Woolfenden: I Think I’ve Had a Completely Average Season
Friday, 16th Apr 2021 14:21
As someone born in the Town and who used to attend Portman Road as a spectator, defender Luke Woolfenden feels the supporters’ pain as much anyone as they look for answers to the club’s recent slump in form.
Academy graduate Woolfenden will be hoping to retain his first-team place at Charlton tomorrow, although he will know not to take anything for granted after the 3-0 midweek loss at Wimbledon left manager Paul Cook scratching his head in disbelief and promising changes to his starting line-up at the Valley.
Woolfenden believes supporters are well within their rights to voice their frustration as the grim prospect of a third season on the trot in League One is creeping closer to reality with every game, the Blues taking a mere 10 points from the 30 up for grabs in the 10 games since Cook took charge.
The former East Bergholt High School pupil, who joined the Portman Road academy when he was 11, said: “To be fair I think the fans have every right. As I’ve said before it has been ages since they have had anything to shout about.
“The last time was in 2015 when Mick [McCarthy] got us into the play-offs. The fans are not battering us just for the sake of it. We’ve not performed and we all know that.
“We were relegated two seasons ago and we shouldn’t be in this league but we should be able to deal with the pressure. It’s a big club but ultimately, if you can’t deal with it, as the manager says there are going to be a lot of changes.
“It would be deeply disappointing for everyone if we are back in League One again next season. But look, there are six games left and we’ve just got to try our bollocks off in every single one of them. Realistically, I think we need to win them all to have any chance of getting into the play-offs.”
Woolfenden is not one of the many players whose contracts are due to expire at the end of the current campaign, with manager Cook having probably already made up his mind about who stays and who goes, information that is likely to emerge over the final weeks of the season.
But he knows the fact that his deal has another year to run is no guarantee of his long-term future being at the club he has loved for most of his life. Should the manager opt to place him on the transfer list, for example, there is nothing he could do about it.
“That’s a side of football where you never know what might happen,” he admitted. “Job security isn’t really something in football for a lot of players but I’m confident in my ability.
“Whether it’s going to be here, or whether I get moved on, as long as I’m enjoying my football is the most important thing for me.”
Asked if the fact that so many players are coming to the end of their deals could create an insecurity that could in turn impact on their performances, Woolfenden responded: “There are a lot of players coming to the end of their contracts and that’s always been the way the club has done it, certainly since I’ve been here.
“There have always been players coming to the end of their contracts and that can cause uncertainty. But that can work both ways.
“Sometimes it can affect you and other times it can make you want to roll up your sleeves and prove to them that you should have had a contract offer earlier.”
Woolfenden is back in the side after a spell on the sidelines during the latter stages of former manager Paul Lambert’s tenure, the goalless draw at home to relegation-threatened Northampton in February seeing him dropped for several weeks and sitting out nine games, five of them after Cook took charge.
Reflecting on how he fell off the first team radar under Lambert, Woolfenden added: “It wasn’t something that we ever really spoke about. You know, in football sometimes things happen and there’s no explanation as to why or how they happen.
“The Northampton game was disappointing for everyone but from a defensive point of view we kept a clean sheet and I wasn’t seen again for a while. Football’s like that, you know, and sometimes you don’t have control over what you can change and what you can’t.”
In Lambert’s eyes Woolfenden was once described as a potential £10 million player destined to play in the Premier League, although the manager also famously highlighted the defender’s laid-back approach by suggesting there were times when he and his staff had to check for a pulse.
Asked about his relationship with Lambert, the player said: “In his first season at the club we didn’t really have many conversations. It was strictly professional and I was working for him, but if he didn’t want to play me he didn’t want to play me.
“It’s about the squad rather than individuals and I’m sure he was just doing what he felt was best for the team. I’m fine with that.”
Turning to his form this season, Woolfenden confessed: “I think I’ve had a completely average season. I had a very good season last year but I haven’t lived up to the standards I set then. I’ve just been completely average and that’s not good enough for this club.
“Hopefully, now that I’m back in the team, I can start enjoying football again. It’s when you are enjoying it that you play your best football and that’s what I am looking forward to getting back to.
“Since the new manager came in we’ve had a few chats. His future plans will be based on what you are doing out on the pitch.
“If you are training and playing well, you will continue to be an Ipswich player, but if not you won’t be.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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