Cook: A Squad to Be Proud Of
Friday, 10th Sep 2021 11:35
Boss Paul Cook believes his squad is one to be proud of, although admits it is slightly larger than he initially planned following the late window signings of Christian Walton, Bersant Celina and Sam Morsy.
Yesterday, the EFL published the club’s 22-man squad aged over 21 for the first half of the season with the Blues at the limit with the out-of-favour Myles Kenlock and Ben Morris, who is in the early stages of his comeback from his second ACL injury, both left out.
In addition to that list, summer signings Rekeem Harper and Louie Barry will very much be part of the first-team squad and youngsters such as Idris El Mizouni, Cameron Humphreys and Bailey Clements will be hoping for further involvement as the campaign progresses.
Asked whether, once everyone is fit and available, he might have a tough job on his hands to keep everyone happy, Cook said: “I think in the last three months, it's probably the biggest day I've looked forward to rather than any other day – the day when everyone's fit and available.
“They are the jobs us managers get paid for. I think when we pursued some of the players that we did, especially Morsy and Celina that were very much long-term targets, the reality is they were delivered very late on.
“Probably the squad might be one or two heavier than where we want it, but we're absolutely delighted to have all our players at the club.
“It's going to be a long season and the support we have from our fans, they'll be willing us now to get up and running.
“They want to travel the country with us and support us and it's something that I can guarantee them that we will kick every ball, every minute of the day for them to produce that.”
Has the disappointing August led to any signs of a loss of confidence among the players who were already at the club prior to the three late signings?
“Football hinges on a balance, on a knife edge,” Cook continued. “If we’d have seen the game out with Wimbledon [to win 2-1] we’d all be sitting looking forward to tomorrow’s game thinking we can jump up to eighth, sixth in the league, whatever it might be.
“And they’re the moments in games. And we’ve got to know for sure, one of the things that management has taught me is that what has happened before will happen again.
“We will be in winning positions again, 100 per cent and we’ve got to make sure that we’re learning, we’re adapting and we’re seeing games out better than we have.”
He added: “One of the problems you get in football is that only matches bring fitness. It’s just the nature of the game.
“With everything that’s gone on, listen, I’m not an excuse-making person, but the brutal reality for us is that we want to get more points on the board, we want to be promoted this year, that’s the challenge for myself and the players, every point we give up sets us back a little bit further.
“The quicker we get to those fitness levels, the quicker we get everyone back available for selection, the quicker that we’ll probably see results go more favourably in our way.
“That doesn’t mean we’re not going to win tomorrow or we’re not going to try and give everything we can to win. We have a very strong team on the pitch again tomorrow but the reality is we’ve brought a lot of the signings in quite late, through no fault of anybody’s.
“Our three deadline day signings, with the greatest respect, are three outstanding footballers, Walton, Morsy and Celina, that any League One team would absolutely be proud to have in their team.
“That’s nearly a third of your team, so the reality for us is that we’ve now, even through yourselves, got to get our in-house stuff in-house, keep working hard and let’s see the quality on the pitch come through.”
Reflecting on the transfer window, in which he brought in 19 senior players, Cook joked: "I did ask the owners and [CEO] Mark [Ashton] for 20, I've got to be fair, he let me down badly. I'm very disappointed!
“Again, I thank the owners so much. For the club, as a club steeped with great history, I feel we've now got a squad to be proud of.
“I know our league position [21st] isn't great and the points return [three], I get all that – I'm not a stupid person.
“The players we've got in the building now will take us where we want to be.
“They are an absolutely outstanding group and I thank Mark so much for that and Michael O'Leary, our chairman, and also the board for supporting them and me.
“All that we've asked for we've been given and it's great credit to them.
“So we're now just looking forward to getting some games under our belt, to start climbing the league at whatever level we can and hopefully take us all where we want to go.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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