|Ipswich Town 1 v 1 Sheffield Wednesday|
SkyBet League One
Saturday, 25th September 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Cook: I Can't Wait For the Game, the Hairs on My Neck Are Already Standing Up
Friday, 24th Sep 2021 13:13
Town are anticipating a crowd of more than 20,000 at Portman Road for Saturday’s game against Sheffield Wednesday but manager Paul Cook believes there would be 30,000 present if the teams, two of the biggest clubs in League One, were battling at the top of the division.
As it is, the Blues go into the match in 20th looking for their second win of the season following last week’s 1-0 defeat of Lincoln City at Sincil Bank, while the Owls are in 13th, without a victory in their last three following a start in which they hit the top of the table by winning three and drawing one of their first four without conceding.
“I think if we were first and second in the league, there would probably be nearer 30,000 there, wouldn't there?” Cook said. “That's what both clubs are capable of delivering and they are great occasions.
“And to manage these teams, no different from [Wednesday boss] Darren [Moore], [Portsmouth manager] Danny Cowley or Lee Johnson [in charge at Sunderland], it's a great honour because if you can be the one who delivers success for these fans, then you will be held in such high esteem because the clubs are desperate to go back to where they want to be.”
Asked if it’s the toughest League One ever given the sides he’s mentioned, Cook said: “I just keep going. I think we're the biggest club in the league and I think we're the best club in the league and I think we've got the best squad. But that would be what I think, wouldn't it?
“And if I'm sitting in Danny Cowley's office, Lee Johnson's office or Darren Moore's office, I'd be saying exactly the same.
“As a manager I have total faith in my own club. I just want us to be as successful as we can and I want to see our fans leaving stadiums, like they left Sincil Bank last week, absolutely delighted because that's what supporting your team is all about, and I was delighted for them for that.”
Quizzed on what he’s made of the Owls, who were relegated from the Championship in May having been deducted six points for breaking FFP rules, so far this season, Cook says he feels for the fans at Hillsborough.
“The pain for the club being relegated is tough on the supporters because they are a big club,” he said.
“Of course they are, they're a massive football club. They've got an amazing fanbase, great history, Sheffield is a great city for football.
“Darren's gone in there at a very, very, very difficult time and came so close to staying up and is now probably on a bit of rebuild if you like in terms of their aspirations.
“They'll want to go right back up to the Championship and with that they are no different than ourselves, Sunderland and Portsmouth. You have the problems that come there and they are for Darren to deal with.
“He's dealing with them well and he will deal with them well, so that's over to him on that one.
“Tomorrow I think it will be a fantastic game. I've got to say that and I think you'll see two teams intent on trying to win a football match playing in front of a fantastic attendance at a great ground. For me, the hairs on my neck are already standing up and I can't wait for the game tomorrow.”
Cook applied for the Wednesday job following Tony Pulis's departure last season and spoke to the Owls about taking over at Hillsborough, although claims that he had turned down a short-term contract were subsequently dismissed.
Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri denied that Cook had been interviewed and was critical of the Town boss: “I think the way he has done things is unprofessional.”
Asked whether he was ever close to the Owls job, Cook laughed: “Oh, come on, leave it out! I'm hanging on to this one, aren't I? So I don't want to be close to anyone else’s, that's for sure.
“Darren is doing a great job there and I hope he can turn it around in relation to them going back to where they want to be because as you look today at Leeds, Leicester and Wolves and the big clubs that have been in League One everyone wants to be in the Premier League and Sheff Wed and Ipswich are no different to those clubs.”
Selection-wise, Cook has said that ideally he would have kept the same team that started at Lincoln last week but that injuries to two players, one of them left-back Hayden Coulson, will prevent him from doing so, although didn’t appear to entirely rule out the unnamed second player having a chance of being involved at this morning’s press conference.
Vaclav Hladky appears certain to be in goal regardless of whether Christian Walton is over the adductor injury which saw him miss the game at Lincoln.
Janoi Donacien, widely viewed as Town’s man of the match at Sincil Bank, will be at right-back with Matt Penney in for the injured Coulson at left-back and facing his old club.
At centre-half, Cameron Burgess should again be partnered by George Edmundson, while Cook confirmed that Toto Nsiala will be back in the squad having recovered from his hamstring injury and the former Shrewsbury man may be on the bench.
In central midfield, skipper Lee Evans again seems likely to be partnered by Tom Carroll with Scott Fraser on the left and Wes Burns on the right. If fit, Kyle Edwards would appear more likely to be among the subs.
Bersant Celina will be in the number 10 role but given his lack of training and games will probably be replaced in the second half with Rekeem Harper having impressed as his deputy in the last half hour at Lincoln.
Up front, Macauley Bonne will be looking to add to his five goals for the season, four of which have come at Portman Road. The on-loan QPR man has netted four times in his last three games.
Wednesday manager Moore was asked whether he is under pressure to get a victory at Ipswich given his side's recent League One form, a 1-1 home draw with the Shrews last week having followed a 3-0 loss at Plymouth and a 1-0 defeat at Morecambe, although the latter two results were sandwiched by a 3-0 Papa John's Trophy win over Newcastle's U21s.
“We want to win every game. Every game that Sheffield Wednesday are competing in, we want to win,” the former West Brom and Doncaster boss told Yorkshire Live.
“It’s a great game on Saturday. Two teams that have had huge turnarounds in terms of player recruitment and two teams going head to head in the division. It bodes well for a great game of football down there.
“We are looking forward to the game but we know we will have to be at our absolute best to come with anything. It will have to be a real top level performance.”
Quizzed on why Town have made a slow start, Moore said: “There’s no hidden formula. Maybe it is the time spent on the training pitch. They may have different ideas but they have had a large turnaround in players. From a distance, in terms of the turnaround, it’s similar to us.
“They still boast a wonderful group of players and players that on their day are as dangerous as anybody in the division.”
Moore, who took charge of Wednesday in March, says he has a lot of time for his Town counterpart: “I know him really well. He is a good man and very experienced at the level. He knows what he wants.
“His teams are competitive. He wears his heart on his sleeve. He is ultra competitive. I am looking forward to meeting him and his staff at the weekend.”
Are Town the Owls’ biggest test so far this season? “The next test is always the biggest test. Don’t look at the clubs, it’s a big test for us but also a big test for them.
Will Town be challengers at the end of the season? “No one has a god given right to be up there. There is a lot of hard work ahead and it is an ultra competitive division.”
Regarding Penney, Moore added: "There were contract offers that went on the table and it was a matter of changing at the time.
“His contract ran out and he had opportunities coming in. He picked a good opportunity in Ipswich and we wish him well going forward.
“We did [offer him a contract]. We spoke to his advisor and everything else in the summer but it was not to be.
“No problem. That is what football is about. Some you win, some you don’t. We wish Matt well and he has gone on and done well. He has got a good move.
“We know the capabilities that he possesses and I'm sure we will see him in some capacity on Saturday.”
Wednesday will be without ex-Blues loanee Massimo Luongo (hamstring) along with centre-half Lewis Gibson (quad) and Josh Windass (hamstring), who are both on their way back from injury but not yet ready to return.
Historically, matters are very evenly balanced, Town having won 20 games (19 in the league), Wednesday 20 (19) and with 13 (12) matches having ended in draws. Away from home this season, the Owls have won one, a 2-0 local derby victory at Rotherham, drawn one and lost two.
The teams last met at Portman Road in February 2019 when Lucas Joao’s 90th minute goal saw Wednesday to a 1-0 victory.
The Owls spurned a number of chances but Town were on top and starting to create opportunities when sub Joao turned home Adam Reach’s cross from the right.
At Hillsborough in the previous August, Nsiala scored his first Town goal but was later controversially sent off as the Blues were beaten 2-1, Joao on that occasion netting twice for the Owls.
The Portuguese forward, now with Reading, headed the home side in front in the 16th minute, but Nsiala levelled on 44.
The Town centre-half was very harshly red-carded for a challenge on Fernando Forestieri in the 75th minute and two minutes later Joao won it for the South Yorkshiremen.
Town left-back Penney joined the Blues from Wednesday this summer with his contract up, having joined the Owls as an eight-year-old. Penney made 22 starts and 10 sub appearances for the South Yorkshire side.
Wednesday midfielder Massimo Luongo was on loan with the Blues from Tottenham at the start of 2012/13 before having his spell cut short after Mick McCarthy took over as boss. The Australian international made Town eight starts and three sub appearances, scoring once.
Owls defender Dominic Iorfa spent 2017/18 on loan with the Blues from Wolves making 22 starts and three sub appearances, scoring once.
Former Blues left-back Neil Thompson is the Owls’ first-team coach, while centre-half Gibson, who is on loan from Everton, was interesting the Blues before he made his move to Hillsborough this summer.
Saturday’s referee is Andy Davies from Hampshire, who has shown 19 yellow cards and no red in eight games so far this season.
Davies’s last Town match was the 3-1 win at Southend in October 2019 in which he booked Kayden Jackson, Flynn Downes and two Shrimpers.
Prior to that he was in charge of the 2-0 defeat at Brentford in April of the same year when he booked Nsiala and one home player.
He was also the man in the middle for that season’s opening day 2-2 draw with Blackburn at Portman Road in which he booked Luke Chambers and Ellis Harrison as well as three visiting players.
Before that Davies was at Portman Road for the 1-0 defeat to Cardiff in February 2018 in which he booked only one Bluebird.
He also took charge of the 0-0 home draw with QPR on Boxing Day 2017 in which he dismissed visitors' midfielder Josh Scowen in the closing stages for a second yellow card and booked Jonas Knudsen.
Davies also refereed the game between the Blues and Rangers at Loftus Road in September of the same year when he booked Callum Connolly, Downes and one home player as well as making an error for Rangers’ opening goal when he failed to spot an obvious handball by current Wednesday midfielder Luongo as the home side ran out 2-1 winners.
A month earlier he refereed the 2-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Crystal Palace in which he again booked Downes but otherwise kept his cards in his pocket.
He took control of the 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on the final day of 2016/17 in which he cautioned Christophe Berra and Josh Emmanuel.
He was also in charge of the 3-0 home victory over Wigan in April 2017, in which he yellow-carded Grant Ward, Myles Kenlock, Toumani Diagouraga and two Latics, and the 2-0 defeat at Huddersfield three months earlier in which he booked Berra, Kevin Bru, Tom Lawrence, Jonathan Douglas, Paul Digby and no home players.
Davies’s two other Town matches both ended goalless and saw the opposition reduced to 10 men.
He officiated in the 0-0 draw with Brighton and Hove Albion in September 2016, in which he showed eight yellow cards, two of them and then a red to Seagulls midfielder Dale Stephens. Chambers, Emmanuel, Douglas and Lawrence were the Town players cautioned.
And he was in charge of the 0-0 home draw with Huddersfield in October 2015 when he red-carded Terriers striker James Vaughan for a second bookable offence in the final minute.
Squad from: Hladky, Walton, Holy, Donacien, Vincent-Young, Penney, Edmundson, Burgess, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Evans (c), Harper, Carroll, Fraser, Burns, Chaplin, Aluko, Celina, Edwards, Bonne, Pigott, Barry, Jackson, Norwood.
Photo: Matchday Images
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