Woolfenden: I've Still Got a Lot to Learn
Friday, 24th Jan 2020 13:51
He may have emerged as a potential transfer target for Premier League club Sheffield United, while manager Paul Lambert rates him worth a whopping £10 million, but Town youngster Luke Woolfenden is the first to admit he still has a lot to learn.
Ask Woolfenden if there are any areas of his game he feels he still needs to improve and he’ll instantly respond: “Probably in every single area of the game if I’m honest. One-v-one defending, dealing with balls in the air, on the ball, my left foot – there are a whole lot of things I need to improve on to become the player I want to be.
“Talking is another important area of the game where I need to get better. The thing is, though, that the skipper [Luke Chambers] doesn’t really shut up for the entire 90 minutes so it’s hard to get a word in.
“Seriously, he’s unbelievable and has been a huge help to us all. Even in training, he’s always chatting and looking to help.
“Luke makes it clear he wants the best for me and the other lads. Some fans may see him as a bit of a scapegoat but that’s harsh. He’s actually the type that would prefer to take the flak than see us getting it.
“If you asked him he would probably say ‘Give it to me’ because he’s man enough to deal with it. That’s another benefit of having him as captain and he’s unbelievable around the place.
“The older lads help us youngsters no end and I’m sure Flynn [Downes] would tell you the same. The guys with the experience talk us through games and if we make a mistake they try to keep us focused and not let it get to us. That’s a big help for any young player coming into the side.
“If you make an error, of course it affects you, but instead of letting it affect you for the rest of the game it gets you down for just a few seconds and then one of the older guys will tell you to get your head up and forget it.
“For me that side of the game comes pretty easily. It’s football, mistakes happen and you just get on with it. The more you play, the more you know how to deal with that type of situation because you’re getting that bit more experienced with every game.”
The speculation about the Blades possibly making a move in the January transfer window isn’t unsettling Woolfenden either. He said: “I spoke with the gaffer about it and he just said not to let my head get turned and to keep my feet on the ground.
“He’s been in the game long enough to know that I haven’t cracked it yet and if I was to get carried away with the fairies by all the talk it would be my football that would suffer.
“It was sound advice to make sure I didn’t let it affect me and I’ve taken it on board.”
While Downes joined the club’s academy when he was just seven years old, pal Woolfenden was 12 when he accepted an invitation to join the set-up. “I’ve played alongside the likes of Flynn, Doz [Andre Dozzell], Tristan [Nydam] and Harry Wright all the way through,” he said.
“It seems weird in a way because at most clubs you usually get the one breakthrough player but here there is a whole bunch of us.
“I think that has made it a lot easier for us to be fair because we’re all mates.
“I’ve always been a centre-half but I had a little spell with the U14s when I played in midfield. I just used to run around kicking people. I would get two or three goals a season but they’re not coming along now unfortunately.”
Spend time in Woolfenden’s company and it is immediately clear what Lambert meant recently when he joked that the player is so laidback in his demeanour that he often felt it might be necessary on certain days in training to check for a pulse rate.
But don’t be fooled. Woolfenden is a very determined young man, who wants to make the most of a talent that had him dreaming of being a professional footballer from an early age, while his teachers at East Bergholt High tried to lower his expectations and point him in the direction of what they regarded as a more realistic option.
He laughed: “I saw what the gaffer said about me but I’ve always been the same and I’ve never been one to get too emotional about things. I think I get it from my dad, that. I think I can stay like it, too, as my career hopefully progresses.
“The gaffer was also right when he said I had to concentrate more on the communications side of the game but I’m sure that will improve the more I play.
“The way I am doesn’t mean I’m not passionate about my football. I got that at school – ‘You don’t care’ – but that’s definitely not true. I do care and I hope it’s obvious to people when they see me play and the way I celebrate when we score a goal.
“I didn’t have any of my teachers tell me directly that I’d never make anything of myself but I reckon a few of them said it behind my back.
“They knew I wanted to be a footballer but they were always telling me I needed a Plan B and I would tell them I didn’t think I did.
“They were probably right but it never really got to that stage. It was always football, football, football for me.”
Woolfenden’s somewhat carefree character is probably a blessing in these current times of social media being used to spread all sorts of messages, especially to those people in the spotlight.
With typical nonchalance he added: “There was plenty of criticism flying around when we had our bad run towards the end of last year but I don’t see the point in bothering about what people write and say.
“Everyone is a football expert these days so what’s the point in me going on Twitter to see what they’ve got to say and then getting involved? I just worry about playing well for myself and the team, plus pleasing the gaffer, which is what matters the most.
“Things are going well now. We have a settled way of playing and everyone knows what’s what, which is a big help, and we’ve started the year very well.
“I don’t think League One has seen the best of us yet but we are getting there. Even at the start of the season, although we were winning games, we were often coming in at the end disappointed with how we’d actually played. I think there is still a lot more we can do.”
But Woolfenden feels there is no need to turn tomorrow’s visit from Lincoln into a revenge scrap, bearing in mind it was the Imps who inflicted Town’s last defeat, the 5-3 setback at Sincil Bank almost a month ago that saw players and management locked in dressing room conversation for around an hour after the final whistle.
He said: “I don’t think we need to be going into games holding a grudge and saying ‘Let’s do this lot’. If we play our game we will have more than enough to win.
“We’re off to Rotherham, the leaders, on Tuesday but if we’ve beaten Lincoln I won’t be thinking to myself ‘Beat this lot and we’ll be top of the table’.
“That’s where we are aiming to be at the end of the season, at the top. I go into every game looking to win, that’s it, nothing more. It’s always win, win, win.”
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