Sears: Positive Result Needed to Dispel Hangover From Last Season
Sunday, 6th Sep 2020 17:31
Two-goal striker Freddie Sears said he felt the Blues needed a positive result from their opening fixture to help clear the hangover from last season following Town’s 3-0 Carabao Cup victory over Bristol Rovers at Portman Road.
The 30-year-old netted the opening goal in the 29th minute and, after skipper Luke Chambers had doubled the lead just before half-time, added his second and Town's third on 68 in what was a comfortable win.
Sears was delighted with the afternoon's work: “Really good. We needed a positive result, there’s no hiding from that.
"There’s been a hangover from last season a little bit in stuff away from the training ground, but everyone inside the training ground believes and everyone feels positive and we really needed that today, a good result and a good win for the boys.”
The Hornchurch-born frontman says the importance of making a winning start in order to banish the memory of last season was something which had been talked about prior to the match.
“Yes, I think we need a winning habit, we’ve got to start winning games,” he said. “We started like a house on fire last year and, whatever happened, it just didn’t go well in the end and there was that negative of the season not finishing, and that’s been hanging over us a little bit.
“But it’s a fresh season now, everyone’s got to be positive and who knows what we can achieve this season.”
Sears believes the Blues, who are next in EFL Trophy action at home to Arsenal’s U21s on Tuesday, can take the positivity from Saturday into the opening League One game of the season when Wigan Athletic visit Portman Road a week today.
“Definitely, it’s obviously a bit of a strange circumstance because you normally play your league game first and then your cup games,” he reflected.
“It probably gives us a little bit more preparation, probably like a pre-season competitive game, so it gives you a bit more chance to get up to speed.
“A lot of the boys got 90 minutes today in a proper competitive game. If we get a good result Tuesday night then I’m sure the boys will be full of confidence for Sunday.”
Sears admits it was strange playing the game in an empty ground: “It was, just driving into the stadium, coming out, warming up, you normally have the fans and before the game it’s tough because you’ve sort of got to motivate yourself.
“Not that the fans motivate you [wholly] but you get that lift from the fans, the singing and the atmosphere, it normally creates a buzz. So you’ve got to try and create your own buzz, which is tough at times because it’s just so quiet.
“It does feel like a pre-season game and Skip [Chambers] said in there, "You’ve got to try and get your mentality right, this is a competitive game, this is different'.
“I think you get that feeling though, you wake up in the morning and you know it’s a proper game. I woke up knowing it’s a competitive match whereas, no disrespect to pre-season friendlies, you turn up and you’re getting your minutes and win, lose or draw it’s not the end of the world.
“Delighted today, a great result, the boys played really well and just delighted to get off the mark as well.”
He added: “It’s obviously disappointing that you get a good result like today’s and there are no fans there to see it.
"But it’s important because we know this is going to be the way for a while and even when there are fans back I don’t think there are going to be 20,000 fans here any time soon.
“Hopefully we can get fans back sooner rather than later but at the minute we’ve just got to keep going as we are.”
Despite the lack of supporters, he says it was a great feeling waking up knowing he’d got a competitive game to play for the first time since 2019/20 was suspended in March.
“Really good, I’ve been watching my little one play a lot lately, he’s been playing more competitive games than me, which is strange,” he continued.
“I feel like a footballer again, back playing, it’s been a helluva long time, five or six months off competitive football and I’m just glad to be back out there.”
He says it was a strange feeling scoring but with no fans there to share the moment with: “I thought about it earlier - am I going celebrate? Am I not going to celebrate?
“It’s a bit of a weird one. You score, it’s a competitive game, you want to celebrate, you don’t want to celebrate, normally you’ll make a bit of eye contact with the fans and they’re up and getting a bit of a buzz.
“We celebrated the third one, that killed the game. Everyone’s delighted for one another, we needed that win to get off to a good start and we’ve done that today.”
One element of a regular matchday which was restored was the players changing in the home dressing room.
“It felt a bit more normal today,” he said. “When we played West Ham we were getting changed in the Sir Bobby Robson Suite and it was really different, it just didn’t feel right. But today we were back in there.
“But it’s football, if we’ve got to change somewhere else for the time being because of everything else that’s going on so be it.
"“As long as we’re back on the pitch and not sitting at home watching other teams play, then we’ll get on with it.”
Sears, who joined the Blues from the U’s in January 2015, says the Town's impressive performance was down to hard work on the training field during pre-season.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work on patterns and shape and we’re trying to build an identity this year,” he said. “That’s the important thing. I think it showed sometimes out there.
“Obviously, it’s not going to be great every time, but there were a lot a great moves, a lot of good goals and that’s the stuff we’re working on now.
“If we can do that more often than not and keep that going, then hopefully we’ll have a really good season.”
Reflecting on his goals, he says he went into the game aiming to open his account: “Definitely, that was my first thought today, get off the mark.
“As a striker or a winger you want to get off the mark as early as possible and it’s brilliant, you’re not waiting around and two or three games are thinking ‘Am I going to get that goal?’ because I’ve been there before and I don’t want to be there again.
“I’m delighted today, two goals and disappointed not to get the third, to be honest!”
The Blues created plenty of chances which Sears says is no surprise given the quality of the players in midfield.
“There are good players at this football club, regardless of what’s happened in the past, that probably shouldn’t be in this division,” he added.
“You see Bish, Judgey, Nolo, Dozzell today was brilliant, the talent and the balls that they were playing through, it’s a dream for any of us three up front, whether that’s me, Nors, Jacko, Aaron, Gwi, anyone. It’s our job to put the ball in the back of the net, and that’s what we’ve done today.”
Sears says Dozzell, now 21, could have a coming-of-age season as Flynn Downes did in 2019/20.
“Yes, I think he can,” he insisted. He’s a brilliant player, one of the best young talents I’ve seen.
“He’s probably been a little bit unlucky in the last few years, maybe things have just gone against him, getting in the team or not.
“But I think this year really is his year to shine and hopefully he can develop with Flynn as well.
“Obviously there’s a lot going on at the minute with Flynny but it would be great if those two could be in midfield together because that would be brilliant for the team and for the supporters and for the football club.”
Regarding Downes, who missed the game having been given a few days off following Crystal Palace’s interest and his subsequent transfer request, Sears said: “He’s a big player in this team. He’s a young boy, there’s a bit of interest from a Premier League team.
“You can’t knock him, everyone wants to be playing at the highest level they can and if the opportunity’s there for Flynn to go, then good luck to him.
“But obviously we hope he’s going to stay because he’ll be a big part of the team. It’s obviously down to Flynny and down the the clubs to work something out but hopefully he will be an Ipswich Town player when the window shuts in October.”
If the move doesn’t happen - and as things stand Palace’s most recent £1.6 million initial offer rising to £2.5 million after top-ups is a long way from the Blues’ valuation - then Sears says Downes isn’t the type of player to sulk.
“Flynn’s a great lad, it’s difficult at the minute,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest and he’s probably hearing a bit too much from agents and clubs, but he wants to get on with his football, I’m sure he’ll want to get back out there next week and hopefully he’s available for next Sunday.”
Among the Blues’ star performers against the Pirates was debutant Aaron Drinan, who created Sears’s first goal.
“He’s been here a long time now. He’s got the nickname ‘Murph’, so he’s not got a lot of pressure on him being named after Daryl Murphy!” the Blues number 20 laughed.
“He was brilliant, the boys know what he can do. It’s hard for a young forward trying to get an opportunity.
“The gaffer’s been brilliant with him, he’s played him a few pre-season games and he’s done really well and he’s given him a chance today.
“Now it’s up to him to stick around and try and fight for that number nine shirt.”
Sears says he’s happy playing on either the left or the right of a front three with the role he was brought up playing now a comparative rarity in the game.
“I still see myself as a second centre forward but that seems to have gone now,” he reflected ruefully. “The days of that in football seem to have gone.
“But I enjoy playing on the left, I enjoy playing on the right, I just enjoy being on the pitch if I’m being honest after having a tough time last year with injuries. Just delighted to be back out there and playing where the gaffer wants me to play.”
Asked whether he has a goals target for the season, he said: “Good question, I haven’t really thought out it, to be honest. As a striker you want to get off as early as possible.
“I know what I can do in this league. If I’m honest I think I’m too good for this league, I’ve been there before, I did it with Colchester.
“It’ll be interesting. I’m really looking forward to it with a fit pre-season, last season was obviously difficult coming back, trying to get in the team when it wasn’t really going well.
“And without a pre-season it really is tough. It’s a bit of a cliche in football how important pre-season is but I feel great and I’m looking forward to going again next Sunday.”
Manager Paul Lambert is aiming for a more settled side this season having issued players with the challenge to keep hold of a shirt, something Sears welcomes.
“Great, as a player you want to play as many games as you can and obviously last season there was a bit of a rotation period which looked good at the start but didn’t work out in the end,” he said.
“Some boys are going to need rest and there are a lot of games in this league, 60-odd games maybe.
“It can work at times but, for me, I want to play every game and if the gaffer’s giving the message ‘Keep your shirt’ then that’s what I’m going to do.”
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