s not been much consistency and that’s shown in our results.”

Have the players let the manager down?

“I don’t think we have, no. That’s you asking that question. I don’t agree with that.

“Things aren’t going the way we planned. The league is getting stronger every year and it’s almost like the top end of the division is an extension of the Premier League now with the fees and wages being spent.

“I’m hearing about a player going from Forest to Villa on 40 grand a week. That’s mind-boggling.

“The chairman has made no secret that he’s not going to do that here, so we’ll have to fight and scrap and do things the hard way which we’ve always done. We’ll keep fighting our corner.”

Are fresh faces needed?

What do you think? Of course we need players. I think we had 11 fit (outfield) players with first team experience at the weekend. We’re a Championship club, a big club, and we need players. That’s no secret.

“Everyone is crying out for a boost and the manager is probably pulling his hair out trying to get players in. I don’t know who has the final say, but we need back-up.

“I’m not happy sitting here going through the motions and not achieving. I’m still ambitious, I still want to get promoted. I’ve got four or five years left in the game hopefully and I want to play as high as I possibly can.

“We need players, we need some quality coming in and we need a boost. If two or three players walk in the door in January everyone is like ‘here we go’.

“We want to be moving forwards, not just standing still and almost going backwards.”

You’re a leader. Are there enough players like that here at the moment?

“It’s always easy to be a leader when things are going well. Definitely now we all need to stand up – me included.

“When I give these interviews I never shy away from the questions. I try and take it on the chin when I’m criticised, whether I think I’ve played well or poorly.

“I’m no different to anyone else. We don’t like being criticised, but we have to stand up. Now is the time that the boys, every single one of them in there, whether they are a leader personality or not, stand up. There’s no hiding place, especially when we play at home.

“The atmosphere can turn quickly after one or two mistakes and you need to be able to handle it. If we have got players who can’t handle it, they can’t play. That’s the bottom line.

“We need to get ourselves out of this situation pretty quickly otherwise it’s going to be a long, long second half of the season.”

How hard is it to play in the current atmosphere at Portman Road?

“It’s very difficult. People aren’t very happy. I don’t know how many it is, but it seems a lot! We’re just trying to do our best.

“At the end of the day we are all normal guys, normal people, we’ve all got families and things away from football.

“Football is our job, we are paid a lot of money and we need to be able to stand up and take it and get through the difficult times.

“We can’t be shying away from it.

“We have to stick together, which we have always done and I’ve always played a part in that. The boys are a very, very good group. They are all honest and it’s not through a lack of trying.”

It looks a tough run of games coming up...

“Everyone will be looking at the game on Tuesday night (Lincoln replay) to see how that goes. I think we’re pretty confident going into the weekend (at home to Blackburn).

“It’s been win, draw, lose, win, draw, win, draw, lose. It’s pretty random and you never know what to expect with us at the minute. That’s something we need to eradicate quickly.

“We need to look forward to this game. They’ll be feeling good after a couple of good results. They are scrapping for their lives and we don’t want to go that way.

“We want to brush them aside and have a positive start to the week.”

You missed the Lincoln game with a swollen knee...

“I don’t like missing games. I didn’t want to miss the Lincoln game, but I’d had a sore knee for four or five weeks and I could have made it worse for the foreseeable without an injection.

“It was one of the games that wasn’t better to miss, but the league is our bread and butter.”

What’s your contract situation?

“Well, I’ve got six months on my contract and they (Ipswich) have got the option for another year on top of that.

“Nothing has been said yet. I don’t know what’s going on to be honest. I’m very happy here and I think people have seen the way I play for the football club. I give absolutely everything both on and off the pitch.

“I’d like to stay, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Are Wolves interested?

“You’d have to ask them.”

But there is some frustration that you’ve not been offered a longer-term deal?

“That’s for other people to... I’ll keep that to myself.”

Have there been any conversations at all about your contract?

“There has been a couple of conversations, but that’s been about it. That’s football. There is a lot of talk about loyalty in the game and you don’t see much of it very often. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

But you’re saying you feel the club should have done something before now with your contract?

“I think so, yeah. It’s not something I really want to go into. You’ve asked the question and I’ve tried to answer it honestly, like I always do.

“I don’t know. Do I feel let down? It’s a very difficult situation to talk about.”

How hard is it to blank out the negativity that comes from the stands when you are out there on the pitch?

“Of course you pick up on it. It would be impossible not to. If anyone came in and played in that atmosphere that was only used to playing park football they would find it very hard.

“It’s very difficult at the moment. I can’t criticise anyone for having an opinion on football and what they are watching or the team. That’s going to happen. That’s football.

“Some people might have the opinion that we should be in the top six, but the fact we were in the top six and then near it the following year counts for nothing when a new season starts.

“If teams are investing like we’re seeing... That’s showing now. We made the play-offs a couple of years ago and haven’t really moved forwards from there. That’s my opinion.”

What was it like watching from the stands? You haven’t missed too many games.

“That’s another thing. I haven’t missed many games the whole time I’ve been here, so to be down to the last six months of my contract is a little bit strange.

“In answer to the question, yes it is difficult watching. I can understand the frustrations. Like I said, it’s not through a lack of trying. The lads are working their nuts off, as are the staff. It’s just not really going for us at the minute.

“Losing Daryl Murphy, not much has been made of it, but that was a massive, massive thing for us. We’ve had quite a lot of injuries this year too and that’s taken its toll.

“Our focal was playing up to Murph. You knew it wouldn’t come back very often. I’m not criticising any of our strikers, they are all very good players, but different types of players.

“Because Murph was 33 when he left we got £3m. If he was 25 we’d have got £10m in this market. It’s very difficult to replace someone of that ilk.”

Where did you sit last weekend?

“I was up in the directors’ box. It looks a lot easier form up there! I was thinking ‘next week I can do this’ and ‘next week I can do that’. I saw things I want to talk to certain individuals about.”

Do you hear different things from the crowd up there?

“I sat in the directors’ box because if I’d have sat anywhere else then I probably would have got into an altercation!

“You can hear it, you can see things. What can you do? We can only change it as players by improving our performances.

“We’re not going to achieve anything by having arguments or disagreements. I’ve never had an argument with a fan and I never will.

“They pay a lot of money to come and watch us, it’s an entertainment business and they need to be entertained. We need to stand up and be counted and improve. Quickly.”

I remember sitting here with you 18 months ago talking about how good the spirit in the squad was and the pride the fans had in you all.

“I could never have envisaged it being the way it is now back then. If you’d have told me that this is how it would be I’d have told you to ‘f off’.

“It’s not nice. But there are others going through it in the division. Bristol City have lost eight out of nine, QPR lost six in a row and have now won three in a row. The league is madness.

“Blackburn have beaten Newcastle twice. It’s crazy. You cannot predict anything.”

There’s a feeling among many that Marcus Evans is letting the club slide.

“I could never criticise the owner because he’s putting a hell of a lot of money in. It’s not my position to criticise the owner. He bought me into the football club, he’s looked after me, given me a good contract and I’ve been here a long time.

“I understand people are looking at it and thinking ‘if we’d have just done that’.

“But it’s his club. He’s spent a fortune on the training ground and he’s got his plan.

“All I can talk about is the first team squad and I do think we need some signings. And he’ll be trying to do deals.

“I would never criticise the manager, I would never criticise the owner.

“As players we would love to see two or three players come through the door and make a difference though.

“They’ll be desperately looking to make the signings that make a difference to us, not just signings for the sake of it.

“Most of the players that have come in have generally made an impact and we need that again now.

“We don’t want to stand still, we’re not just happy coming in, picking our wages up and going home. We want to win.

“We feel it as much as the fans. Do we want to go out there, lose, get booed off and abused? I don’t.

“I don’t need to go out on a Saturday and be unhappy. I want to be happy, just as the fans do.”