'We've got to aim for the stars' - New boss Cook on his Ipswich Town ambitions
- Credit: ITFC
New Ipswich Town boss Paul Cook says he will be 'aiming for the stars' and looking to put the club back at their rightful place in the pyramid.
The 54-year-old, who won titles in charge of Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan, was quickly recruited as Paul Lambert's replacement earlier this week and then watched from the stands as his new side won 2-1 at Accrington Stanley on Tuesday night.
Three straight wins have put the Blues back within touching distance of the League One play-off places and means that automatic promotion may still be achievable.
Speaking ahead of his first game in charge, at Gillingham tomorrow (1pm ko), Cook's energy, honesty and humour was evident in abundance during a lengthy opening press conference.
Asked whether owner Marcus Evans talking about top two still being a target was a case of 'no pressure!', the Liverpudlian quipped: “To get in the top two will be a big one, that’s for sure. You can tell Marcus that!
"But listen, we’ve got to aim for the stars. We have to do that. That’s what football’s about.
“As a young kid when you follow your team you want to win the FA Cup, you want to dream.
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“For Ipswich Town Football Club, similar to Portsmouth and Sunderland in this division, supporters genuinely believe they shouldn’t be in this league.
"The last three wins have given everybody a lift. Sometimes something can look so far away, but if you win football games quickly and you’re putting runs together it can come a lot closer to you.
"It’s been so refreshing for me coming in and there being such a vibrancy about the squad. The squad is in a great place. There’s not much badness around it.
“The target has to be automatic promotion at the minute, if that’s not mathematically possible or difficult to do we’ll be in the play-offs, and if unfortunately if we didn’t get in the play-offs it won't be for a want of trying.
“We just want the players to be the best they can be. At every club, supporters just want to be proud of the team. As manager that’s my job to make them feel that.
"I'm not going to make any promises about where we're going to get to and when by, but I can guarantee that we'll give our very best."
Cook led Chesterfield to a League Two title and then a League One play-off finish during a three-year period.
He then led Portsmouth to a League Two title in his second season at the helm.
After that, he guided Wigan to the League One title and made them a highly competitive Championship outfit within the space of just three years.
The 54-year-old, who only left Wigan due to their shock administration, has turned down short-term offers from Championship clubs in recent months before being sold the Portman Road project by Marcus Evans.
“When I went to manage Portsmouth, after they’d dropped to where they’d dropped, it’s so tough on supporters," he said. "Portsmouth went from Sol (Campbell) lifting the FA Cup to League Two football. There’s a natural reaction to that.
“Ipswich Town fans probably felt in the Championship that ‘we need to go back to the Premier League’, because that’s a natural feeling.
“So when you go into League One there is more anger around the place. There’s more a sense of ‘we have to get back there quickly’.
“As a manager you have to try and get a message to supporters to be patient. And we all know patience is not a word used in football anymore. We are not stupid people.
“But there is no manager capable of changing something overnight. It takes hard work in the training ground; it’s repetition for players; it’s confidence levels. There’s loads of factors.
“Then, over a period of time, you can take clubs back where they belong that’s for sure. You only have to look at Leeds, Sheffield United, Wolves... They’ve all been in League One at some point yet they are Premier League clubs today, so it can certainly be achieved."
He continued: “When you look at Ipswich, and a couple of other clubs in this division, certainly being in the play-offs is possibly what should be expected. We’re a big club in the league, of course we are. And we all have to take that pressure on board.
“There are loads of different reasons why we’re not in the play-offs right now. We’ve had loads of injuries and a lot of good players missing.
“Paul Lambert had just got a good couple of good wins and the lads followed that up on Tuesday night.
“The rights and wrongs of what’s gone wrong is not my concern. I certainly won’t be delving into that.
“Going forwards, we’ve got a squad that is in a unique position of being in a good place. They are very confident, they are looking upwards. Our job now as staff is to make sure we fuel that fire."
Asked how he had viewed Ipswich Town as an outsider, both growing up and in recent years, Cook replied: “It’s just a fantastically good club.
“As a staff we talk about a thing called ‘the football pyramid’. Within a football pyramid everyone has got a place haven’t they? Obviously being a big Liverpool fan we’re number one and everyone can fight for everything else!
“With the teams I’ve managed – Portsmouth, Wigan, Chesterfield – every team has a place in that pyramid.
“As we speak now, Ipswich Town are seventh in League One... That’s not our place in the pyramid. My job is to put us back to a place we’re all satisfied with."
So where is Ipswich's natural place in the hierarchy then?
"Sixth in League One with a bit of luck!" he quipped.
"It’s hard. When you’ve watched great days it’s difficult to watch bad days. The manager and the players have to respect that those days aren’t here anymore, but we’re working towards hopefully bringing them back.
"The lads here are very committed, the training facilities are amazing, Portman Road has always been one of the great stadiums to play football at - under the lights the atmosphere is great, a bit like Upton Park used to be - and they’ve always had a strong fanbase who support the club.
“We really need those supporters. I know the iFollow stuff and buying of merchandise has been high. We really need that as a club because we want to be strong again soon."
Speaking further about the role the Town fans will have going forwards, when games are not played behind closed doors anymore, Cook said: “Football fans believe that are the 12th man, but sometimes they are actually the 10th man. It’s like losing a man, because they are that critical of the performance. Sometimes anger can come out in the wrong way.
“I've been brought up as a football fan to support your team and get behind your team, to have no negativity. The negativity used to come when you go for a pint after the game. You can slag everyone off then, but for 90 minutes during a game the football fans’ job is to support and get behind their team.
“I think that’s difficult sometimes when your club has dropped levels. It’s a logical thing.
"But certainly going forwards, Saturday afternoon is what we all love. It's going for a pint before hand, ‘what team has he picked?’, looking forward to the game, hopefully winning a few games, getting a few cup runs and having those exciting nights at the ground that we all love.
"I’m going to do my best to bring it back to Portman Road."
On being his appointment having seemingly got the universal thumbs up from Town fans on social media and forums, Cook laughed: “We haven’t lost yet! Wait until we lose a few games, there’ll be no thumbs up for me then will there?! They’ll all have their teeth right into me then!
“Listen, I can only promise fans that myself, Gary (Roberts), the staff and the players are all going to do our best. They can have my guarantee that’s what we’ll be doing.
“We've got a very, very strong support base and my job now is to try and make them happy."