'Me and Leam are as solid as they come' - Cook on his Wigan return and facing his trusted sidekick
- Credit: PA
Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook admits it will be 'really tough' for him returning to his former club Wigan Athletic tomorrow, a team managed by his 'absolute rock' Leam Richardson.
The new Blues boss led the Latics to a League One title in 2018 and then turned them into a very competitive Championship side before a shock administration led to relegation and a mass exodus at the DW Stadium.
Richardson, who was Cook's assistant at Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan over a seven-year period, stayed on at the Lancashire club to become their manager though and has helped guide them through a turbulent period.
Upon being appointed Ipswich manager earlier this month, Cook wouldn't rule out Richardson joining him at Portman Road once Wigan's long-awaited takeover is complete and the current campaign is finished.
“I know it will be tough for Leam," said Cook, looking ahead to a game in which both teams need the points for different reasons.
"As you can imagine we know each other inside out, we worked with each other for that long.
“My only message to Wigan fans is how pleased I am for them and how proud I am of them with how they conducted themselves around what went on.
“The change of ownership there now is imminent, which is absolutely fantastic. I’m so pleased, I’m so delighted, especially for Leam. I know how tough he’s had it.
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“He’s seen 22/23 players leave the club, he’s see his manager leave, the first team coach leave, his goalkeeper coach, the medical people... They’ve worked with nothing this year and they’ve conducted themselves so, so well.
“It will be a really difficult day for me, if I’m being truthful. I think the Wigan Athletic fans know how close to my heart they and the club is.
“But come Saturday we want to win desperately, and I know Leam will want to beat me and Ipswich Town desperately too. That’s how we are built as people.
“Certainly the respect will be there from both dug outs."
Asked how good a coach Richardson is, Cook, with typical humour, quipped: “Rubbish! I carried him for nine years! He’s got nothing! He’s absolutely bluffed a living!
“No... Leam’s a great character. He’s a strong-minded person, has got a very, very solid background, he’s been a footballer himself and has been absolute rock for me over the time we’ve been together.
“When you’ve been successful as a manager and people look back at what you’ve done they don’t realise the bad days we’ve had. We’ve had loads of them me and Leam, we’ve had absolutely on-the-floor days where you need to be there for each other. You find out so much about each other. That’s so important in football.
“Me and Leam are as solid as they come. There will be no gaps between us in any shape or form. Leam’s been absolutely pivotal to my past success.
“But it’s all in the past. The most important day is tomorrow. As people around the club here will realise, I wake up every day wanting to be better. That’s something I demand at my club."
He continued: “I don’t want to discuss the Wigan stuff too much if I’m truthful because it does hurt me.
“We were in a position where I felt we would actually challenge for the play-offs this year going towards the Premier League. The side, the atmosphere, the whole club was bouncing. We were in a great place.
“Those great days are in your memory now. That’s how football is. Football is about memories and it’s about the future. The most important thing is making future memories and that’s what I’m here to do now."
He added: “They started me off as a player too. That’s why Wigan is such a special club to me. For anyone to play for a club and also manage that club is special. I had great days as a manager at Wigan, winning leagues and having cup runs. It was amazing.
“There's staff I had working for me who I haven’t mentioned. If you know me, you’ll know how close I am with certain people: Anthony Barry, Nick Colgan, Nick Meace, Andy Procter, Ian Craney.
“Some of those lads who I worked with will be in that dugout against me on Saturday and it will really be tough for me.
“I have great memories of all my clubs and Wigan would be right up there with the best."