|Ipswich Town 2 v 5 Bolton Wanderers|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 11th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Cook: One of the Toughest Days I've Had in Management
Saturday, 11th Sep 2021 18:45
Town boss Paul Cook admitted that this afternoon’s 5-2 defeat by Bolton was one of his toughest days in management and one of his lowest points as a boss.
The Blues’ afternoon got off to the perfect start with Macauley Bonne putting them in front in the fifth minute but after that the afternoon became a nightmare as the Trotters won comfortably.
“I think you’ve just summed it up, I don’t think you need me to,” Cook said when that summary of the afternoon was put to him. “I think you’ve just summed it up perfectly.
“Probably one of the toughest days I’ve had in management, a really difficult day. To watch your team, again like we do, where our type is, take the lead, start brightly, look good, get the crowd on our side, even equalise.
“Then all of a sudden we just give goals away and at the minute it’s something we have to eradicate. There’ll be no criticism towards the players from me, none, I put the players on the pitch.
“This is a very proud club and this was a very not proud performance from us today. We can hide behind newness, three lads making their debuts whatever we want.
“There are two ways you play football, one with the ball and one without. And unfortunately for us we’re quite OK with the ball, we still score goals, we do alright, we’ve missed a couple of chances, without the ball we are a million miles away from where we need to be as a team. And that’s something we have to eradicate and eradicate quickly.”
How do you eradicate it? “By not talking to you [the media] much, by not trying to talk nonsense to our supporters who watch the same game as me, by a desire and a willingness to work and a desire to do things, a hunger in your play and aggression in your play, something that we sadly lack at the minute and something that we must find.”
Cook has won only four of 23 games in charge of Town having been a success throughout his career elsewhere. Asked what he puts that down to, he responded: “Which one? The big success? Having good players. We’ve got good players now. I don’t think it’s fair to throw the record from last year because you’re talking about two different squads.
“I accept criticism, I’m not a lad who will ever hide behind anything other than the games you see, so I think it’s a bit unfair to throw last year’s results when we’ve changed 19 players.
“I think this year we’ve recruited very well, we’re strong, everyone looks at us as favourites, but then you see the performance. We’re not playing like a team which will be promoted, we’re not playing like a team.
“At the minute we show individual qualities but not collective ones. The reality of that is you go away, you work very hard to be better and that’s what we’ll do.”
Is being the big club in the division putting pressure on the players? “I think sometimes, and I respect your job, how many negative questions to you want to ask me? There are massive clubs in this league. Bolton Wanderers - a massive football club. Sunderland, Portsmouth, how many do you want.
“So we concentrate on ourselves. The most important thing is Ipswich Town Football Club. Today we’ve let our fans down.
“You can’t manage and play for clubs like this and have performances like that and speak about acceptance. There are only so many adjectives negatively you can speak about yourselves before you must go away and think ‘Right, how do we respond to that?’ That’s the biggest test of anybody’s character.”
The way his team started the game was a positive but Cook says few can be taken from a game such as today’s.
“I don’t really see positives when you’ve lost at home, when you’ve had a heavy defeat at home, which is really hurt for everyone, no more so than our supporters,” he said.
“We are a very proud club and what we’ve offered today as a group, and myself being the leader of the group, is not good enough for them.
“So I will shoulder that 100 per cent, I’ve never criticised players in public and I won’t know. I think what goes on behind closed doors should stay there and we know we’ve got to be better.”
One mitigating factor might have been debuts for George Edmundson and Christian Walton, while Sone Aluko made his first league start.
“I think we’ve had three debutants again today, Chaplin only played for the second time playing against a very good Bolton side, by the way,” Cook continued.
“As many negatives as we speak about Ipswich today, I think we should pay Bolton a big compliment, they were excellent today. They carried a real threat going forward and it was a threat we couldn’t manage and that’s something we’ll have to look back at, analyse and do better again next time.”
He added: “I try my best not to hide, especially for our supporters. Some of the stuff you see and you like and you think ‘We’re doing OK’ and some of the stuff you see when we haven’t got the ball is really worrying, and it has to change.
“The only way it changes is by video analysis, by recreating the situations and going back out there.
“If you look at the percentages in games this season, we take the lead and we give a goal away very quickly after it. And I struggle with that. I struggle with that, it’s something that we’ll speak about, we keep speaking about and we’ll keep working on to get better.”
What’s that down to? “I refuse, I think as a manager like myself who I’d like to call experience now, I’ve been around football a bit, it’s on me.
“This is my job, it’s a massive football club, it’s an honour to manage football clubs like this and to get better sometimes or to get to where you want to be, you’ve got to feel pain and we’ve certainly felt pain today.”
Asked whether the start to the season worries him, he insisted: “No, I’ve got to tell you know, it genuinely doesn’t. I’d love to be able to say it does. I know the personnel in the building, I know the players that aren’t available that will come in, I know the characteristics of a Samy Morsy type, for example, which will be everything that we lacked today. He will be there times 10 for that.
“There’ll be no performances like that when he’s in the team. But the reality is we haven’t got him and what we’ve got to offer our fans now is more. We can’t guarantee any of players turn up.
“We’ve brought Edmundson and Burgess in today and they’d never played together, and that was how it looked.
“The reality for me, I shoulder all that, it’s what I’ve been brought in to do, it’s what I’ve done at other clubs. Unfortunately, probably the lowest point of my career nearly today, it’s up there with the best of them, and I’ll take that like a man.”
He added: “We can’t keep scoring two goals and losing games, it’s not football. It’s just not football and within our openness and wanting to please, the games have been good here, and you must credit the opposition. Bolton were excellent today, they really were.
“They leave here with all the plaudits and rightly so. We lick our wounds and we’ll come back 100 per cent, for sure.”
At the final whistle there were boos, which Cook says he understood: “One hundred per cent, I get it. I’m a fan. If I’m a fan and I’m looking at it, I’m looking at a brand new team in general, I’m looking at lads where relationships are struggling to form.
“I thought Sone Aluko was excellent today, I’ve got to say that, and I’m looking for positives, not to our supporters. For me, as a coach, as a manager, there’s no positives. You don’t lose 5-2 at home and there’s positives.
“That team today is a team that I look at and I’d watch myself and I’d want to criticise. My job is to solve the problems and that’s something we’ll work hard to do.
“I’m highlighting Sone purely on the basis that he was excellent but he was part of a team which hasn’t performed very well.”
Was the game’s crucial moment Bonne missing at one end and Dapo Afolayan putting the visitors 3-2 ahead at the other in injury time.
“That’s football,” he said. “The football gods, whether you like it or not, are not with us. In my world you influence that.
“My world is you don’t make excuses, you influence it. We’re giving bad goals away. The goals we’re giving away, throughout my management career, I’ve always prided myself on the work-rate in my team, how hard we work, our fitness levels and all the above.
“And at the minute when I watch us today, I do enjoy us at times with the ball, I think we’ve got a lot of creative players, but defensively not really.
“And by the way, defensively I’m not talking just about goalkeepers or centre-halves, I’m talking about as a team, and you defend from the front.”
Cook says Town’s defensive frailties will be improved the more the new recruits play alongside one another.
“I would suggest so,” he said. “When you set your team up, your decision-making process in a game, you look back on the week’s training. We’ve studied Bolton, we’ve watched them. Have we given the players enough information? Yes, we have. Have the players carried that out? Probably not.
“And I was glad after the game because some of them actually spoke in the dressing room, and that’s important. This isn’t the Paul Cook show, this is Ipswich Town Football and that’s the most important thing.”
Regarding the decision to substitute Kane Vincent-Young in the 21st minute, he explained: “It wasn’t so much a torrid time, it was the fact that he’s been booked, he’s just given a penalty away and probably any other tackle in the game against a very good player who he was marking would probably result in him being sent off and at the time it was a chance we couldn’t take.”
Scott Fraser was missing from the squad having picked up a minor injury, Cook confirmed.
“Injured, he got a knock on Wednesday and Scott’s been doing great, and that brought a bit of unbalance to us,” he said.
“But there’s no excuses about today. Scotty will be back this week, I imagine. It’s just a little knock.”
Regarding Luke Woolfenden, also absent, he added: “Again, he’s done great, he’s just had a breather today because we thought Edmundson had had a strong couple of weeks training and he was ready to come in. And these are the decisions we make.”
Bolton manager Ian Evatt was unsurprisingly pleased with his side’s performance.
“I’m satisfied, it was alright!” he told the Manchester Evening News. “I think there was a lot of frustration from Monday night [when they drew 0-0 at home with Burton]. Our performance on Monday night deserved that goal tally really and we didn’t get it.
“But as I’ve said to you in the press, I think when teams do go toe to toe with us, it’s a dangerous thing to do, because we’re a dangerous team.
“We might be open and expansive and may concede a few the other way, but we can score goals. MK Dons went toe to toe with us, we scored three, Port Vale did, we scored three, Wimbledon did, we scored three.
“It’s more difficult and challenging for us when teams do sit in and play territory and set plays, as we found on Monday night, but that was exceptional. I think some of our goals were a credit to our football club and you won’t see many better outside of the Premier League.”
Bolton hadn’t won a league game at Portman Road for 20 years and hadn’t found the net on their last six visits.
“Well we’ve tried and made up for that, haven’t we, and raised the average again!” Evatt joked.
“I’m very respectful of history, but to be honest, it’s about the here and now for us and about our focus and mentality.
“I just said to them after the game, ‘I hope you go home this weekend and understand and think to yourselves, not that we’ve cracked it’. But if we keep working hard and stay humble and keep improving, we have a good chance this year.
“We do have a chance and that’s the way I see it, so for now let’s enjoy this weekend, enjoy tonight, I hope our supporters do as well, but then back to work Monday ready for the next game.”
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