‘Maybe things have been lifted a little bit’ - Chambers on Hurst, Lambert, talk of bust-ups and pulling together
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Luke Chambers discussed Paul Hurst’s departure, Paul Lambert’s arrival and the mood in the Ipswich Town camp ahead of a vital clash against Preston this weekend.
Q:What are your first impressions of Paul Lambert?
LC: All very good and very positive. He’s very clear on his message and he’s got a buzz about the lads already. I think training has been tremendous in the last few days and I think we’re looking forward to the weekend now and, if we’re being brutally honest, I don’t think we’ve been looking forward to too many games of late.
Q: While Lambert is the new manager and people are wondering if he’s the man to get you out of a hole, so much of it still comes down to the players, doesn’t it?
LC: Of course, 100 per cent. When a manager gets the sack the players have to take a lot of responsibility. I think we’re trying to do that in the dressing room and I don’t think you could ever question the lads’ effort on a Saturday. Everyone’s working, working, working but sometimes, when you’re working so hard without possibly having everyone on the same page it becomes even more difficult.
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Q: Have you had a one-to-one with the new manager as captain. Would you expect that?
LC: He pulled me in on the first day which, for me, is very, very good to try and build a relationship.
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If I’m to remain as the captain then that’s great but, at the minute, it’s bigger than me as a captain. It’s all about our club staying in this division.
Q: How important is that bond between a manager and his captain?
LC: It’s massive because if you look all throughout the leagues then you have to have that. Nobody’s place is guaranteed in football and the captaincy shouldn’t guarantee me my place, so if I’m not performing for the new manager then I shouldn’t be in the team.
Nobody can say they should be in the team because, at the end of the day, we’re not performing in the league. You have to earn a place and that’s what the lads are going to try and do. With the positive environment which seems to have been created at the place in the last few days there’s going to be some interesting decisions to make at the weekend.
Q: By the sound of things there’s an air of uncertainty about?
LC: Of course there is. If the manager picks his team then there’s nobody who should be banging on his door to say they should be playing. We are where we are and everyone has a clean slate now and he’s said we need to forget what’s gone on before.
It’s easy to say ‘be brave’ and that everyone needs to get on the ball but we need characters now and for the boys to step up and do what’s being asked.
He’s almost taken the pressure off everyone by saying ‘if you do what I tell you to do and play how I want you to play then, if you make a mistake, then it’s my fault’.
Obviously you know when you make a mistake on the pitch but to know you have the backing of your manager from day one it makes everything a lot clearer.
We’re seeing the benefits of that in training.
Q: This is going to be a big opportunity for some players, isn’t it?
LC: Yes. We’ve used the most amount of players in the league this season which is something we’ve not been used to in the last few years and we are still trying to search for a winning formula.
Everyone’s had their opportunity in the squad and it’s really a chance to nail down, with a clear direction, where you’re playing on the pitch. We’ve been through different scenarios where everyone’s involved, no matter what team it is. If it’s your position you know exactly where you need to be at a certain time. When there are no grey areas in football it’s a whole lot easier.
Q: Has training been very different?
LC: It has so far and when you have a new start like this you’re trying to impress again.
Nobody wanted this scenario at the start of the season. We all wanted to be successful but unfortunately that hasn’t happened. Now’s another chance for everyone to go again and everyone’s looking like they want to perform again and get behind the team itself.
The lads are working hard for one another in training and if someone goes past you you have someone to back you up and there are always options on the ball. Maybe things have been lifted a little bit and the lads are starting to believe in themselves again, which the new guys have had a lot to do with.
Q: When Paul Lambert spoke at Tuesday’s press conference he spoke about having fun. Has that been in short supply in recent months?
LC: It’s never fun being beat because you can have all the fun in the world in the week and then, if you don’t win at the weekend, it’s forgotten about. In football these days it’s becoming a bit like ‘oh, we’ll do this in the week’ but nothing’s geared up to a Saturday.
In a football club, all that matters is winning and if you want to win looking good or win playing ugly. Everything you do throughout the week, really, has to be to prepare for Saturday.
I think we’re going to be doing that now – I’m not saying we weren’t doing that before but I think we can do it an awful lot more.
Q: How bad were things here behind the scenes under Paul Hurst?
LC: There was never any problems but it’s very difficult when things don’t start well and you don’t win a game.
A lot of change has happened at the club which we haven’t been used to over the last few years in terms of players coming in, being asked to step up a level and for lads who have played at this level to help support everything.
There was just so much change in so little time for it to knit together. We haven’t had that opportunity for it to come together but if we had won the first three games then everyone would have come into the team flying.
When things aren’t going well it just seems to be a snowball effect where you can’t stop anything. You don’t train in the week, lose a game and then enjoy yourself – it’s been awful in terms of losing, not sleeping on Saturday nights.
You need to recognise that as a group of players we’re in a position we don’t want to be in. Sometimes you look around when you’ve been beaten and there are a few lads laughing and joking but the realisation needs to be that now is the time, if there’s ever a time in your career, that you need to knuckle down and I think we will do that.
Q: Was man-management a real issue under the last regime? It was clearly a strength of Mick McCarthy’s…
LC: Not really. It was just a different way of doing things.
I’ve said it to Mick before, I’ve said it to Paul Hurst and now I’ve said it to the new manager that I think the lads are like a sponge. Because of the way the club’s been run over the last few years, everyone who comes in is an honest player. We don’t have the funds to buy the best players in the league but everyone who comes in is 100 per cent effort and honesty and are the kind of characters you want around you and to be your team-mate.
They will do what they are asked to do and they have tried to perform and tried to give. There will never be, in this group we’ve got now, a bad egg because we always knock them to the wayside.
That will continue to happen and if someone isn’t doing the right things around the place like not turning up on time, leaving before having lunch with the team or not showering- those little tiny details that can snowball – then something will be said.
That won’t happen and the lads will take onboard everything asked of them. Maybe there wasn’t the black and white of what we’re being asked to do on a Saturday, maybe not as clear as it needed to be.
Q: Was team selection made on performances alone, with so much talk of bust ups?
LC: You can play as well as you have for three years like Bart has done and become a god-like feature to the club and fans, but when things aren’t going well you’re always looking for that answer.
If I’ve made a mistake or Bart’s made a mistake and we find ourselves out of the team, then for us individually then that’s not great and it’s not expected because we’ve been used to a similar selection process and we’ve not used so many players. You could make a mistake and it would be ‘ok, we’re right behind you’.
But we’ve had a lot of change at this football club, not just players coming in but also changes to the matchday selection, so when you’re trying to knit it all together and find the winning formula then it’s hard. I’m not saying the gaffer (Hurst) was wrong in that because we were and still are trying to find that winning formula.
When you make those changes it’s hard for players to have that belief in themselves let alone the ideas that are there.
Q: Do you think Paul Hurst will be a success in the future?
LC: He’s been successful everywhere he’s been so far.
As players I still think we gave absolutely everything but it just hasn’t worked out.
Q: How does the current situation compare to 2012 when you find yourselves in a similar situation to when Mick came in?
LC: It’s similar but, in terms of characters in the dressing room, this is a helluva lot better place to play your football and a helluva lot more ability in the club. It’s just having belief in the yourself and having belief coming from behind you.
The manager has made no secret that he will back each and every one of us, although he will obviously tell you if you make a glaring mistake. But you know you will have that support that will come through the dressing room, come through the manager and we’ll all be moving in the same direction.
Q: Are there enough leaders in this group, compared to 2012?
LC: That was one of the strengths we had but people like Richie Wellens and Nigel Reo-Coker were here at the start of Mick’s reign but not for too long after he arrived. He brought in Championship players and honest lads like we have here.
I think the squad we have here now is better than the one we had in 2012 but it’s just about finding that belief and getting back to our basics and being much more prepared.
Q: How important was that 1-0 win at St Andrew’s back in 2012? Oh what you’d give for a 1-0 win now.
LC: That would be nice, wouldn’t it? That sparked a good season in the end and we averaged something like two points a game and it was one of those seasons where everyone kept winning and you needed 53 or 54 points to stay up. We might need to have another one of those again.
The lads are positive and if you come into the place you wouldn’t feel things are as dire as they are. The first few days have given the belief back to the lads.
Q: What was the key to getting out of this in 2012?
LC: Just being harder to beat. You can play all the nice football in the world but when you concede silly goals from corners, free-kicks and throw-ins from day one, it doesn’t matter how many you score.
We have to be more compact and do all the things you have to do in the Championship.
I think the strength of the league was a little underestimated in day one and I think that’s come home to roost a little bit now. We need to perform over the next however many games and get us to January where the manager will have some ideas I’m sure.
Q: You have to get something from this game against Preston, don’t you?
LC: The thing that broke some of the lads, after the Swansea game where we thought we’d turned the corner, was that we lost two winnable games. That ended up knocking the lads for six.
These are the games you need to get something out of. We’ll be set up in a way where we know what to do and when to do it.
Q: Performances don’t realty matter, do they? You can be as ugly as you like as long as you get points.
LC: Everyone wants to be entertained and that’s what we want to do but there will be times where we need to grind out a win.
I cannot speak highly enough of the fans so far over the last 15 games. There was great optimism at the start of the season and they’ve backed us, backed us, backed us and having 2,000 fans at Millwall was amazing. Having them support us when things weren’t going well was remarkable and it proved we have one of the best away supports in the league and in the country.
Hopefully they can continue to do that for us and back us at home, where we’ve not had the best of form over the last few months especially.
If everyone at the club can fight in the right direction then we can have a good few months. Hopefully that can start on Saturday.
Q: That home form has to be addressed, doesn’t it? It’s been fairly terrible over the last 12 months.
LC: I think it’s festered for the last couple of years and a lot of people have made their opinions known, so we find ourselves in the position we are now where the fans wanted a change at the football club.
That has been going on for 18 months now. Let’s not beat around the bush, we are playing at home and we can feel the negative energy a little bit as opposed to the days when we were hearing ‘ole, ole, we’re the Tractor Boys let’s make some noise’. Those days seem a long time ago.
We need to try and get back to that ‘us against the world’ really now and if we can keep that all in house, the fans keep behind the team and us as players try our socks off to give them something to support because I don’t think we have done so far.
It’s not easy going home at night (after a loss). People can say ‘footballers are paid well’ but it can be very lonely at times. That’s where it’s been for the last few weeks for me.
It’s a difficult position to be in but we need to tackle it with everything we’ve got and come out fighting.
Q: You seem to have a real spring in your step and enthusiasm…
LC: Yeah, there’s no hiding place now for anyone and we have a manager in here who is very honest and everything that goes on will be kept in house.
If he has something to say to you in the dressing then that will be said but it’s a united front. The boys seem to have responded so far to what’s been set out.
Q: You called the lads in after the Leeds game. What was the thinking behind that?
LC: It wasn’t so much me calling them in it was more the fact we played on a Wednesday at Leeds and then a massive game at Millwall on the Saturday.
I said to everyone who’s played, if you think it’s the right decision for you to go home and rest then you do that, but given the characters we had here it was just coming in to have a cool down, have a massage and a stretch to make sure you’re ready to go.
We didn’t want to be coming in on Friday morning hungover, from the loss that is, not from alcohol, and have to get on the bus again and travel on an away trip.
We’ve had chats and we’re trying everything to get that winning formula.
I’ve heard talk of bust-ups but there has never been any bust-ups – we don’t have the characters in the dressing room who would ever second-guess a manager and that kind of talk is beyond me. So don’t believe everything you read.
Q: Then later in the day you’ve heard the news of Paul Hurst’s departure…
LC: We weren’t aware anything was going to happen so we came in in the morning after getting home late.
Then the news broke and it’s ‘here we go again’.
Q: Have you or the other players had contact with Paul since he left?
LC: Yeah, there will be lads that have spoken to them.
It is what it is. It’s a difficult time, what do you say? There will be fingers pointed all over the place and that always happens in football. Everyone will have opinions and disagreements but you have to move on because the football club is bigger than all of us.
Q: After that did the owner contact you at all to ask your opinion on what was needed?
LC: I think that had probably already been spoken about between him and whoever but he did pick the phone up to me after the news had broken and put me in the picture about what he was planning to do moving forward.
That was great to know but it was obviously my responsibility not to tell anyone and let things happen.
Marcus and I don’t speak very often. We spoke in the summer when he told me his ideas of what he wanted to do with the club and then we’ve spoken now when things have changed again.
He’s made his mind up about what was needed and he’ll be backing him (Lambert) over the next few months and in January where I’m sure things will change a bit as well.
Q: It’s been a long time since you’ve been able to treat the North Stand to your celebratory fist-pumps (1-0 win over Leeds in January)… tomorrow would be the perfect time for that.
LC: Saturday would be a very good time to do it again, or I might pass the mantle on to someone else. We’ll see.
Q: Barry Cotter fancied it didn’t he in the win over Barnsley in April?
LC: It will be nice to see Barry. He’s been injured a while but it will be interesting to see where he stands in the next few weeks.
Q: There must be a lot of players in a similar situation to Barry?
LC: It’s a chance for everyone I think. Opinions were obviously made on every player in the club, not just the first team and this a chance for everyone to show how good they are again.
Q: Were there players who felt they were ostracised?
LC: I don’t think you can say that in terms of the first-team because we used nearly 30 players, so everyone’s had their opportunity.
It’s not great, is it, because you don’t use 30 players because that makes it very difficult to have any kind of continuity.
I think the young boys have been maybe not been treated in the way they should have been, but apart from that I think the lads have been treated pretty well but we’ve not been able to get it right on the pitch.
We can only look forward and try and forget what’s happened in the past because that’s not going to help us now. All that can help us is moving on.
Q: Do you mean young players who were sent out on loan?
LC: I think there are players who have been sent out to try and do the best for the player and the club but a lot of them aren’t playing and sometimes aren’t even in the squad.
It’s not ideal sending someone to Scotland and not seeing how he’s getting on. It’s a long way from Scotland to Ipswich.
Tristan has been around the squad here for the last couple of years and has played quite a few games so I think opinions were made very quickly.
We are where we are, we have the players we’ve got and I hope we see those boys again in January because I think they have a lot to offer the football club.
We’re 15 games in and have just one win so I think some of them boys will have definitely helped us and we need all the help we can get.
Q: Did Paul Hurst, when things were going wrong, ask for your thoughts?
LC: I don’t really want to go into it to be honest because it’s done, that chapter’s closed and we have to move on.
Whatever happens in a football club should stay in a football club and that’s how we will move on from it.