Stuart Watson's Verdict: Judge Chambers and Skuse's legacy by what their peers said
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Town announced on Monday that long-serving captain and vice-captain, Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse, had been released. STUART WATSON gives his thoughts.
It’s the end of an era at Ipswich Town.
There is no room for sentiment in football, we all know that, but there is room for respect.
Luke Chambers and Cole Skuse have certainly earned that in spades.
Players dedicating almost a decade of their lives to a football club are rare these days.
They are two best friends with differing personalities.
Luke is loud, gregarious, intense and unfiltered. He is, in the words of Skuse, the ‘14-year-old boy trapped in a man’s body playing Mario Kart at the back of the coach with the kids’. He’s a fist-pumping, body on the line centre-back who has played through the pain and regularly out of position too.
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To reach 396 appearances is quite some feat.
Cole, just like his playing style, is consistent, calm and considered. He has a dry sense of humour and quietly goes about his job.
A shortage of goals and assists may mean he was never going to be a fans’ favourite, but his peers never underestimated the value of 'Mr Interceptor' at the base of midfield.
No doubt about it, the joined-at-the-hip duo have conducted themselves with the utmost professionalism on and off the field and been fine ambassadors for the town and the badge.
Yes, it’s an inescapable truth that both have been central figures in the worst period of the club’s proud history.
And it’s also true that many will feel uncomfortable with an outpouring of kind words given the levels of frustration which have built during a prolonged period of stagnation and decline they are associated with.
What I would say, is that it’s okay to think them moving on is absolutely the right decision as the club enters a bone fide new era, but also, simultaneously, to feel a little sad.
First of all, the start of their long spells, including Championship finishes of ninth, sixth and seventh, shouldn’t be forgotten.
Secondly, how much responsibility you apportion on their shoulders for the last three years is an individual choice.
For me, they’d be way down the list when it comes to the tiresome blame game we’ve all become far too accustomed to playing.
“It hurts because people will mention my name alongside a difficult period for the club now and that doesn’t sit great with me,” said Chambers in December 2020.
“But I feel I’m just a number in the organisation. All I can do and all I ever have done is try to be the best player and person I can be for this club.”
Did Ipswich get relegated because Luke and Cole suddenly weren’t quite good enough anymore? Or was it because they were suddenly surrounded by a raft of lower league additions?
Have Ipswich messed up two shots at League One promotion because the captain and vice-captain are at the centre of a so-called culture of comfort/mediocrity at the club? Or, again, have there been far bigger factors at play?
I’m not absolving them of all responsibility here, by the way. Far from it. I’m just trying to be fair and objective in this divisive ‘nail your colours to the mast’ world we live in.
I should also state that I’ve got no reason to go all out on the defensive for these guys.
You can probably count on one hand the number of people who have seen them both play live for Ipswich more times than me. I started covering Ipswich Town in 2011, with Luke arriving in 2012 and Cole rocking up a year later. We were all born within 15 months of each other.
Yet I still can't say I know them well. That’s modern football reporting though. There’s a professional distance. To them, we’re just the guys that cast judgement without experience or knowing the full picture.
However, I’ve spoken to enough people who do know them. And it’s clear that both, while splitting the opinion of fans, are universally adored by their colleagues.
Mick McCarthy said of Chambers: “He’s one of the best captains I’ve ever had. He is a leader, the lads call him ‘skip’ and they all look up to him. I think he’s been an inspiration to a lot of players. He drives them on.”
Stephen Hunt said: “Chambers is the best skipper I played under. When I got to Ipswich, I’d played for my country and played five or six years in the Premier League. This kid, who hadn’t achieved anything like that – and still hasn’t – was my captain. Yet from the moment I met him, I looked up to him.”
Luke Varney said: “He’s the best I’ve had in my career in terms of the demands he puts on players and his attention to detail. It ranges from little things, like sorting tickets out for everyone and helping new signings settle, to being there for younger players. I’ve been at clubs where senior captains can be confrontational, but he is so approachable.
“He really helped me after my (long-term Achilles) injury to the point where he organised a bit of a whip round for me when my contract expired. That was a nice touch, something he didn’t need to do and something I’ll not forget.”
Jack Lankester, one of the six young players at the club who lived in an annexe next door to Chambers’ house, said: “We've built a great relationship with Chambo's family, his wife and three kids. We'll eat around there every night. They've done loads for us.”
Skuse said of his best mate: “He’s one of those guys that’s constantly on the go, and I’ve often said to him that he needs to relax himself and let other people take care of things.
“He’s the type who wants to mend things and it’s credit to him as a person. It’s a good trait to have but it could get to the point where he just needs to concentrate on being the very good defender and captain that he is.”
Chambers, when asked about that interview, admitted: “I think I probably tried to fill every single hole I could see at the football club when that's not my job.”
Do all those quotes speak of men who allowed standards within the club to slip? I don’t think so. Quite the opposite.
Both have their deficiencies as players. Of course they do. Then again, if they didn’t they would have played higher. For me, their pros far outweighed any cons.
I’m sure the vast majority of fair-minded Town fans would have given them the warm and respectful send-off they deserved had the stadium been open last weekend.
I hope that they are given the opportunity to feel that in some sort of testimonial game in the future.