ONE HAPPY CHAPPY
Richard Chaplow is in form at Ipswich after climbing off Millwall’s bench
RICHARD Chaplow’s transformation from Millwall outcast to Ipswich regular may seem bizarre, but having recently entered his thirties, the midfielder believes this could be his very own renaissance.
Chaplow has spent the majority of this season watching from the sidelines as Millwall have languished in the Championship drop zone.
The former England U21 star claims his omission was down to “politics” surrounding his contract and the fact Ian Holloway – the Lions boss at the time – refused to look past it.
Chaplow has made just six league starts for the struggling Londoners this term and, with his deal up in the summer, a loan move to Premier League-chasing Ipswich in February appeared too good to be true.
Yet the 30-year-old, who scored the vital winner in the Tractor Boys’ 1-0 victory over fellow promotion-chasers Watford last month, is suddenly dreaming of an unlikely return to the top-flight.
“It has been a bit strange if you’re an outsider looking in, but I believe in my quality,” said Chaplow, whose last stint in the Premier League came, very briefly, with Southampton almost three years ago.
“Things weren’t quite going to plan at Millwall so it has been nice to come here and contribute to the cause.
“The team was struggling, things got moved around and even though I was fit and desperate to play, Ian Holloway was looking past that. It can happen in football.
“As a bloke, there are not too many nicer than Ian, he’s someone I respect a lot. We had a chat at the start of the season and he said I’m not someone he could see at the football club next season. I was fine with that, I’d continue to give 100 per cent no matter what, but for him it was a bit more of a problem. It was a bit of politics with my contract up at the end of the season, I think.
“I’ve been playing the game for 12 years now and I’m no less of a player than I was at Saints. I was 30 a couple of months ago, I’ve still got some years left in me – perhaps this is a bit of a renaissance for me.
“It would be nice to reach the Premier League with Ipswich, of course. It would be a great swansong and for some
play- ers it happens, but there have been no promises made with regards to my future.”
Chaplow turned 30 in February, just before his move to Portman Road, and the former Burnley man admits his career has flashed by since a £1.5m move to West Brom way back in January 2005.
“Time flies so fast, I’ve been at a few clubs along the way and it’s been an amazing journey up until now, with the highs and the lows as well,” he continued
“It’s been a tricky one for me this season. I’ve struggled for playing time but, personally, I’m a light-hearted kind of guy, I don’t take anything seriously.
“I went to Millwall from Southampton and I was really looking to push on. I went there when Kenny Jackett was still the manager and things changed after he left – from that point on it wasn’t quite the same place.
“But I’m still extremely confident in my ability, I have four or five good years left in me yet. I’ve played virtually for all of my career in the Championship and I’m as good as anyone in the league in terms of the skill-set I bring.”
Ipswich boss Mick McCarthy will certainly be hoping Chaplow can reach his former heights with the Championship promotion race so tight.
The Suffolk side are all-but out of the race for the top two, but the ‘Bald Eagle’ – as Chaplow recently referred to himself on Twitter – says landing a play-off place would be a great end to his rollercoaster season.
“It’s a squad game nowadays and I knew it would be tough but I just want to make an impact here,” added Chaplow.
“It was a no-brainer to move here. Mick is someone I have known for a long time and, for me, it was a fantastic chance. I am delighted it has been handed to me, I just hope we can finish the job.”
WHERE EAGLES DARE: Ipswich’s Richard Chaplow celebrates scoring their dramatic late winner at Watford TALE OF TWO MANAGERS: Mick McCarthy and, inset, Ian Holloway