|Wigan Athletic 0 v 0 Ipswich Town|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 27th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Cook: We Need to Be So Much Better Than That
Saturday, 27th Mar 2021 19:16
Boss Paul Cook admitted the Blues have to be “so much better than that” following their 0-0 draw away against his old club Wigan but insisted he still believes Town can make the play-offs, although is less convinced that the players share that faith.
Asked what he made of the game, Cook reflected: “What did I make of that? What did I make of that? An OK point for us in the end, if we’re being truthful.
“The game lacked quality from both teams, the pitch was difficult I suppose, but you make excuses, don’t you?
“We need to be so much better than that as a team, but we take a point. We move on to the next game. There are 10 games left in our season, the imbalances of the home and away games have been quite strong.
“A big positive is that we drew with Lincoln and we beat Plymouth at home and we go into Bristol Rovers at home now. We need a win quickly, we’ve got to get a win on the board quickly to just give ourselves the belief that we can make those play-offs.”
Was he disappointed that his side didn’t really grab the game by the scruff of the neck? “I’m not so sure we’ve got that in us at the minute, have we? You guys have watched us a lot longer than me.
“We huff and you puff and do what we do, we sort of revert to where we look at times defensively quite OK, but we finished the game very nervily, which I don’t understand.
“We should be controlling games and opening teams up and putting quality balls in the box and it’s just something we’re not doing at the minute.
“We just keep going, get on that training ground and you work harder and harder and you remind the players, and myself, that when you’re managing and you play for a big club there’s an expectancy and that’s a really good expectancy because it’s something you’ve got to step up to and at the minute I’d suggest, myself included, we’ve got a little bit of a way to go to get to that mark.”
Is he still unwavering in his belief that Town can make the play-offs? “Yes. Come on, if I can’t believe [who can?].
“Someone once told me ‘If you can’t believe, how can anyone else?’. I look at it and go to myself, we need a big rub of the green.
“As I’ve just said to them in the dressing room after the game, everyone looks like they’re waiting for someone else to do something. I’ve never seen a team like that.
“We’ve got to have go-to players that step up to the plate and go ‘Have that, cross that onto Norwood’s head’.
“I’m desperate to give Kayden Jackson a run down the centre of the pitch with James Norwood but it’s something I’ve never played and you’ve got to be a very direct team to do that.
“You’ve got to have wingers putting balls in the box, you’ve got to be hitting second strikers but it’s something that I don’t see us being really good at.
“But what I can guarantee to our supporters is that I won’t stick with anything rigid with the 10-game campaign that could see us be successful, that’s for sure.”
Do the players believe the same? “I’d suggest no, if I’m being brutally honest with you. I’d suggest no, I’d suggest that they just look at each other and hope that someone steps up. That’s not how I’ve managed in my career, that’s not how my teams play.
“Home and away we take the game to people, we are off our front foot, we are aggressive. I think Kane Vincent-Young’s substitution at half-time was disappointing because I think there was one situation just before half-time where you saw the qualities that he can bring to the game with a really good overlap and a penetration into the box. That’s what we want to be, that’s a glimpse of it. But it happened certainly nowhere enough.
“Listen, our supporters on iFollow in their thousands, they’ll be as disappointed as anyone tonight. All I can tell them is that there won’t be a stone unturned, we want to go up this year, we are desperate to get in those play-offs. Tonight it doesn’t look good, tomorrow is a different day.”
Is it character and personality he’s talking about? “You know what guys, I think even for you [the media], in my short time as Ipswich manager, I think I’m a very open type of manager, I answer all questions. I think you’ll end up leading me to sort of say one or two things about the team that are lacking.
“I think visually every one of our supporters knows what’s lacking, you guys knows what’s lacking, so we don’t need to keep telling each other.
“What we’ve got to go away and do is find it, find that ingredient to make a nice meal and that’s my job, that’s what I’m paid very well to do.”
Town have 10 games to go, time is running out and players can’t keep pointing to the number of matches which remain to be played.
“I’ll shoulder all that pressure for those players, that’s my job,” Cook continued. “Those players have only got to put a run together to win games.
“In this league, if you win two or three games, you’ll be exactly where you want to be. It’s like starting a marathon, you’ve got to do the first mile.
“At the minute we’re at the starting blocks, we all know the marathon is going to be tough but we can do it.”
Cook confirmed that Vincent-Young was forced off at half-time with an injury: “Hamstring injury, his hamstring, he had to come off. You can’t carry on like that, can you?
“I’m so disappointed for the lad, he’s worked so hard to get back in. But it is what it is and we have to accept it and you’re then putting a centre-half [Luke Woolfenden] in at right-back.
“You know yourselves, I’ve never believed in making excuses as a manager, I never have and I never will. he brutal reality today was that we didn’t have the quality to open them up and that’s heart-breaking, isn’t it. But there you go.”
One positive for the Blues was Armando Dobra’s contribution having come on as a sub in the second half.
“Yes, he showed a couple of good little passages of play by controlling the ball well and retaining possession,” Cook continued. “It’s something that everyone in our team should be doing a helluva lot better.
“As I say, I come out and show a united front to you guys, that’s my job, it really is, I’ve got to make sure that these lads, who probably over a period of time now have struggled with the expectancy on them, [can perform] and it’s their time now.
“There are 10 games running out. We all know with contracts and situations managers can threaten you. My big threat to the players, let’s see what we’re really about in these last 10 games.”
In addition to the club’s play-off ambitions, they have a lot to play for personally with so many contracts up at the end of the season.
“One hundred per cent, and they’ve got to feel that,” Cook said. “Promotions and success in your life, are the best days in your life, they’re what makes you strive to do it again.
“With our lads they’ve got to feel and taste that we’re so close. We beat Bristol Rovers and go up to Rochdale and win, the reality is that we're in the play-offs. Is that asking too much of our players? I don’t think it is. I think I’m demanding it now, if I’m being truthful.”
Asked whether he expected more by this stage having won one, drawn two and lost three of his six games with Town, Cook added: “Of course I did. You come in, you can say what you want. The biggest concern I had when I walked in the building was the lack of goals in the team.
“That was my biggest concern. As I speak to you guys now, I haven’t solved that problem. I love teams that put loads of crosses in, that get in great areas of the pitch, that can do everything.
“At the minute we’re just stuttering away. We’re like an engine that’s just gone a bit wrong and we keep stuttering in the hope that we can find that gear that will take us forward. But I tell you what, we’ll keep working at it, that’s for sure.”
Looking ahead to the week to come, he said: “There’s an U23s game at Charlton on Monday, we’ll be very strong. Myself, [first-team coach] Gary [Roberts], we’ll all be there watching the lads, it’s an opportunity to impress. We’ll get a rest into Chambers, Dozzell, Toto and the rest because they’ve had a lot of games.
“The club will be off Tuesday. We’ll come in on Wednesday and Thursday and we’ll fire into Bristol Rovers in the biggest game of our season on Friday.”
Jon Nolan was with the subs the Town subs but Cook says that doesn’t indicate the midfielder, who suffered a knee injury earlier this month, is closing in on a return.
“No, I’d love to say yes,” Cook said. “Jon won’t play again this season, it was a really tough knock that he got.
“He lives up in Liverpool, it was a chance for him to go and see his family and travel with the players and put a little smile on his face.”
U23s coach Kieron Dyer was on the bench with the staff for the first time. Asked what the thinking was behind that, Cook said: “We’re here to help each other. Kieron’s an exceptionally good coach, he’s a really gifted coach, his career’s there for everyone to see.
“If his experience can help any of our young lads as a role model, why shouldn’t he be in and around our squad and team at the minute?
“Everyone at the club can learn, I’m still learning every day. The reality of football is that we want to help each other to learn so we can get better so we can deliver success for Ipswich Town.”
Asked about a report in one of this morning’s national newspapers which claimed he had angrily sent the players home at lunchtime on Wednesday - when a double session had been planned - and food was as a result donated to a local charity, Cook responded: “We were in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. What we wanted to do on Wednesday was give one of the local charities some of the food that we’re lucky enough to get delivered every day.
“So if you’re looking for stories about fallouts, you’ll have to look somewhere else.
“You’re speaking to the wrong guy. I think the reality for us is, if you’re looking for fallouts, you’d be looking for them every day. I think in the press you can always twist a story to how you want it to be twisted.
“The reality is that our lads are working every so hard to get better so that we can finish the season strongly in the play-offs, that’s the story I’d like you to lead on.”
Wigan boss Leam Richardson felt a 0-0 draw was perhaps inevitable as he came up against his old boss.
“It was destined to be like that wasn't it?" he told Wigan Today. “The game ebbed and flowed and took different directions, but on the balance of the 90 minutes a draw was probably a fair result.
“At the minute we've got to try and take each and every positive, and so we'll class that as a point gained.
“And the biggest credit you can give these lads is that they're still here, competing, giving me everything they've got.
Regarding facing Cook, he added: ”It was obviously a very surreal experience, having worked so closely with him for so long.
“I know how good a manager he is, how he sets his teams up and the energy he brings to every club he's at.
“I heard him say before the game he's been carrying me for years. He got that in first, which I don't mind! But we'll have a beer and have a chat, and have that conversation again.
“In a way it wasn't a nice situation to be in opposition to him today, because we both knew how important the points are to Wigan Athletic at the moment.
“We both know how important it is we stay up and how hard the group's worked to give themselves a chance of doing so.
“At the same time you always like to see your mate doing well, so maybe a 0-0 draw was the right result on the day.”
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