Cook: A Tough Day For Us, We're a Work in Progress
Saturday, 31st Jul 2021 18:08
Blues boss Paul Cook admitted this afternoon’s 3-0 defeat was a tough day for his side which he says everyone should be aware is a work in progress following all the summer changes.
Cook admitted that Town were very much second best to Millwall, who impressed him greatly with their display.
“A tough day for us, isn’t it? If you look at the game overall, you might disagree with me, some of the supporters might, but I thought for 15 or 20 minutes at the start we really struggled to get into the game,” he said.
“I thought Millwall were a really good side, they were dominating the ball, they were working us.
“But I felt that we grew into the game, we grew into the half and it was probably our best spell in the game when we conceded, and you know yourself that goals change the confidence levels, everything.
“While we’re still working hard to be a work in progress, which is what we are, 100 per cent, Millwall are a very, very strong side.
“I think Gary will be delighted tonight with how they played and performed. For us, we go away, we lick our wounds and we work harder to come back better.”
He added: “If anyone thinks it’s not a work in progress then they’re very foolish, aren’t they? You can’t change the football world today. We’ve signed some good players and the reality is that people then think you’ve won the league.
“Football’s not like that, we’ve got so much hard work to do, we’ve got to integrate new players, how long that takes will be the big thing.
“For us today it was a tough day. When you have days like today you respect the opposition because it’s easy to say we didn’t play well. We weren’t allowed to play well today by a very strong Championship team.
“We’ll lick our wounds, we’ve had five weeks together the majority of that squad. We still need to bring more players in, we still have deficiencies in the team that are clear to see and that’s something that [CEO] Mark [Ashton] and I will try and address over the next week or two.”
Reflecting on pre-season as a whole, he said: “I’ve enjoyed it. If you look at Millwall, I’m not being critical of [Lions manager] Gary [Rowett] or what they’ve done, but I’m not so sure they’ve signed a player. I might be wrong on that, but you look at Millwall and you see how strong they are, how well organised they are.
“That’s a group of lads who have been together for a good period of time. That’s what we’re aspiring to be and certainly over three or four pre-season games with new lads arriving daily, that’s certainly not going to get us to those levels.
“So we’ll stay patient, we’ll stay calm, we’ll keep working very hard and we certainly will come back better than we were today.”
Asked about George Edmundson and Scott Fraser who were absent from the squad, he added: “Just little injuries that have kept them out, and that’s part and parcel of the game.
“One of the things I won’t do is speak about players every time we lose or anything goes wrong. It’s not a big debate, it’s pre-season. The big game starts next Saturday here and we’re all looking forward to that.
“This will be rocking next week, this place will be absolutely rocking. I think today’s result could do us the world of good going forward, it just brings everyone down to earth with a little bit of a bump.
“It doesn’t bring me back down to earth, if I’m being truthful, because it’s what you know, it’s exactly what you know. We’re a work in progress that will continually strive to get better.
“I’ve been around football long enough to know. I’ve seen good pre-seasons turn into horrific starts, I’ve seen bad pre-seasons [and good starts]. I think when you’ve been in football as long as I have, while always an indicator of what’s going on, we’ve played top level opposition now, top, top level.
“And when you’re new and playing a game against opposition as solid as Millwall that don’t give up many chances, that are a continual threat, that replace players of the quality of Wallace and Afobe with strikers like Bennetts and Smith and Bradshaw, that’s where they are, they’re a solid Championship team.
“We respect the game today, there are no problems with the game, disappointed with the result, the manner of the goals, but we’ll move on.”
Cook is pleased to see supporters back at grounds: “I think there’s a really big thing about football fans in general being in. I think that goes for away fans, I think that goes for the matchday feel in general.
“Even when I was managing Wigan and we returned after [the lockdown], the empty stadiums, it wasn’t that they couldn’t carry on without fans, if they have to carry on without fans they have to, but football needs supporters so badly and fans inside the stadium. Probably on a bad day for me, if I’m being truthful, but it’s still for the good.”
Cook admitted that ideally he’d like a couple more pre-season games before the season proper gets under way.
“Yeah 100 per cent, but we don’t get it,” he said. “We don’t get that chance. We’ve got lads not playing today that will start the season maybe, I don’t know, we haven’t dissected the game.
“One of the things with football, we all know in the world that we’re in how quickly people expect [things].
“It’s a long, long race football, 46 league games this year, and come the end of the season when you’ve played that 46th game, the league table will tell no lies. Where we will be in that league table then will be a massive thing for us as a club.
“You can overly analyse pre-season, you really, really can. You look at our bench today with young Cameron Humphreys coming on, with Matt Ward coming on, the depth of our squad is not there yet.
“We’ve still got building that are under contract, we’re still looking to bring in, we’re still working away daily.
“And when you come up against teams like Millwall today, on reflection, as I said to [director of performance] Andy Rolls, probably the worst game we could have got at Portman Road today, but that’s great credit to Millwall.
“A top team, they will go close in the Championship this year, trust me. They have men all over the pitch, they have an identity, a style of play and they’re good, which normally adds up to being successful, something that at the minute we don’t look like.”
Asked where he feels the squad is fitness-wise after pre-season, he said: “[We] keep going, [there were] lads getting 90 minutes today, Rekeem Harper and Lee Evans.
“Lee’s had injuries, we’ve had lads missing training. You can see the work that needs to go in, recognising areas of the pitch when you have to pass and play, when you have to go long.
“We’ve played with the two up front because we haven’t really had a defined number 10. There’s so much work to do.
“We respect the result, we’re always disappointed to lose a game of football but we have some manners about is.”
Quizzed on whether Flynn Downes or any of the other senior players training with the U23s might be able to work their way back into his plans, he said: “I will not be getting drawn into any questions about any players, about anything other than the team.
“We have one thing to concentrate on, the focus is on Morecambe next week and the players available to be selected.”
Millwall boss Gary Rowett was unsurprisingly chuffed with his side's display.
“I was really pleased with the performance," he told his club's official site.
“The first goal was a good goal, Benik [Afobe] has been really bright and needed that goal. He showed a poacher's instinct.
“Then the second, there were a lot of good passes and good interchange - I thought we were more creative today and brighter in and around that final third and the second goal showed that.
"The third goal comes from a set piece. There was a lot I was pleased with - I still think there's aspects I'd like us to do better on, but that's what pre-season is for.
“We've got a lot of work to do this week, but there was a lot of good things to come out of the game.”
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