'I know I can play for a few more years' - Skuse on his Ipswich Town future
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Ipswich Town stalwart Cole Skuse says he knows he can carry on playing for a ‘few more years’.
The midfielder, who turns 35 next week, suffered a ‘freak’ knee injury in training during pre-season and, following surgery, was sidelined for the first five months of the campaign.
He's back in action now though, having returned to action as a substitute in the recent 1-0 home win against Plymouth and then started the subsequent 2-0 loss at Fleetwood.
Former Blues boss Paul Lambert repeatedly talked about how Skuse and captain Luke Chambers ‘couldn’t beat time’, but new manager Paul Cook has spoken glowingly of the duo, praising their quality and professionalism.
Whether either will get a new contract this summer remains to be seen.
“No way did I ever think my knee injury might force me to retire,” said Skuse, who has racked up 276 appearances for the club since arriving on a Bosman free transfer from Bristol City in 2013.
“I know it has been spoken about in the press over the last couple of seasons – ‘you can’t beat time’ – but for me you can’t tar every 34 or 35-year-old with the same brush.
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“Everyone’s different, especially in today’s game where you look after yourself so well and you’re in the best physical shape.
“I have looked after myself really well, so I always knew it was going to be the case that I would get back when I did. I feel within myself that I’ve still got a little bit of time left in me yet.”
He continued: “Let’s hope I have a few years left in me. I’ve had various chats with the new manager and he has been very positive.
“Everyone in the game that I’ve spoken to has said I can go on and play for as long as I need to.
“As long as I’m feeling physically and mentally good I’ll be looking to play for as long as I can. Right now I know nothing about my future and that is the case for a large chunk of the squad because there a lot of the boys out of contract in the summer.
“Decisions will be spoken about at a later date but for the time being it’s not our main focus.
“Getting out of this league is first and foremost for everyone. With so many players’ contracts expiring it could mean a huge turnaround but the decisions are not going to be made by us.
“The best way of giving ourselves a chance of getting a new contract is to play well and get the side out of this league. That’s all we can do and that’s all we are here to do now. The big decisions will be made by the people in positions of power.”
Skuse started a role at St Joseph’s College in November, but insists that’s not a sign that he’s preparing to hang up his boots.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the school, its staff and pupils,” he said.
“That role all came about through Ralph (Pruden), who was working at the club (as head of education) and left to go to St Jo’s as assistant head of football.
“I kept in contact with him and he’s a real good guy. He popped round for a cup of coffee one day and jokingly said that if he was ever promoted to head of football he would like me to work with him.
“I said I’d be keen and, lo and behold, just a few weeks later, Ralph is on the phone to tell me is now head of football and asking if I am still interested in going to the school to do some coaching.
“I said I’d have to run it by the club and I told them it would not affect my training and playing in any way.
“They were my main focus, my job, so obviously they had to come first. But if I could go to the school some afternoons and spend a couple of hours coaching some different age groups, well, that’s how it has worked out. It’s just across the road from my house and I absolutely love it.
“It is something that has opened my eyes and made me think I really would want to step into something similar when my playing days are finally over.
“But I don’t feel as if I want to finish or as if I’m going to need to finish. Physically, I feel really good and I’m in a mental state where I want to, and know I can, play for a few more years.”
NEW TOWN BOSS PAUL COOK
“He’s definitely a character in football and he’s been brilliant since he came in. He’s given the group a real spark and a bit of oomph, plus he’s on the go from start to finish.
“He likes his cups of tea and coffee, so I think that’s the fuel! He’s had the older players in for a few chats, picking our brains as much as we picked his, and overall he’s just been brilliant.”
ON PAUL LAMBERT’S DEPARTURE
“I wouldn’t say it had become uncomfortable. I can only speak from my own personal experience with him and (assistant manager) Stuart Taylor.
“They were both good for me throughout my injury period, getting me in to interact with the group as often as possible.
“As a group of players we hear and see as much as you guys (the media), so you hear rumours of unrest, but there was no rift from the dressing room up – that wasn’t the case at all. The club decided to make the change they did and that was that.”
ON HOME SCHOOLING
“To miss such a huge chunk of this season has been really, really tough. I think my wife would vouch for that!
“Footballers are creatures of habit and so used to their routines, building up to the weekends because that’s your time to go out, play and try to stamp yourself on games.
“It has been really tough and even the dog is sick of walks on Saturdays and Tuesday evenings!
“We’ve also had the home schooling to contend with and I struggled massively with that, as my kids would confirm!
“I have three children, including a little diddy one – she’s only two and a half – and a boy who’s five and a girl who’s nine. My home-school bracket was five years and down – even the eight and nine-year-old stuff was far too complex for me. My specialist subject was probably colouring and trying to stay inside the lines!”
ON BEING INJURED
“Straight after the operation, due to Covid, it wasn’t as simple as just going in every day, mixing with the boys and hanging around with them.
“At the time the lads were reporting for training in their gear and shooting straight off afterwards, so I wasn’t able to go in and have a chat over breakfast or a cup of coffee.
“I couldn’t even watch them train and then have a chat afterwards because they had to get in their cars and go home without hanging around. That was tough but I was forever in contact with them, going in when I could.
“Paul Lambert and the staff were brilliant, telling me to come in when I could and watch sessions. I even helped with some sessions.
ON SUPPORTING OTHERS
“I’ve had about five months and it has been really, really tough for me. Physically and mentally, I struggled to be honest.
“I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the gym, getting back to fitness with Kane (Vincent-Young), Ben (Morris), Oli Hawkins and James Wilson.
“Kane has had setback after setback and they’ve not been preventable in the slightest, it’s just the way it has happened, while Ben came back for pre-season only to suffer the same (ACL) injury all over again. It has been heartbreaking, it really has.
“I’ve tried my utmost as a person to get around them and speak to them as much as I can to try to lift them in any way, shape or form and offer support.
“It really is tough. People on the outside don’t see that side of things. I know you read certain things about how long players are going to be out for but, having seen them, the lads like Kane and Ben, on a daily basis and seen what they are going through, I have nothing but total respect for them.
“They have kept their heads down and hopefully we’ll see them back soon.”