Ashton on McGreal role and his chances of getting the Town job full-time

Colchester United manager John McGreal reacts during the Sky Bet League Two match at Sincil Bank, Li

John McGreal is in interim charge of Ipswich Town - Credit: PA

Mark Ashton will not rule out giving interim boss John McGreal the full-time job at Ipswich Town, but the CEO has insisted that is not the plan following the sacking of Paul Cook.  

McGreal will take charge of the Blues at Charlton on Tuesday evening following Cook’s sacking on Saturday, just a matter of days after being appointed by the club in an academy coaching position. 

Ashton has insisted the timing of McGreal’s arrival and subsequent elevation to the first-team is pure coincidence, revealing the former Ipswich centre-half felt uncomfortable when being asked to step into the shoes of friend Cook. 

“John was spoken to after the game on Saturday and to say he was in a state of shock was probably an understatement,” Ashton said. 

“But right now we felt like we needed somebody in who had as much experience as we could probably get to steady the ship. When you chance a manager, the whole club wobbles. It’s natural. 

“He’s a good, solid leader with a large number of league games under his belt and he’s an Ipswich Town man. So myself and Mike O’Leary met with him on Saturday night and asked him he would take the team and his words were ‘I’m an Ipswich man, I won’t let the club down. If that’s what you’re asking me to do then I’ll do it’. 

When asked about the timing of McGreal’s arrival and then quickly being moved into the interim role, Ashton outlined the hiring process and insisted this move was not part of their plan. 

“It’s really important here because people at one and one together and get a number which is not true,” Ashton said. 

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“I interviewed John with Gary Probert for the development role he was coming into and we’d spoken to Paul about that because Paul knew him. Then Gary Probert completed the interview process and appointed him in the week. 

“The only other time I’ve spoke to him was after the game on Saturday. 

“You could see, speaking to him initially, that there was a real uncomfortableness and a shock around him. But he told me he wouldn’t let the club down in its hour of need.” 

It remains to be seen how long McGreal will remain in temporary charge, with Ashton launching ‘an extensive manager search’ this week. 

And while the CEO did not rule out McGreal proving his worth and keeping the job, he insisted the plan is for him to return to his coaching role once a full-time appointment is made. 

He said: “I’m too long in the tooth to say ‘never say never’.  

“I’ll be honest - and I’ve said this to John too – I've not put him in caretaker charge with the intention of giving him the job. We intend to go to market and find the best candidate. 

“When you talk to John, the plan is that he reverts back to the Under 23s and to the development role. 

“But in this world anything can happen. He could go and win every game between now and the end of the season. 

“Our plan, though, is to go out to the market.” 

McGreal will be assisted by Under 23s boss Kieron Dyer and Rene Gilmartin during his time as interim boss, with the latter a former goalkeeper under the temporary Town boss at Colchester before becoming his assistant manager for his short-lived tenure at Swindon in the summer. He is also well known to Ashton, having finished his playing career at Bristol City. 

“I spoke to Kieron Dyer on Sunday and had the same conversations with him as I did with John,” Ashton said. “Kieron was first class. He said he would step in to assist if the club needed him. 

“We’ve also brought in Rene Gilmartin this morning who is someone me and my team know really well (from Bristol City) and he also used to be John’s assistant. Those stars lined up and he was available. I can’t think of a better, more detailed, man to turn to when you need some support. 

“Rene has joined us just this morning. 

“Right now, John McGreal is in charge and I’ve said that to the players. 

“He takes it, he runs it and while his hands are on the wheel this has to be his team. Sam Morsy as captain agreed with that and we need to get behind him and get some points on the board.” 

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