Craig: Ross is a Perfect Fit for Town
Wednesday, 16th May 2018 18:20
Former Town U18s skipper Liam Craig believes his friend and former team-mate Jack Ross would be “a perfect fit” for the Blues.
St Mirren boss Ross was interviewed by Town last week and is speaking to owner Marcus Evans for a second time this week. We understand the 41-year-old is, as things stand, one of two contenders to take over at Portman Road along with Shrewsbury’s Paul Hurst.
The Blues are yet to formally approach the Shrews to speak to Hurst with the Shropshire side having reached the League One play-off final which takes place a week on Sunday.
Craig, 31, was an academy scholar at Playford Road and captained the U18s side which won the FA Youth Cup in 2005.
Following his release by the Blues in the summer of 2006 having been unable to break into the first team, the midfielder returned to his native Scotland where he linked up with Ross and the two remain close.
“When I left Ipswich and signed for Falkirk, Jack was my captain,” Craig told BBC Radio Suffolk. “That was 12 years ago and I’ve spoken to him regularly throughout my career because, even after I left Falkirk, he’s someone that I’ve always been able to trust and turn to.
“Whether that’s to talk about a contract negotiation at another club, he’s always been there as a senior player and a good person to help people out.
“After I left he became the PFA chairman in Scotland and he got me on board on the committee because he’d seen that it would help me in the long run, it would make me a better player, a better person as well.
“He also got me involved with Show Racism the Red Card too, so he’s very much a person that looks for the best in everybody and tries to help them as much as he can.”
While Craig has never played for a team managed by Ross, who was named the Scottish Championship Manager of the Year earlier in the week, he has been hugely impressed with the swift turnaround he instigated following his appointment as Buddies boss in October 2016.
“Obviously, managerially I’ve never worked under him, but look at the job that he’s done at St Mirren,” Craig, who is currently with St Johnstone, added.
“Eighteen months ago, you talk about Ipswich being in the mire, well St Mirren certainly were.
“When Jacko came in they were staring relegation in the face. People will talk about what he’s done this season but I think how he kept them in the league last season when no one gave then a hope really was incredible.
“And then to back that up with going on to win the league this year just shows what a manager he is.
“You look at Ipswich as a club always wanting to promote young players and youth players, you just have to look at what he’s done with the boy Lewis Morgan at St Mirren, a young player there that has now signed for Celtic and has now been called up to the Scotland squad. Jacko’s only been working with him for 15 or 16 months.
“That’s the sort of personality he’s got, the sort of demands he’s got as well because he went in at St Mirren and it was all or nothing for him. We certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation if he’d got relegated with St Mirren.”
Edinburgh-born Craig says Ross will be looking to pick his next club with care having previously rebuffed potential moves to Dundee and Barnsley.
“The fact that he’s gone in there and done that [with St Mirren] meant he was linked to Barnsley in January. He probably would have got a lot more money at Barnsley than he’s got at St Mirren, but the club’s got to be right for him as well. He does his due diligence on the club and he’s ambitious.
“I was at the PFA dinner just last week when he won PFA Manager of the Year and when you think about what Steve Clarke’s done at Kilmarnock and you think about what Brendan Rodgers could be about to do at Celtic, winning another treble, that just shows what people in Scotland think about him.
“When you hear him speaking, he talks about his ambition to manage Scotland one day, manage at the top level and I love the fact that he’s not scared to tell people that. He wants to be the best he can be.
“Jacko’s not going to go down there [to Ipswich] to be a mid-table club in the Championship, he wants to go down there, his aspirations will be to get them into the Premier League.”
He added: “He’s someone I’m close to and I think from a player’s point of view, you speak to any players who have worked under him when he was captain or when he was a manager and they’ll all speak highly of him and about what he’s done for their careers, on and off the park.
“He got me involved in media stuff and whenever I was doing the radio or the telly he would give me pointers just to help me, that’s just the sort of person he is.
“Obviously he’s proven to be a really good manager, but he’s an even better person. And when you’ve got that and you can do what he did at St Mirren when he’s got the players buying into what he wants to do, then you’ve got a chance of really progressing. If he got the job at Ipswich, I can only think the future’s bright.”
In terms of style of play Craig believes Town fans would relish the way Ross would want the Blues to perform.
“It maybe got a little bit stale under Mick McCarthy, but I think he’ll bring a vibrant style of play there,” he reflected.
“Look at his St Mirren team, they didn’t win the league by defending, they won it by scoring a lot of goals.
“They went to Celtic Park [in the Scottish Cup in March last year] when Celtic hadn’t been beaten and went 1-0 up and probably should have won the game.
“They lost [4-1] in the end but Brendan Rodgers said afterwards that they were the best team they’d played in Scotland that season.
“Everyone’s got a lot of positive things to say about him. I’ve never worked under him as a manager but certainly from playing under him when he was captain and the sort of person he is off the field and knowing what sort of club Ipswich is, knowing what sort of people are are at the club, I think he’d be a perfect fit.”
It’s not only Rodgers who has been impressed with the way St Mirren have played under Ross.
“I think you just have to look at a tweet from Barcelona, believe it or not, during the season after one of their goals against Dunfermline,” Craig recalled.
“The club mentioned it was like a Barcelona goal and Barcelona actually tweeted them back.
“I think right away that suggests the sort of style of football they try and play, not that I’m comparing them to Barcelona, but they were fairly impressed with the goal that night.
“He’s very much a young manager coming through, he wants to play out from the back and he wants to play in a style that gets people excited and definitely with the players he’s had at St Mirren like Lewis Morgan, a lot of younger players, they’re very much free-flowing.
“And I watched a game this season when they scored two goals from set pieces, you can see how much they work on set pieces, to isolate positions where they’re going to get goals from. It is a joy to watch.
“If he stays at St Mirren, because he’s still in a very good job at the moment, they’re definitely going to add to the Scottish Premiership next season.
“And, as I say, I know what Ipswich was like when I was there and the way they wanted to play, I genuinely do think he would be a perfect fit.”
Craig revealed he has spoken to Ross about Town: “I’ve had a brief discussion with him just in terms of my time there and how I loved it.
“His assistant James Fowler, who he’s worked with at St Mirren, is someone I play golf a lot with and I’ve been winding the two of them up saying I was the last captain to win anything there!
“We were having a laugh and a joke about that. Maybe that will spur them on to shut me up.
“If he gets the job, he certainly doesn’t need any advice from me. I’ve told him what a great time I had and what a great town it was to live in, that it’s a real family club as well.
“He’s old enough and shrewd enough now and been about the place enough to know what’s right for him.
“And if he was go down there and see the facilities, see the stadium and see the town, he would really embrace it and it wouldn’t be for lack of trying if they never got into the Premier League.”
He continued: “You couldn’t meet a better person to learn from in terms of his coaching, his man-management, the type of person he is.
“It’s a great club with a lot of great people and from my point of view I would love to see them back in the Premier League, it’s been far too long that they’ve been out of it.”
Ross is currently the 2-1 odds-on favourite with Bet Victor with Hurst behind him at 4-1.
Tim Sherwood, who TWTD revealed has also been interviewed by Town, is at 10-1, Simon Grayson, who was linked yesterday but is not believed to be in contention, is at 12-1, Shefki Kuqi, who wasn't among those interviewed despite having applied, at 16-1, with Scott Parker, another of those interviewed, at 20-1 along with George Burley and Östersunds manager Graham Potter.
Meanwhile, former Blues academy keeper Nick Pope, 26, has been named in the England 23 for this summer's World Cup in Russia.
Soham-born Pope was released by the Town youth set-up in 2008 aged 16 and went on to play for Bury Town before breaking back into senior football with Charlton prior to joining current club Burnley in 2016.
Photo: Action Images
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