Opinion: The Cole Skuse Paradox
After signing his new deal at the start of the week, Matt Francis takes a look at the seemingly split opinion over Cole Skuse extending his stay with Town.
The Cole Skuse Paradox
All good things come to an end, unless your name is Cole Skuse. The veteran midfielder has spent 7 years at Portman Road and is closing in on 300 club appearances. Usually, that level of loyalty and reliability is met with legendary status, yet Monday’s news of a contract extension for the 34-year-old left many frustrated. Why? Well, that’s what I want to explore this week, as I attempt to articulate both sides of the argument and do my level best to arrive at a somewhat coherent explanation… I bet I fail. Sit back, swig back your favourite quarantine cocktail and join me in the Cole Skuse paradox.
Let’s start with the positives. Whilst he may not be a showman, Cole Skuse has consistently proven himself to be a reliable asset. Since his arrival in 2013, he’s made 274 appearances in all competitions for Town. Not known for his goalscoring ability, or his flashy skills in the middle of the park, it would be hard to argue that Skuse has been one of Town’s most consistent performers in each of his 7 seasons with the club.
He’s also a superb role model. Whether it’s younger players seeking advice or older pro’s seeking comfort, Skuse has always been Mr. Reliable in that regarded. He is cited, by players past and present, as a charming, funny, all-round top bloke. Ultimately, when you consider how broken and crooked the current Town side is, it’s vital to keep characters like that at the club. Much like Chambers, his presence in the dressing room brings a certain level of maturity and allows the younger players to quickly understand the levels of respect required in the modern game.
Sure, his partnership with Luke Hyam still keeps me up at night, but I would be hard pressed to name a more consistent performer over the last 5 years. At the end of the day, he is a member of Town’s old guard and whilst it could be argued that he is holding players back, his role at the club is vital for teaching, nurturing and assisting Town’s next generation. His status as a dressing-room leader and his love for the area means he’s sticking around for many years to come, whether that be as a player or a coach. Ultimately, Skuse sets and example and whilst he is far from his best years as a pro, he still has plenty to offer.
There are many things that Cole Skuse is not. He is not a right-back, he is not a playmaker and he is not a Brazilian superstar. The persistence by Lambert, McCarthy and Hurst to try and make Skuse something he is not is ultimately where his greatest downfall lies. This season, he has made plenty of mistakes, but I find it hard to solely blame the former Bristol City midfielder. Ultimately, it’s the blind ignorance of Town’s recent managers that have stained Cole Skuse’s name. Why does Lambert think it’s a good idea to play a 34-year-old veteran at right-back against some of the league’s fastest players? It makes no sense. In order for Skuse to be appreciated, which he is by a fair section of supporters, he needs to be played in his rightful role and position: as a reliable central midfielder who sits in front of the defenders and allows his midfield partner to carry the ball forward.
There is an argument to be had that Cole Skuse represents an old guard and whilst his dashing good looks and charm may cause the ladies (and a few gents) to swoon, he will be remembered as a pivotal part of the worst Ipswich Town side in history. That isn’t necessarily his fault, but he has played a role in the demise of the club. Much like the lack of appreciation for the service Luke Chambers has given the club, Skuse is consciously linked to a 3-year downfall that has seen Town slump into the League One doldrums. For some fans, the end of this season seemed a perfect opportunity to turn a new leaf, clearing out the old toy box and replacing it with it shiny new ones. However, given the current landscape, that concept has gone out the window and we’re now left to rely on the resources at hand. Provided Skuse’s extension isn’t going to hold back Town’s young players like Dozzell, McGavin or El Mizouni, I think many fans will be able to overcome their indifferences.
My immediate reaction to the contract extension was negative. I thought it was a further signifier that Town were stuck in the past and were far too reluctant to change the guard. However, after some thought, I realised that the extension was the best option. I highly doubt the contract is on attractive terms and the impact on the changing room, if Skuse had departed, could have been detrimental.
Ultimately, the negative reaction boils down to frustration. We have all hated the last 5 years and that’s why a section of fans find it so easy to hurl abuse at the older pro’s like Chambers and Skuse. Sure, it’s not fair to pin the disasters of the last 5 seasons on two players, but it is often the faces of the operation that are first identified as a problem, rather than those behind the scenes. The reaction to Skuse’s contract extension represents a larger problem at the club, and that’s mistrust in management and a desire for change. Skuse has been ever-present for 7 years and some fans just want things to be different; I don’t think any of us could handle another 7 years in the same vain!
We all must appreciate the good times that Skuse has brought us during his time at the club; he was a big part of the promotion push! Whilst his stock has dropped over the last few years, his impact on the club and a section of its fans is clear to see, and that level of loyalty and service should be appreciated, not berated.
However, I do understand the frustration. I myself wish to see a new era, a new dawn at Portman Road but that doesn’t lay at the feet of Skuse or Chambers, that buck should stop with the owner and his unwise monkeys. We have seen, even in the last few days, a reluctance to make definitive decisions and that leaves a sour taste. Sure, Keane, Roberts and Rowe didn’t deserve extended deals, but the whole ‘door still open’ thing stinks of a club that lack the ability to make a firm decision and stick to their guns; those quotes from Lee O’Neil stink of desperation.
Cole Skuse has been a magnificent servant to Ipswich Town Football Club and I’ve no doubt he will continue to do everything he can to aid the club back to where it belongs. However, he can’t do it alone and whilst the finger is pointed at the expendable assets in Town’s first team, maybe the board could look a little closer to home when dissecting the true rotten core of the club.
Thank you for reading this week’s blog! Feel free to share your thoughts with me on Twitter (@MattWHF) or Talk Of The Town (@tott_online). I hope you’re all keeping safe and well and I look forward to seeing you again next week!