LUKE Chambers recently celebrated the seventh anniversary of joining Ipswich Town.

It was on July 9, 2012 that the fresh-faced defender was first unveiled, joining on a three-year deal from Nottingham Forest.

Since then, the 33-year-old has established himself as a pivotal figure at the club. Surely the finest signing of Paul Jewell's ill-fated Portman Road era.

On the pitch, things haven't always gone to plan.

The last seven seasons will hardly be remembered with fondness, given some of the dreary football and mediocrity.

One (ultimately fruitless) play-off campaign aside, it's been tough to watch and the low point, clearly, was last term's gut-wrenching relegation into League One.

Chambers, in common with his team-mates, had a poor campaign and it would be wrong and misleading to suggest otherwise.

Frustrated, prone to mistakes and shorn of confidence, it really was a year to forget.

However, he remained a charismatic focal point of the team - a chest-pumping warrior, straight-talking and brutally honest.

Say what you like about his performances, he never shirked his responsibilities. An ambassador and leader during a dark time in the club's history.

Now, for me, Town need him more than ever. This season will be his most important yet.

Chambers was suspended for last week's curtain-raiser at Burton Albion but is available for tomorrow's tussle with Sunderland.

And both on and off the pitch, he needs to lead by example.

On it, he needs to be the solid, dependable cornerstone of their defence. A senior, experienced and established skipper to support his young team-mates.

Off it, his sheer force of personality can be an ingredient in what we hope will be a promotion push. Cajoling, encouraging and inspiring.

I see a parallel between Chambers and manager Paul Lambert.

Both are instantly-recognisable figureheads but both have their doubters.

Lambert's best work so far has come with a microphone in front of him but his punchy, rousing soundbites have clearly not been mirrored by results.

Similarly, Chambers' animated, adrenaline-charged demeanour has become his trademark and, sadly, not his defending.

It's time for that to change this season. It has to.

While Lambert has to deliver, so too does Chambers.