Midfielder reflects on time at Town
Cole Skuse spoke to iFollow Ipswich after it was announced that he had played his final game for the Club.
The midfielder, who made more than 275 appearances for Town, left Blues on Monday and sat down with the Club's media team to look back on his eight years at Portman Road.
The full interview is available to watch or read below.
Skusey, thank you for coming to talk to us. Where to start on your Town career? Let's go with the beginning. Can you remember travelling down to Ipswich and your first day at the Club?
I can remember my first day really well actually. The day before I joined, we left Bristol after I had arranged a game on the pitch at Ashton Gate - for all my friends and family. So the game finished and my wife and I jumped in the car to travel, and I was thinking 'it can't be that far surely'. Obviously I had played at Portman Road before, but when you travel on a coach with the team you're engrossed in your iPad, laptop or conversation, so I didn't realise just how far it is. My wife said she would do the first part of the journey so that I could relax - of course I fell asleep straight away. Next thing you know we're in Ipswich and she says to me 'oh my God this is miles away', almost to the point of thinking 'wow, are you sure you want to be this far from Bristol'. I was thinking it'll be fine and the first person I bumped into at the Club was Alex Chapman [now assistant head physio at the Club] and he picked me up for my medical. The rest is history as they say. We fell in love with the place.
"Around that fifth year it was me that thought 'yeah, this is very much home'."
At what point did you think of Ipswich as a second home? Of course you're fond of Bristol but when was it that you fell in love with Ipswich?
Well initially we were renting in a little village - Bentley. We rented for three or four years and during that time we actually bought a place back in Bristol which we thought was going to be our forever home. It wasn't until about the fifth year here that we bought a place and thought yeah this is it [where we should be]. We eventually sold the place in Bristol and I was always the one that was saying we would go back there. My wife was a bit more open-minded and said she loved the area [Ipswich/Suffolk] from the get go. Even though it was a long journey. It was me that took a bit more convincing, but around that fifth year it was me that thought 'yeah this is very much home'.
And when was it that you really thought of Town as 'your club'?
Without sounding a bit cheesy, it was probably my first day. I walked in and took a battering off Chambo [Luke Chambers] and that made me think 'yeah I don't mind it here, this is probably alright'. But even in the lead up to coming to the Club, big Mick [Mick McCarthy, former manager] was on the phone to me a fair few times each week. He was doing his little bit for me before I arrived at the Club - making sure I was happy and my family were sorted. Milts [Simon Milton, former player and then player liaison] was making sure that everything off the field was okay for me and straight away you get the sense of 'wow, this is a proper club'. All of that made me realise I would like to spend a bit of time here. In answer to the question, probably from the get go. I was settled straight away.
"Don't get me wrong we weren't hugging each other crying our eyes out, but it was quite fitting that we had been there so long together and on our last day left in the same car."
You established a fantastic relationship and friendship with Chambo as well. You said you took a battering on your first day - was it from there that you clicked?
It was. I've mentioned in quite a few interviews that I had played against Chambo for many years. He was obviously at Forest while I was at Bristol City and at the time we had a slight rivalry because it was us two that were competing at the top end of League One. In my last season at Bristol City, though, we played against Ipswich and he's one of those that you play against where you think 'wow just shut up' because he's shouting so much rubbish. But then you play alongside him and you think 'this guy is some captain and leader'. I walked in the dressing room on my first day and he said to me 'it's about time we signed some rubbish players blah blah blah' so that tells you what you need to know. I wouldn't say it's a case of opposites attract because we have an abundance in common and we bounce off each other brilliantly but he's slightly louder and I'm probably a bit quieter. He's a brilliant guy, though. He's a godparent to my little boy and I was best man at his wedding, so that says a lot really. I have the utmost respect for him as a person and a player. It was quite fitting that when we came in for our meetings on Monday, we left in the same car. We got outside the gate and thought *exhales deeply* 'that's it'. Don't get me wrong we weren't hugging each other crying our eyes out, but it was quite fitting that we had been there so long together and on our last day left in the same car. He's just a great guy.
As well as Chambo, you've always had a good relationship with your teammates. How nice has it been that they've not only seen you as a good player, but a good guy?
It's nice and I'd like to say it's testament to my parents really. My children FaceTime my mum and dad all the time and they always say 'Nanny, who was the naughtiest?'. I'm one of four children but my mum would always say to them 'your daddy was the naughtiest'. But now my mum and dad say I've grown into a nice gentleman. So to have that praise from the lads, I think it's just in my character. It's who I am and I like to make sure people are settled - in the same way Milts did when I arrived. It wasn't brushed upon me by the Club, I just took it upon myself because I thought the least of their concern should be what's happening off the pitch. You want lads to come and be able to concentrate on their football. Anything else outside from that, we can help with and Dan [Palfrey, now PR manager] was brilliant at that. It's just in my nature to want the lads to be settled.
"A bit of fabric conditioner on the towels wouldn't go amiss, Debs!"
You regularly drop the name of a member of staff at the Club in as well, Skusey. Does it mean just as much that they respect you, as well as your peers?
People don't often see and the fans might not be aware that the background at a football club is huge. I had it a few days ago when I knew I was leaving. Debs the kit woman has been at the Club however long and where she is at the training ground is sort of tucked away. The way the training ground is structured, not many players would walk that way but it's always nice to nip in there and have a catch up and see how she is. She plays a massive part - although a bit of fabric conditioner on the towels wouldn't go amiss Debs! People like Sally Boyle and Sally Williams as well, who are in the front of house area at the training ground, are fantastic people. It's not just the work they do for the Club but outside they are lovely people as well. People like that I wish nothing but success and happiness going forward. I could be sat here all day thanking people. There is an endless list of people that deserve to be thanked by the players, not just me.
"I cannot and will not ever speak highly enough of Mick."
You've played under a few managers here, but there is a clear leader in terms of who you made the most appearances for. What was it like playing for Mick McCarthy and what was your relationship with him like?
Well Mick brought me to the Club and I still speak to him fairly regularly now. I wouldn't say he's like a father figure, more just someone that did a lot to make sure me and my family were okay and he's still someone that I can call now if I need advice. I'm not going to be calling him when I'm at the garage asking what car I should buy, but he's always there and he's a fantastic guy. What he did during his time at the Club, in terms of having quite a small squad, and budget compared to other teams in the Championship, but being able to build a strong group of lads, was excellent. We did ever so well to finish in the play-offs that season and maybe things could have been slightly different. I cannot and will not ever speak highly enough of Mick. I've had a couple of - I wouldn't say heated discussions - but I would come out in random spots like Tesco and someone would be saying 'I'm glad he's gone' and that would get my back up a little bit.
You've had highs and lows, as any footballer does in their career, Skusey. One of them was the play-offs season - what was that like to be part of?
It was phenomenal really. We had a small squad but it was also a close squad. I still speak to a lot of the squad now and at the time we were up against some big fish. We scraped in with the Blackburn game on the last day of the season, but yeah it was an unbelievable achievement. I thought in the first leg against Norwich we did ever so well and then in the away game we nullified them to a certain extent and then went a man down which changed things. It was a great group to be involved with, though. Lows would be the last three seasons - but of course I don't want to be sat here in my final interview talking about those!
A personal high must have been that Cardiff goal? Talk us through that one...
I get stick to this day for not scoring many goals but I didn't sign for Ipswich as a 20-goal-a-seson midfielder. I've never gone through my career scoring loads of goals. But building up to that game our kit man James Pullen, who was our massuer then and he kept saying to me 'this is the one'. I said 'you say this every week, Pullen' but he was insistent 'this is the one'. He said 'Cardiff at home, it's a lovely evening - this is the one', and I thought 'you know what mate, you might actually be right'. The ball's bounced and I was thinking that a steward *gestures with arm* over there is getting one straight on the back of their head, but I caught it sweetly and it crashed in off the post. After Pullen had told me this would be the one, he said 'come and celebrate with me' and bear in mind that I had just picked up a yellow before I scored. He was sat in the stands behind the dugout, though, and I was overjoyed so celebrating but then thought 'I might get booked again here and be off. Luckily the ref didn't clock straight away but a little bit later he said 'I probably could have sent you off there'. He did me favour because not only did I get my first goal for the Club that night, but I got an assist as well because I slid in Murph [Daryl Murphy] for a finish. Yeah that was a personal high for sure.
"I think a bit of proof for the job I have done is the number of games I have played."
Were you an understated player, Skusey? Players and people in the game regularly praised the job you did, but from a statistical point of view do you feel that a lack of goals and assists impacted your reputation perhaps?
Yes and no really, In-house I spoke to Flynn [Downes] the other day and he's forever thankful for how he feels I have helped him as a player. The lads have always praised the job I do and I appreciate that. I think a bit of proof for the job I have done is the number of games I have played as well. A deep-lying midfielder that breaks up play isn't the most glorious of positions, but I can also play a little bit. I've been called a few names over the years - crab is one! But as long as I am doing my bit for the team and the manager and my teammates are happy, and my kids and wife and parents say 'you did okay', yeah - that's enough for me.
Off the pitch you always played your part for the Club as well. You were a regular at the hospital visits as well as other events such as going to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to see the job they do. Has that part of being at the Club always meant a lot to you as well?
It has and it always will do. Although I've left the Club from a playing perspective, and I want to carry on playing elsewhere, I've said to you guys [media team], Rosie [Director of Sales] and others at the Club that I'm only round the corner. I'm still living locally and if there's anything at the Club that people want done then I am happy to help. Having kids myself, who was in hospital for a spell, made me realise what families go through when their young ones are in hospital - it's heartbreaking. Anything off the field I've always been happy to put my name in the hat.
"Bless her my little girl was in the garden the other day singing 'Skuse, there he is!' and I thought 'we can't be having this'."
What's your farewell message, Skusey? This must be an emotional time for you but at the same time you don't want to be too down because it's a new chapter in your life?
Exactly. It's been a strange few days to be honest, although I did find out I would be leaving a couple of weeks ago. I'm not big on social media but I have received lots of messages, not just from fans here and people around the Club like you guys, but also friends and old school friends in Bristol that have taken an interest in Ipswich with me being here. It's quite flattering to get those messages. I'm not one to get too emotional - my wife will tell you that, but it really has struck a few chords. It's been tough in some ways, with a tinge of sadness because I've also only played a few games this season. To tarnish my final season at the Club because of a freak injury has been a tough one to swallow. But my final message is a thank you to a lot of people, in particular my wife and kids at home who have given me so much support. My parents as well, because I wouldn't be here without them and you guys and others at the Club and at the training ground. Matt Byard [Head physio] has been brilliant with me, as has Alex Chapman and others. I would want to thank my teammates as well, past and present, because I've enjoyed so many moments in the dressing room. Marcus Evans [former owner] as well because he was great for me while at the Club and is a really nice guy who I still speak to. And the fans of course. Bless her my little girl was in the garden the other day singing 'Skuse, there he is!' and I thought 'we can't be having this'. So yeah thank you to all the fans that have been so complimentary to me, not only at the ground but also when out and about. It's for them and the lads that I wish nothing but success. I'll still be in the area as well and I'll be back at games when I can. My children support the Club - although my team is Bristol City, Ipswich Town will always be my second team. To you guys as well I wish you nothing but success going forward.
On behalf of everyone at ITFC, thank you, Skusey.