Cook: A Really Nice Small Step
Saturday, 17th Apr 2021 16:02
Town boss Paul Cook felt the Blues’ display as they drew 0-0 at Charlton was a small step in the right direction, while praising the performances of Andre Dozzell and Teddy Bishop and discussing the future of skipper Luke Chambers, who was dropped to the bench.
Cook, who was highly critical of his team as they lost 3-0 at AFC Wimbledon on Tuesday, said the performance was much better than the one at Plough Lane.
“Of course it was,” he said. “I’ve been so frustrated since I’ve come into the club at not being able to play a system that I’ve played everywhere and trusted [4-2-3-1].
“The stats on our team in terms of energy and running and certain stuff have not been great. Certainly after Tuesday, it was a case of what will be will be now, there’ll be no more protecting players in terms of positional play or anything right.
“We played a style today and I thought for the first 15 or 18 minutes we were excellent. We really started the game well and against a team that’s in great form, one of the strong form teams in the league. We put it up to everyone.
“We had long spells of control of the game today and going forward that’s how we’re going to play, that’s how we’ll be as a team - energy and quality in wide areas, plenty of crosses in the box and scoring goals. I want us to be an exciting team. And at the minute, we’ve been anything but exciting.
“Today I felt was a really nice small step, just a tiny step for our supporters and ourselves to see just a glimpse that we can travel home and away and we can control games without controlling the game today, if you understand what I’m saying. Just a small indicator of what we could be about.”
Cook wanted a reaction from his players after Tuesday and despite not claiming a win - or ending their goalless run - he felt he got it.
“I just told the players in there, everyone will have their own career now lads. I will have my own managerial career, players will have theirs. But don’t have regrets.
“Today at 72, 73 minutes we were wavering. We have to make substitutions at the minute because people are tired. That’s not football clubs, you make football changes for tactical reasons, not because of athletic reasons.
“I’ve got no problem with any of our lads, all of our lads have had different reasons, whether that’s injuries, not playing, there are reasons why. But we’ve got to get fitter, we have to be stronger, we have to be better in every area of the pitch. Going forward, that’s what I aspire to.”
Despite extending their goalless run to 439 minutes, they did work Charlton keeper Ben Amos more than has been the case with other opposition glovesmen of late.
“I’m delighted with us, honestly, I am,” Cook continued. “The first thing as an Ipswich fan now, I enjoyed watching us today. I haven’t enjoyed watching us at all lately.
“I said to the players that even when we’ve won at home, we’ve won hanging on. We don’t win like that, we win by scoring more goals and being aggressive.
“And our players have had so many knocks, I can tell you. Imagine how these lads actually feel. Forget how bad we’ve done, we have. There’s no hiding place from that, but we’re asking these lads to be brave and show confidence when they’re probably in the worst moments of the season.
“For us as a club, we’ve got to be, and we are, we are a good club, we’re a strong club that will support our players for as long as they are here.”
Town are still ninth but one point nearer the play-offs, four, with a couple of wins putting them right back in contention.
“I’m excited, I’ve got to tell you,” Cook continued. “I told the players that while I’ve got something burning in my stomach myself, a little light flickering, until it goes out then we won’t lie down for no one.
“We’ve got to win at Northampton on Tuesday night and I think we’ll take confidence into the game now.
“That will be a big test for us now because when we’ve done OK on the Saturday, we haven’t travelled on the Saturday, so it’s watch this space.”
Regarding James Norwood’s withdrawal in the first half with injury, the Blues boss said: “Hamstring injury. Again, James has struggled this year.
“I was at the Peterborough-Northampton game last night and I’ve watched Jonson Clarke-Harris. In my opinion James Norwood’s been starved of service this year. He’s been starved of it, quality crosses into the box and a team that doesn’t create enough chances.
“I believe that we’ve got a really good striker at the club. Unfortunately James has got frustrated at times with how we’re playing but that’s a result of both parties probably not being happy with each other.
“We just want James [fit] and unfortunately his hamstring will be what it’ll be. We just want people to concentrate on being good themselves, let the manager worry about the rest of the team.”
That sounds like he’s part of your plans? “Listen, until something changes, everyone is. Like I say, for players, I’m an honest manager. I don’t tell people lies. James Norwood, we spoke yesterday, if we can’t create chances, James Norwood might as well not be up here today because he’s playing against Ryan Inniss and Jason Pearce, who are absolute man mountains.
“We have to be better with the ball and it’s an accumulation of getting every slot right that will see us become a good team.
“Everyone’s playing for their futures at the minute. James is like me, I’m a manager, I’m fighting for my future. If I don’t get it right, the reality is that someone else will be here, but I’ll fight hard, that’s for sure.”
Cook says captain Chambers took the decision to drop him to the bench professionally: “He’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant, absolutely brilliant, he was, he was fantastic. The same as Toto Nsiala.
“We can’t keep travelling and picking the same teams and same formations, it’s not football, it’s not elite level football. I’ve got to say, Toto’s had a little thigh injury, only a slight one, but it kept him out today.
“You’ve got to fear for your place and I think Luke and Toto have probably been our two best players and for me as manager of Ipswich, I’m not happy that our two centre-halves have been our two best players, I struggle with that.
“Unfortunately, we all had a bad night Tuesday and Luke took it like you’d expect, like a man. Going forward, Luke will have decisions to make on his future in the summer. I certainly think Luke can be around after the summer if he wants to be. What part that might be might be different, but that’s between me and Luke.
“Luke’s been an exemplary pro up to today, even on the bench today he conducted himself great and that’s what I want. Everyone can’t play every week but we’ve got to support each other.
“We travel away, we’ve only got each other. We need everybody supporting each other in a proper way.”
Cook was pleased to see Kane Vincent-Young get through his first 90 minutes of the season: “I was delighted. I thought he tired, but he’s galloped so well and he looks so energetic. Hopefully going forward we can get combinations going on on pitches where we see that pace and energy all over the pitch.
“We see flair players who can create and score goals, we see full-backs going forward. It’s modern-day football, it’s something we’ve got to join quickly.”
When it was suggested the right-back looks like his sort of player, Cook responded: “I understand where you’re going because we’re at the time where every player’s future gets discussed.
“Like I said to the players before the game, at every club I’ve been at I loved my players. I’ve had players at my previous clubs that would run through brick walls for me. The reason that is is because I’d run through brick walls for them.
“We’ve got to get that relationship at the club. Sometimes it won’t always be a happy one, where I can’t promise everyone a good future, but I’ll certainly treat everyone with respect, I’ll certainly look after them as best I can until our paths go a different way.
“And that’s what I’ve got to do, we’ve got to challenge each other every day because this is too big a club to be in the position that we’re in.”
The Town manager says those 15, 18 minutes in which he says they’ve played well need to be extended over whole games.
“One hundred per cent,” he said. “That’s what good teams do. One of the things that you guys will know, you probably think ‘I wonder what formation they’ll play today? I wonder what system they’ll play?’. That’s not how good teams travel.
“You guys will follow Ipswich knowing that we’re going to play off our front foot, how we’ll play with our systems, how we’ll be adaptable to whatever we want in the game, we’ll be 4-2-3-1 and we’ll be strong, we’ll be aggressive, we’ll have loads of penetration in the final third.
“At the minute, everything you look at with our stats is not good enough. But we can’t keep debating it after every game. I’m not going to change it, we’re not going to get everyone fit, super fit in a week.
“What we’ve got to do now, we’ve got to look for signs of people who we believe can take us forward.
“I thought Andre Dozzell was excellent today, by the way. Again, another player who has had a little bit of criticism even from myself and I thought he was absolutely superb today.”
Cook also had praise for Bishop: “Outstanding. Even today, it’s nice that we’ve come off after the game and we’re speaking well about our players. We should be doing that every week. The questions will change to ‘who do you think was man of the match today, Paul?’.
“That’s where we’ve got to go rather than ‘why haven’t we done this?’ or ‘who can’t do that?’. That’s probably been the position we’ve been at for a bit now and eventually as we draw the line in the sand, it has to stop and we have to start taking steps forward.
“Too many inquests. You know because you’ve asked the questions. I’d like to just go and have a pint in peace now.
“As a club, we want to be a good club where people love coming to watch us play, where our supporters travel saying ‘I know how we’ll play today’. It doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but we have a really good brand.
“We’ll be aggressive. I love watching games where teams create chances and crosses go in the box and it’s something we haven’t done enough of, that’s for sure.”
Having been so critical of the players, can any of them change his mind in these next five games? “Honestly, if you look at us, and I’ve been as critical as anyone of them, we are as bad as we probably looked.
“But within that, there’ll always be players. There’ll always been players that will surprise you, the overturn in squad, and sometimes your bark is worse than your bite.
“You keep threatening people with change, but the reality is that you want people to [think] 'if you’re going to change loads, you mightn’t change me, and I’ll step up to the plate'.
“I just think we’ve been, what’s the best word? Not playing within ourselves, I think we’ve probably as professionals, probably not been exerting ourselves as we should to be a proper professional footballer.
“And that means looking after yourself, living right, sleeping well, nutrition, diets, training, all of the above.”
Charlton manager Nigel Adkins, whose side were in action at the Valley for the first time since he took charge, felt his side were the more likely winners in the second half.
“Cold light of day, you look at it we’ve got another clean sheet, a point on the board,” he told the South London Press.
“I can’t control what other teams do. We need a certain amount of points to get into the play-offs. This is another point towards that.
“But as that goes, it now narrows the amount of defeats or points you can drop to achieve that points total. What we’ve got to do now is go and take care of business as best as we can and get ready for a tough game away at Plymouth.
“It was a tough game. They had a bit too too much of the ball at the back, playing out, for my liking – allowing them to get the ball into the attacking third of the pitch and penning us in.
“We addressed that better in the second half. The lads worked really hard. I don’t really remember [keeper] Ben [Amos] having too much to do. He made one save in the first half.
“The introduction of Ben Watson on the hour-mark was pivotal because we actually started to pass the ball far better and trying to get the wide players on the ball in the attacking third of the pitch.
“We were the team more likely to go and win in the last half hour, we were in control of the game.”
He added: “Things you look at is that we’ve kept the clean sheet, we’ve got another point on the board and it’s a first home game for me at the Valley. It gives me an understanding on where we’ve got to try and keep improving moving forward – because it is a big, big pitch.
“We knew it would be energetic. Paul would have been looking for a reaction and he’s got that first half. We didn’t press sufficiently well enough to stop the ball getting launched forward and we had to defend that.
“We addressed that and we were far better as the game went on, so well done to the players for taking that on board.
“We’re a massive threat on set pieces and we’ve got talented players we’re trying to get on the ball.
“That last half hour we were the more likely team to go and win it, we were in control. Sometimes you just need that bit of magic to go and get that 1-0 victory and then you can build on that.”
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