‘For too long we’ve worried about other teams... now people can worry about Ipswich’ – Chambers on McCarthy frustrations
PUBLISHED: 14:14 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:14 01 August 2019
Ipswich Town skipper Luke Chambers has given a typically open interview ahead of the new season. In the third and final part of this chat with STUART WATSON, he reflects on the frustrating end to Mick McCarthy’s reign and embracing League One pressure.
A toxic mood when the team was meandering in mid-table. A party atmosphere as they sank into League One with just five wins to their name.
Those looking in from the outside will probably never understand what's gone on at Ipswich Town in recent times. Luke Chambers, central to the story over the last seven years, gets it though - perhaps more than anyone imagined.
Try telling him 'be careful what you wish for'.
"It was poisonous, absolutely poisonous," says the Blues skipper, reflecting on the fractious end to Mick McCarthy's reign.
"There was no positive spin on the club, and that was hard to take, but there probably shouldn't have been one.
"All the time the talk was about battling the odds. I didn't come here for that.
"It is tiring because you probably win 10/12 games a year. Do you enjoy winning those games? You should enjoy winning, but there's not one player who has been at this football club for the last three, four years who has enjoyed winning.
"It was 'yeah, great, we've won, relief, fist pump, off the field, next game...' It was pure relief, which is a f*****g sorry state of affairs, isn't it?"
There's one question I always ask managers as a journalist - is it the joy of winning or the fear of losing which is their main motivator? Most, McCarthy included, say the fear of losing.
"If I ever go down that route then it's time for me to leave the game," says Chambers. "I couldn't live my life being driven by the fear of losing.
"Who wants to be starting seasons saying 'we're not expected to achieve anything'? Who wants to be saying 'we shouldn't be in the top half?' and 'our budget is this and our budget is that?'
"Who wants to go through their career and their life like that? I don't. I've made no secret that I haven't enjoyed my football for the last however long.
"That's why this season is exciting. There is an opportunity where, if it's done right, and everyone's in the right mindset, we could have a season where we win 20, 25, 30 games. Who knows?
"This should be seen as a real opportunity for everyone, myself included, to say 'we are good footballers, we're a good team and this is a fantastic football club'.
"That's what I'm trying to stress to the lads. This could be an opportunity to go from zeros to heroes."
At times last season, Chambers admits to feeling a little bit embarrassed by the way the team was backed on the way to relegation.
"I think it let us off too easy," he says. "I think back to the home game against Hull under Mick (3-0 defeat). The lads who were involved in that and then again last season, I'm not going to lie we're thinking 'what's going on?!' It's great, but it was like night and day."
A big reason behind that mood swing was the way Paul Lambert, having picked up the wreckage of Paul Hurst's ill-fated short spell at the helm, reached out to a fanbase who had increasingly felt neglected.
The Scot's rhetoric surrounding moving on from short-term fixes and providing supporters with value for money struck a chord.
"This gaffer is all about wanting to win," said Chambers. "He didn't set us up in any game last year not to go and win. That will be the same again. That's always his instruction - 'go and win'. It's not 'try and get a draw'.
"That doesn't matter who we're against and that's the way it should be this year. For too long we've worried about other teams at Ipswich. We need to try and get back to people worrying about us. And I think they will this year. I really do.
"Ultimately, Ipswich Town fans want to see a successful team. If that's a successful team in League One then no-one is going to be like 'oh, I wish we were in the Championship'. They'll be having an absolute party.
"They were having a party when we were bottom of the league. It was an absolute joy to play in front of and we were bottom of the league, losing every week. Imagine that place when we're winning."
Luke has spoken openly in parts one and two of this interview about finally physically and mentally recharged. Asked if he got the sense that everyone in the squad had drawn a line under last season, he said: "It does feel like that.
"The gaffer has galvanised the club and everyone is fighting together now and pulling in the same direction.
"There was so much optimism last summer (when Hurst arrived), but for whatever reason it didn't work out. Maybe we had too much change too soon. There were lots of reasons. We've spoken about all that before.
"But the gaffer has come in and galvanised the club. Yes, results haven't gone the way we wanted, yes we got relegated, but it could have been so different had we won those first two games and got a bit of momentum.
"To finish the season the way we did, for the fans to stay with us and show so much support... You've been a lot more positive in the way you've reported on things and you've seen what everyone's trying to do.
"It's been really, really enjoyable working under the gaffer. He's got a clear vision. He's told people how he wants to do things and that if you're not on board 'see you later'. All the lads in the dressing room are right behind that.
"If people aren't on board then we haven't got time to wait around because we've got an opportunity to do something good this season.
"It feels like we're coming back fresh and ready to put everything in a positive light. This could be a really good year."
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There are just as many examples of 'big' clubs getting stuck in League One as there are success stories. Ipswich Town, playing in the third-tier for the first time since 1957, will have a target on their backs.
"Of course we will," says Chambers. "And we have to embrace that. If there's any player in the dressing room who thinks we shouldn't be here... well we are here.
"For me, it is sometimes overlooked by players how big a club this is. It's a huge football club. I don't think it dawns on some until they get here. Maybe in the past we've had players that have come in and gone 'oh, actually, am I ready for this?'
"Maybe that's put us in the situation where we are maybe? I don't know.
"We need, as a team, to prove the supporters right with their backing of us. A lot of people will think we shouldn't be in this division and we've got to prove them right too.
"There's no excuse for us not to be winning games. We've got the players for it. I think we've got the mentality for it now and the boys realise what they've got in front of them.
"As long as they don't slip into the trap of thinking 'yeah, we'll be up there'. 'Why will we be up there?' is the question and 'how will be up there?' not 'yeah we should be'. Based on what?
"It's a clean slate for everyone. Whoever is called upon needs to embrace the pressure. I would imagine the majority of teams will come to Portman Road, in front of 20 thousand people, and think 'this is our cup final'.
"I can't wait for it. I can't wait to be at home. I can't wait for there to be a buzz of expectation rather than a fear of getting beat.
"We had one good season under Mick where we hardly lost at home. That was one of the reasons we made the play-offs. That will be the cornerstone of our season.
"If we have the atmosphere the way it was last season then there won't be many teams coming to our place and playing us off the park. I think it will be the total reverse.
"We've got to find ways to score goals at the right times and keep them out. It's a pretty simple message to the boys.
"We can't fall into that trap of thinking 'yeah, yeah, we'll be up there'. We f*****g make sure we're up there."
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There's an old adage in football: Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.
"We've got goals and an attacking threat in the team," said Chambers. "It's up to us to keep them out because ultimately the best teams in this division are built on solid defences.
"We need to keep clean sheets, pretty much, every other game. That's the gauntlet we've laid down as a team. We've already set our stalls out regarding the jobs we have to do. We've already set our rules.
"If there's an issue we discuss it as a defence. We'll be watching videos. We'll be leaving no stone unturned. That's the way it should be. I'm looking forward to the challenge and I know a lot of the boys are."
Chambers adds: "If we all pull in the right direction then half this team will be very much sought after in nine months time.
"I think last season could be the making of some people. And I think we've got players that weren't here or fit last season who could make an enormous difference.
"For me, if Emyr Huws is fit he's the best player in the league by a country mile. James Norwood will score goals, no doubt.
"Alan Judge will be fitter now than when he joined us in January. At the end of last season he was spent. Did he think he'd play virtually every minute or every game when he joined? Probably not.
"You've seen there are people interested in him. That's because he's a good player. If we can keep him at the club, which I'm sure we will, then he'll be a big player for us.
"We've got players who can change games. Now they need to show they can deliver that."