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Cook is No Gamechanger
Written by BossMan on Sunday, 12th Sep 2021 14:05

I was 12 when we won the FA Cup so saw early success in my early years as a Town fan. How spoilt I was to see Beattie, Wark, Muhren Thijssen et al.

How amazing was it when we beat a second-placed Manchester United 6-0 while also missing two penalties? So many amazing European nights with perhaps the best being the 4-1 win away to St Etienne who with Michel Platini and Johnny Rep were one of the European super-powers at that time.

I’ve enjoyed watching teams managed by Bobby Robson, Joe Royle and George Burley but have seen tough times too especially during the Marcus Evans era.

Paul Cook has delivered League Two titles for Chesterfield and Portsmouth and a League One title for Wigan but performances since he arrived have only been good in parts and results have been mostly dreadful.

I’ll let the happy clappy brigade make the case for the defence but encourage the more pragmatic supporters to ignore the aggressive language they often use against anyone suggesting Cook isn’t the right man for the job. They embarrass themselves with statements like “get out of my club”, “you must be a budgie”, “you’re only an armchair supporter”, and my personal favourite “anyone with any understanding of football will know it takes time for a team to gel”.

The Bobby Robson analogy gets trotted out with every manager who starts in underwhelming fashion and it’s all highly predictable. These people refuse to acknowledge that TWTD is a forum for debate and they want to bully their opinions into general acceptance as if they were fact.

The reasonable majority must continue to debate with good manners and personal insight. Good humour and banter is a great part of football culture but social media spitefulness is already an outdated phenomena and at times on here we see the worst of that.

Many don’t like fans booing and say stuff like we need to get behind the boys like you are a traitor to the club if you dare criticise any player or the manager. You support your team by cheering them for the 90 minutes of the game. If you want to boo at the end then that’s legitimate as your way at the final whistle to communicate your opinion on that performance.

Likewise making a negative comment on TWTD is often lambasted which is part of the happy clappy culture of applauding failure and resisting change.

Most of our fans are amazing. I don’t know any of the Blue Action lads but I see their emergence as a real force for good and over my many years of travelling far and wide with Town it has to be said our away support over recent seasons is the best I have ever known and makes me so proud when we turn in full voice and such great numbers.

When Paul Cook joined Town we were three points off the play-offs. The collective hope was that with his CV he would bridge that gap and we would at least have a crack at promotion. Performances didn’t improve, results were worse but morale was kept high because Mr Demolition Man told us that we would be getting rid of most of the squad and replacing those players with 'Championship' standard alternatives and most of us (including Cook) are delighted with the newly-assembled group.

The backroom staff was also overhauled but some of our fans immediately pointed to a lack of experience in those ranks and no assistant manager was appointed with Leam Richardson taking the chance to manage Wigan.

It's unfortunate to say the least that we’ve been plagued with just as many injuries as last season's crop of players, fitness levels aren’t very impressive (we certainly aren’t executing a high press) and Cook looks short of ideas and with no obvious foil to bounce ideas off (certainly during the game).

Cook is insisting on playing 4-2-3-1 for every game, every opposition, home and away and has been shoe-horning players into that formation rather than adapting the formation according to opposition strengths or the best available starting XI. If that stubbornness had worked we would be singing his name not shaking our heads.

Cook and the happy-clappy brigade say this squad needs time to gel. They all ignore the high numbers of recruits at some of the sides we have faced who Cook then lauds as being very good teams at post-match interviews.

When I look at our squad compared to the teams we have faced I expected 'time to gel' to mean a scrappy 2-1 win rather than a fluent 3-0. I didn’t expect to see us being terrorised by Cheltenham throw-ins, conceding more goals than any other team in the league, and watching Cook bring on Kayden Jackson in two of those games in preference to the newly-acquired alternatives.

Some fans have said they never expected us to get promoted this season but what an appalling lack of ambition that is.

I don’t share Cook’s faith in Lee Evans, the defence looks like it needs a period of playing five at the back (until we stop shipping goals so heavily), Kane Vincent-Young doesn’t seem the player he was before Cook arrived and Woolfy has hardly blossomed. Tomas Holy could have done better than either of the two keepers and several of the new signings are yet to shine.

I’m sure it will all come good but isn’t Cook’s skill meant to be to accelerate that process faster than you or I could manage and also to judge how quickly to introduce new members of the squad to the starting XI? Sam Morsy, Bersant Celina and Kyle Edwards were missing yesterday but to get promoted you need to perform regardless of injuries.

The fixture list has been unbelievably kind to Cook and continues to look pretty favourable for the remainder of Septempber and to the end of October but in November we play Wycombe, Oxford, Sunderland and Rotherham in consecutive games and all are currently shorter priced odds than us to win the league.

We are eighth-favourites to win the title (we were joint-favourites with Sunderland the day before the season started) and we are yet to face a team more highly fancied than us to win the league.

I think now is the time to change Cook and hopefully bring someone in who will leave us as excited as was the case with so many of the summer signings. It has to be a possibility that our owners see it the same way but maybe they might be concerned about the PR damage of ditching Cook too soon.

Chairman Mike O’Leary said Cook was the man the new ownership would have appointed, maybe he is the kingmaker for the time being. Or does the decision lie with Mark Ashton? I imagine the decision is taken by the owners but only after discussion with O’Leary who then works jointly with Ashton in drawing up a list of candidates.

Another notable interested party is Mark Steed, the chief investment officer for the Arizona firefighters whose money we are spending. When news of the takeover first broke he wrote on Twitter “God have mercy on League One, because we won’t. COYB.” I wonder how long he thinks we should wait for the team to gel.

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tallguy6767 added 15:22 - Sep 12
Well said, I'm sure the woke happy clappy brigade will shout you down and accuse you of not being a true fan!

Essexipswichboy added 15:57 - Sep 12
Exactly right
On paper we should have won all them games
Maybe scrapping but that doesn't matter
We have taken just one lucky point off of 3 promoted yeams

markchips added 16:38 - Sep 12
Excellent blog. I don’t believe the yanks will wait that long and Cook will know this. At this stage he needs to tighten up the midfield. Clearly Evans and Harper are struggling so replace them.

bluesince76 added 17:14 - Sep 12
Well said I think the owners will act sooner rather then later.

bedsitfc added 17:26 - Sep 12
Great post!

One failure from Cook/itfc that has bypassed a lot of supporters is pigott.
When it was announced we were signing him I was very happy as pigott has had great success but only in a 2 man attack, so I thought cook was going to try something he has never done in the past and that’s use a different formation.
Begs the question of “who is deciding what players we are going for?

If it’s cook why go for him if you are not going to play to his strengths

On the transfers we or should I say Cook has brought mainly players that were the stars of their current team or players that have played for him in the past without first working out how he can fit them all together

terryf added 17:52 - Sep 12
After the Morecambe game I thought that the engine room was in good shape but after watching them get outgunned by the MK Dons midfield the writing was on the wall and yesterday they went completely awol.

The defence looked vunerable each time Bolton attacked and apart from Aluko who was pretty sharp all game and Burns during the first half with some surging runs, no one else came out of the match with any credit. We actually seemed disinterested second half and devoid of any ideas. OK we should have gone in 3-2 up at half-time if Bonne had not scuffed a really good opportunity, but to totally capitulate second half was unacceptable and embarrassing to watch.

The number 10 seems to be a big problem too and having watched Chaplin put in two fairly light weight performances in that position he clearly isn't the answer. Maybe Celina or Aluko could fill that role.

I had high hopes of Cook but he must surely be looking over his shoulder now. His beloved system is only effective if all the components are working. Sadly for him not many parts are fully functioning and frustratingly he doesn't seem to have a Plan B!!!


bedsitfc added 18:10 - Sep 12
Terryf- you are right about no plan b but that’s because he doesn’t really have a plan a

bluewarrior added 21:06 - Sep 12
You guys! 😂😂😂😂😂
Saturday was a disaster and a setback but I’m seriously glad that we have professionals running the football club that don’t make spontaneous knee jerk decisions based on the the whining of a handful of emotionally charged fans who’ve lost touch of reason (if they ever had any)


dusth added 21:34 - Sep 12
Some very good points. Of course a new manager would get everyone excited. In the last few years every new manager has got supporters excited - almost to the point of embarrassing accidents. I suspected this was going to happen as did a few supporters I spoke to. The anger comes from unrealistic expectations. The gods of sport don't listen to us mortals. What is need now is some calm. Write off promotion if you like but we need a long and I mean long period of understanding. We are building from the bottom, it isn't just a bad dream we will quickly wake up from and as a wise supporter said recently (GrumpyOldMan - cigar! !) take every victory as a blessing. And you never know ....


BeattiesBackPocket added 01:38 - Sep 13
An interesting read but the irony of you calling people who have a different opinion to you as ‘happy clappers’ is exactly what you’re moaning about happening to you when you give an opinion not the best way to start an interesting thread.

I was one who wanted evans out of our club as we were in free fall and decline every season under him. Now we have the new owners and one thing NOT town fan can say is that they haven’t backed the manager something long lacking at town under evans tenure apart from the first 3 years.

The stats were that our two centre halves played the most passes in the entire game from both sides which sums up our issues atm for me. We’re not offering much in the opposition half, the defence is under pressure the more they have the ball and then mistakes happen, 4231 works for the Chelsea’s, Man City’s of this world because they have the quality but it’s not a formation that’ll get us out of league one. Even England struggle to implement it at times and Kane is mostly isolated or coming deep which is what we have to do. We need results and quick otherwise I can see us on the managerial Merry go round again. What then? Will you be happy if someone like an Eddie Howe came in and went on a losing streak? Will you be wanting him out as well and branding some fans again who want to give them time? I’ve seen both burley and Lyall start extremely poorly at this club with the latter having to build a team from scratch a lot like was needed this season. Call him demolition man or any other name but most the players who left us are in league two or smaller league one clubs so what happened was right however with that comes extra pressure on cook to deliver ASAP

BeattiesBackPocket added 02:06 - Sep 13
Apologies ‘former having to build a team from scratch’ not ‘latter’

Granthamblue62 added 07:23 - Sep 13
I wonder if Cook has been found out without his trusty number 2? Clough was never the same without Peter Taylor. Perhaps the former sidekick has the tactical nous? Certainly, Cook appears stubborn with his formations and bereft of back-up plans. If we still havent won after 10 games I can't see the Yanks putting up with it. I don't really go in for boring stats, but is this the worse start we've ever had? Surely must be up there?

naa added 10:45 - Sep 13
My biggest problem with Cook is his refusal to accept that he did a poor job last season. He took over a team scraping the play-offs under a manager most of us thought wasn't very good.

Then he made us worse and blamed it all on the squad.

A good manager gets the most out of his squad.

McCarthy (whose football I didn't enjhoy watching) took over a team shipping goals for fun who were bottom of the table. Without changing the squad at all he got us winning. His very first game was a 1-0 win.

It can be done and Cook's avoiding any blame doesn't speak well for him I feel.

As for this season, he has recruited well, except he didn't sign any leader or midfielders who can defend until Morsy on the last day. He has Evans, Carrol and Harper who are all basically the same player. He should have 2 players in that mould and two who can tackle.

He expects his fullbacks and wingers to sit high up the pitch, so the defence hs little or no cover.

He recruited a series of coaches with no experience, and not a single one who is resposible for defensive coaching.

We barely make any tackles at all, which is why teams find it so easy to score against us. All of this seems obvious, yet Cook has yet to change anything at all.

I'm sure Morsy will make a difference, but relying on one player is a big mistake.

And in the second half, even our good attacking play vanished.

As for Chaplin, I'm unimpressed so far, but then 95% of the balls to him were hoofs from the back and he's about 4'6" and he was marked by someone around 6'6" so I'm not sure what the team were expecting to happen there.

BossMan added 10:46 - Sep 13
@beattiesbackpocket my angst against the happy clappy brigade is the hostility of their language in fighting against reasonable suggestions Cook is not the right man so I wanted to call that out. Opinion is divided on Cook like it is on all/most managers and yes some moaners will never be happy but Cook has had half a season of games now so why are some so hostile against the debate of whether he is the right choice. We'll beat Sheff Wed or someone soon and there will be loads of fans calling the Cook doubters every name under the sun. Time will tell if he is the right man for the job but you can't keep blaming injuries and lack suspensions etc as every club has those.

JewellintheTown added 11:51 - Sep 13
OK, I'll go with the "Cook out" brigade for now with the question of "Who should be his replacement and why?".
Who will actually want to come to Town rather than who do we unrealistically want in that's actually better than what we have?
That debate is personal and eternal.
Who wants come to a club that keeps changing managers and dropping down divisions because fickle fans demand change so often?
We can want all we like, but who is ACTUALLY going to be better because according to fans Hurst was meant to be better than McCarthy, Lambert better than Hurst, Cook better than Lambert?
Fans have wanted change EVERY time we hit a long rough patch (some before a ball has been kicked). Fans favourites were appointed and praised at the times of those new appointments. How many more managers do we need to go through before we leave one alone to get on with it?
We can debate change because we're all entitled to opinion, but every change we ask for we get, we debate it again and again when it doesn't work the way some want it in the time period some want it. We're just hoping the next one gives us immediate results every time.
Being realistic is about being mature including a reality check and not about accepting failure.
Keep on debating between yourselves - you're right that you do have the right to do that - just keep it real and not wishful thinking. That's after all why we are where we are now.

Edmundo added 11:58 - Sep 13
Grantham: I offer you Keane's first full season for a worst start...

Lightningboy added 12:11 - Sep 13
It’s fairly obvious (like the Lambert/Culverhouse situation) only works when you get both had the alarm bells ringing from Day 1 when we were told he wouldn’t have his long term assistant Liam Richardson with him.

This is far from working & if anything is doing irreparable damage already this season.

I’d give him to the start of the next international break to wake his ideas up.

ElephantintheRoom added 16:23 - Sep 14
Interesting read. I was beginning to think I was the only one who thought Cook was utterly appalling last season and that throwing out the entire foundations of the team and club an bringing a shedload of mismatched bit part players, backroom overflowing with hangars on, marshalled by a smarmy bloke stright out of The Office might not be a very good idea. It takes a very special kind of arrogance and incompetence to take a team from the fringes of the play-offs to relegation form - but Cook managed it effortlessly.. The real problem is that Town are now a franchise - there is nobody anywhere with any feel for the club - just an ingrained arrogance that throwing borrowed money around will do the job. Where you lose me a bit is suggesting Cook should go - and a orderly queue of competent managers will form, Somehow I doubt it - a serial failure from Bristol City's recent past is more likely - that's even assuming Franchise Town can afford Cook's pay off. One of the reasons Town are where they are is the long list of burnt out gravy train riders that have been appointed manager - it is difficult to imagine the bloke in the open neck shirt having any nous or competence in appointing a manager with somewthing to prove - and who in their right mind would come here and work for this dysfunctional crew? I'm not even sure the ludicrous three turkey vultures are a trio any more.... one of them has invested other people's money in Tucson now - so the exciting new era as a franchise run by an Ohio Property Fund fronted by three poseurs who own no more than 'the now departed Marcus Evans' nay be a tad derailed off the pitch as well as on. More gelling agent required, perhaps.

Saxonblue74 added 18:34 - Sep 14
A piece that loses any integrity by labelling those with different opinion as "Happy Clappers". Perhaps we should re visit this in 6 months time to see who's dining out on humble pie!

ITFCOYB added 15:20 - Sep 16
Good blog, and an interesting read from a long-suffering Town fan - albeit with the happy memories most(?) Town fans don't have. I wish i could remember the cup final or UEFA Cup, but i wasn't born for the first and was a baby for the second, so my earliest proper memories are Duncan era.

I agree and disagree with a lot of this blog - but i'd certainly be one of the "happy clappers" in the author's mind, i suspect.

I felt a bit for Lambert - he was ousted at a strange moment - we seemed (to me) to finally be on a bit of an upward trajectory, form-wise, and looked like making the playoffs, to me. Cook's record to the end of the season was awful, and he deserves little sympathy for the abject and sorrowful demise of the last campaign.

Could Lambert have done the rebuild that Cook has? I don't think so - but i could be wrong. Has Cook done a good job of the rebuild? It certainly looks like it in terms of the quality, and he's been backed very well. If this team comes together and builds on the promising passages of play we've seen with more solid defending and fewer mistakes, then we could be in for a treat. So much exciting talent that will light up a winning team - Celina and Edwards, Bonne, Chaplin etc.

As for whether Cook remains the right person to get the new team performing, it seems too early to tell, so i certainly don't think we should be changing anything. The players that have come clearly have faith in him, and most of them are accustomed to being fairly successful at a higher level.

The frequent changes in leadership of the past 15 years were perhaps understandably failures without the changes off the pitch that it seems we needed so badly (jury is out on the coaching side - i can't disagree with the author on that). Now we have the root and branch change we needed, further change would surely be unsettling. If we got to Christmas and were in the bottom three, then of course, something has to give, losing is a horrible habit that requires a gamble at times - and half a season of relegation form would warrant that throw of the dice.

If we got to the end of the season and remained bottom-half with Cook, then i'd also wonder if someone else should take pre-season (depending on who was available/interested).

But for now, we must be patient, in my opinion. Once we get a win or two under the belt and build some confidence i can imagine us putting together a really good run and this dismal start being a fast fading memory.

Importantly, i can only see another change at this point being disruptive and pushing us backwards. At some point we will need to be patient and settled, so the sooner we are, the sooner we'll be moving forwards and upwards again.

Let's remove that unsettling variable of "new" from our thinking for a few months and see how we are.

d77sgw added 23:52 - Sep 16
Personally I have misgivings about Cook - and his fundamental inability to sort out the defence. He's the anti-Mick M - who literally sorted out the basics within a week of joining us, but never made us entertaining to watch. Right now I'd take dull 1-0 wins any day of the week.
The article above is well written, and make some good points - but its appeal to 'reason', and civilised debate is somewhat compromised by dismissing those that disagree as 'happy clappers' over and over again. Sadly, rather like those dismissing others as 'woke' or 'snowflakes', the hypocrisy is missed...

BeattiesBackPocket added 10:27 - Sep 17
Elephantintheroom you cannot blame the owners on this one they have backed the manager to the hilt something evans never did apart from with Keane! Your point has no validation when you start blaming the new owners.

hyperbrit added 22:16 - Sep 17
a company hired to demolish a building is never retained to build a new one

atty added 22:56 - Sep 17
I continue to struggle to understand how 4-2-3-1, with flying full backs, a high press, and an attacking four in front of two do anything but leave us woefully exposed to the counter attack. I’m all for being on the front foot, but surely we should defend as a team when we don’t have the ball?
Pigott needs to play preferably in a two up top two. He scored 20 odd goals in the division last season. KVY should be rested from 1st team duty, have U23 games.Burns at RB. Carroll should play instead of Harper with Celina in the middle of a four, with Edwards on the left and Aluku on the right.

Kitman added 12:37 - Sep 21
With a win now ground out last Saturday, the mood has hopefully mellowed a bit. Until there is any sort of form established we have every right to be worried. I must confess to being this. Impressive CV's are clearly no guarantee.
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