Home   Ipswich   Sport   Article

Subscribe Now

Ipswich Town’s Luke Woolfenden on making ‘the impossible happen’ with promotion to the Premier League and celebrating with Ed Sheeran video call

Ipswich Town’s homegrown star Luke Woolfenden says they have ‘made the impossible happen’ with back-to-back promotions to the Premier League coming about as a result of sheer hard work from a special group and manager.

The Suffolk club ended a 22-year absence from English football’s top tier on the final day of the Sky Bet Championship season with a 2-0 victory at home to now relegated Huddersfield Town sealing an automatic promotion place.

It completed a fairytale season for McKenna’s side as they became the first team since Southampton in 2011/12 to complete a first season promotion from the second tier.

Ipswich Town defender Luke Woolfenden speaks to the media following confirming automatic promotion against Huddersfield Town Picture: Russell Claydon
Ipswich Town defender Luke Woolfenden speaks to the media following confirming automatic promotion against Huddersfield Town Picture: Russell Claydon

They had gone into the lunchtime kick-off on the final day needing to avoid defeat to guarantee a second-placed finish without having to rely on Leeds United slipping up, which they eventually did in a 2-1 home loss to fellow play-off side Southampton.

But Woolfenden was part of a calm and dominant display which ensured there was no chance for final-day nerves in a packed out Portman Road to develop with Wes Burns’ 27th minute drilled finish added to by Omari Hutchinson’s run and finish three minutes into the second half.

"You can say it was easy, I was s******* myself,” he joked with reporters after the post-match celebrations had died down, holding a bottle of beer in his hand and in his full kit still.

“Nah, it was a really good day, I think the boys played really well and the crowd was unbelievable and it was a great day.”

It ended a truly remarkable season for The Tractor Boys with newly-promoted Town having only losing six of their 46 games and drawing 12 to finish on 96 points, one behind champions Leicester City in the end, who lost their final home game 2-0 to Blackburn Rovers.

Asked if he could have believed in his wildest dreams it would have played out like it has, the 25-year-old said: "No, if I'm being honest all season I've said 'nah, it can't happen, it can't happen' and it's probably helped us to be fair.

“I think the majority of the changing room will be the same, they will have been sitting there saying 'nah, it's impossible, impossible' but we've just made the impossible happen so it's unbelievable.”

Luke Woolfenden returned to the starting line-up against Huddersfield Town with George Edmundson having played at Coventry City Picture: Barry Goodwin
Luke Woolfenden returned to the starting line-up against Huddersfield Town with George Edmundson having played at Coventry City Picture: Barry Goodwin

Nine of the starting 11 in their final fixture and 14 of the 20 in the match-day squad were part of the League One promotion-winning side that also went up in second place, something Woolfenden believes was key, along with their hard work.

"I think it's been our strength that there has not been a lot of changes and the group knows what the boss wants and I'd be surprised if there's a team out there in the league that works harder than us on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

"When you work that hard you get you get your rewards and that's what we've got today."

With the club having adopted a game-by-game mentality to get them themselves over the promotion-winning line, how excited will the Manchester United-supporting player be at the prospect of going to play at Old Trafford or the likes of Anfield or The Ethiad next season?

He quipped: "Yes, one game at a time and then we'll go one pub at a time and then we'll think about the Premier League.”

He added: "If I'm honest it's not really sunk in yet. Someone was saying to me out there playing Man United at Portman Road and I've not even thought about it, honestly I really am just living the moment and enjoying every minute of it.

"To be fair the boss is big on that, when he's talking about nerves before the game he says this is what you get into football for, this is what you work for."

After an emotional embrace by his former captain Luke Chambers paused the interview, he continued: "The boss is big on working hard day in, day out and enjoying what you do and you get your rewards for that.

"We work really hard and like I said, I've not thought about the Premier League yet but we're there so it's unbelievable.”

He added: "And to be fair the boys have been unbelievable, the boss has been unbelievable, all the coaches have been unbelievable and we are just one big group that enjoys what we do every day and look how far it can take you.”

With the players always seeming so relaxed on their media duties ahead of a match, he said: "Yes, and I think that comes down to how hard we work and we don't leave things to chance in this group, and that probably eliminates a lot of nerves.

"I don't show a lot of emotion but I can tell you I was nervous before this game and I was nervous before the Hull game but when you sit there and you think about the hard work you've put in and the hours on the training ground, it really is unbelievable and we deserve everything we're getting at the minute."

Superstar sponsor Ed Sheeran could not be at the game in person but was able to join them in the dressing room from on tour in Miami via a FaceTime call, which is something both sides enjoyed.

Woolfenden said: "Yes, I think Dom (Ball) gave him a little song and he enjoyed it and yes, it was good to see Ed and I know he was gutted he can't be here but he's got to make money somehow I guess.”

Asked if it might be true that he will be joining them for a drink later in the week, he replied: "You know more than me, I'm literally just sipping on these Peroni’s and hoping I stay awake."

When asked to give an example about how demanding McKenna can be on them, he said: "I'll tell you one example, we've just got promoted and we're in on Tuesday!

“But put it this way, we get bodyfat tested more than I've ever done in the entirety of my career, we run more, we work hard in the gym. Recovery is massive for us and as a group it's probably the most professional bunch I've been around and it's really helped.

“And like I said, when you work that hard it takes away the nerves and you're not leaving things to chance.

"Like Huddersfield today, they can turn up and play how they want because their season is what it is, and we're out there with massive pressure on us and you'v got to sit there and think ‘we do do this every day’."

Describing it was like as the game concluded, he said: "To be fair from about the 70th minute the clock went so slow it was unbelievable.

"In about the 82nd minute I saw one of my best mates (Harry Burman) standing by the sides and yes, it blew my mind, it was unbelievable. I'm going to have some more beer before I start crying."

He added: "I used to play Sunday league with him and I've heard him shout 'Woolfy' and I thought 'oh no, I know that voice' and I've turned round and saw him.”

Put to him he has had some real lows at the club, having been out of favour under previous manager Paul Cook, to some real highs, he interjected saying: "F****** hell have I.

"It's mental, football is one of those sports where if there's someone in charge of you and their opinion is different to someone else's then the game can change.

"To be fair I think no matter how hard you work a lot of it is down to timing and luck.

"Another manager could have come in that was not Kieran McKenna and not enjoyed how I was playing football and then things go differently, but luckily for me it worked out the way that I wanted it for."