Leader Luke puts his body on the line and wears his heart on his sleeve - why Chambers still has a vital role to play
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Town captain Luke Chambers has signed a new two-year deal. STUART WATSON looks at why the 33-year-old defender still has a vital role to play.
What Luke Chambers brings to the party in terms of leadership is said best by those who have worked with him.
Mick McCarthy: “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.
“You want a captain who leads by example – and that’s not necessarily shouting and screaming on the pitch. It’s how you conduct yourself on a daily basis.”
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Stephen Hunt: “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: “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.
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“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.”
Speaking in 2015, Chambers said: “If someone is not doing things right here they get shut down by the rest of us pretty sharpish. They don’t last very long.
“There were obviously nuggets here before where you heard more about what they were doing away from football. Not any more.”
If anyone knows Luke Chambers then it is Cole Skuse. The pair quickly struck up a firm friendship when the latter joined the club in 2013, with Skuse best man at Chambers’ wedding in 2015.
He painted a good picture of the Town skipper’s organisational skills when concurring with boss Paul Lambert’s view that Chambers had ‘probably taken too much on his shoulders’ in recent times.
“He’s one of those guys, 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,” said Skuse, smiling.
“If I ring him to see if he and his wife fancy going out for a bite to eat with me and my wife he’ll immediately say ‘yes, no problem, I’ll sort that out’. He’ll take it upon himself to book the table and decide the time – he’ll even decide who’s driving there and back.
“If I say to him ‘what about going on holiday in the summer, the two families’ he’ll say ‘I’ll sort it’. He’ll arrange everything, the transportation from the airport to the hotel, even getting the bags upstairs to our rooms.
“Basically, he wants to sort out everything to the last detail. That’s just him as a person so you can imagine what he’s like in a football environment.”
Six young Town players live in an annex on the side of Chamber’s house.
One of them, Jack Lankester, explains: “We’ve built a great relationship with Chambo’s family. There are times in football where you might need someone to talk to, so to just be able to go around the back and say to a figure like Luke, ‘can I talk?’ is great for us. It’s done a lot of things for me. “
Chambers, speaking in 2015, said: “I think I’m pretty good at telling when something is wrong with someone. I can see it straight away in the way they are training or how they are being. One of the young lads is about to have their first kid, one of the player’s dad isn’t very well; it’s about making people comfortable to speak about stuff like that.”
HEART ON THE SLEEVE
He feels what you feel after wins – we’ve seen that with the fired up fist-pumps and swearing on live TV following Noel Hunt’s dramatic winner at Charlton.
And he feels what you feel after defeat – the post-defeat body language and impassioned interviews throughout this horrible season are proof of the hurt.
He’s spoken honestly about owner Marcus Evans’ spending, his own contract frustrations, almost rejoining former club Nottingham Forest, managerial changes, as well as discussing referees, agents and the media.
What you see is what you get.
BODY ON THE LINE
Chambers has started 313 of the 338 games Town have played since his arrival on a Bosman free transfer from Forest.
So many times he has played through the pain to be out there.
He’s been on the field with bad headaches, blurred vision and cracked ribs.
Last year, he joked he would be back ‘within a couple of weeks’ after dislocating his shoulder and fracturing his sternum.
Most recently he has been having blood drained from his foot and playing with a broken wrist.
He said: “At the end of the day we’re paid a helluva lot of money for the job that we do and you have to do whatever’s required of you to get out on that pitch and show a bit of bottle.”
Chambers formed a rock-solid central defensive partnership alongside Tommy Smith in 2012/13, the Blues keeping 12 clean sheets in their final 22 matches, then Christophe Berra’s arrival saw him shifted to right-back.
Some players would have sulked. He didn’t.
Did he have some tough days against tricky wingers? Yes. Did he get better and better in the role? Absolutely.
“I’ve never been one of the best players in the teams I’ve played for, in my opinion, but I’ll always give everything,” he said.
“I’ll always be honest and I’ll do anything for the team. If we won 20 games in a row and I was out of the team then no-one would be happier than me. That’s the way I’ve always been as a person.”
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PART OF THE FABRIC
He’s always had time for the fans. He’s settled in the area. He’s made it clear that, one day, he would love to be manager.
“The lads say ‘what you doing this weekend, are you going home?’ And I say ‘this is my home’,” he said.
“I could happily finish my career here. In fact, I could see us living in our house for the rest of my life.”