'You either deliver or you leave' - Cook's message to Town players
- Credit: Steve Waller-www.stephenwaller.c
Ipswich Town manager Paul Cook's message to his players is a simple one heading into the final seven games of the season - 'You either deliver or you leave'.
The Blues have won just two of Cook's first nine games in charge, are the joint-third lowest scorers in the division after drawing three of the last four matches 0-0, but somehow remain just three points adrift of the League One play-off places.
Speaking ahead of tomorrow night's match at relegation-battling AFC Wimbledon, who won 5-1 at Accrington Stanley on Saturday, Cook said: “I want to be very careful what I say about the players. People want managers to come out and be brash and say things that they want to hear.
“For me, the performances that I watch are way off the performances that I like as a manager. But I don’t want to debate with you too much about good, bad and sidewards.
“We are, in my opinion, a team that has got a lot of work to do, shall we say.
“We’re going to Wimbledon tomorrow night in the hope that we can keep our season going and that we can give our supporters the belief that we can do it.
"The team reflects the manager and at the minute our team doesn’t reflect me and it doesn’t reflect our football club. Going forward that will change."
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He continued: “I don’t think they feel the pressure guys, I’ve got to tell you.
“I think we are what it says on the tin. We are very organised, very honest, we’re committed, but we lack quality going forwards and we’re desperate for lads to step up to the plate.
“Being out of contract will affect some of them and rightly so.
“New owners coming in will be exciting times in terms of investment into the team and players coming in.
“What I crave more is some of our players that are here now to step up to the plate and do more than they have been doing.
“Because if you want to be here we need to see more."
Asked if any of the 13 first team players who are nearing the end of their contracts had spoken to him about their futures, Cook replied: “No, not really. I try and be as honest as I can with you guys and it’s the same in the dressing room.
“When you want to be successful you’ve got to work hard and sacrifice a lot.
“What you see on a Saturday afternoon is only the staged performance of what people have rehearsed and practiced.
“Some of the stuff I've seen behind the scenes with training loads and the output of players on the football pitch... we’re off the pace.
“We hold our hands up. And I'm involved in that as manager of this football club. We’re off the pace.
“Going forward we demand more. That will be the demand of the players and the demand of myself and the staff.
“Because we have to be better.
“I’ve been as honest as I can be there. I have a burning desire to be in the play-offs. The players have got to have the same ambitions and desires as well.
“If not, the reality is the season will peter out and we’ll all be left with a tinge of ‘I thought Paul Cook would have done better’ and that pass the parcel of blame will go on.
“I don’t live in those blame cultures. I believe we have to deliver. That’s my way."
On his team's lack of goals, Cook said: “I’m not going to discuss it greatly because if you go into the goals scored column for the season I think we are third bottom aren’t we? So you’re going to get into a problem that’s been here for a long time.
“The reality is, as a manager, you are going to start throwing players under the bus and I don’t work like that.
“We’re one of the clubs in the division that has played every system you can play in football in pursuit of trying to gain success. Eventually it comes down to calibre of player in your football club."
Has he been surprised by the size of the task since coming in?
“You’re going to take me to places I just don’t want to go," said Cook. "Are you with me? Because you’re going to get me to criticise the players which I will not do.
“When you play for top clubs you either deliver or you leave. There is no other path available. There is no other platform to be.
“For us going forward we’ve got to be careful now because our players get told continually that they are not good enough and they don’t deliver.
“I would imagine if the lads are on social media then they’ve probably come off it because of the criticism they get.
“We have the same press conference every week and speak about the same problems every week.
“That’s why I haven’t done the press a couple of times because I’m speaking about the same problems!
“Hopefully we can cure it and we can go and win a couple of games. If we win a couple 1-0 then so be it.
“As a manager you’ve got to focus on making the team better. How can we improve? Can I help the team?
“At the minute we’re very, very solid, very well organised and disciplined defensively. Going forward we’re lacking creativity, lacking quality and lacking numbers in the box."
On a more positive note, has he been pleased with the way his team has been defending?
“Not really because I like my teams to attack!" laughed Cook. "I like chances, I like fans to enjoy watching the team get numbers forward!
“Here’s where you start getting involved in debates about full-backs who have got energy.
“There’s not time for those debates though. We’ve got (Luke) Woolfenden playing in the right-back slot and he’s a centre-half.
“He’s doing great in the functioning of the team, but is that what we want going forward? Not a prayer. Not a chance.
“Is it making us solid at the minute? Yeah it is. So we’ve got to keep believing in what we’re doing.
“Albeit if you look at the television programme we’re watching today it won’t be that same programme in the future, 100%."
He continued: “We’ve got seven games to go. If we were to win an amount of games we’d be in the play-offs. If we were to win a play-off semi-final we’d possibly be playing at Wembley in front of some Ipswich Town fans. I don’t know how you feel about that, but I’m actually getting little goosepimples on my arms here just thinking about it. So why not?
“What do we all think we can learn about our players tomorrow evening that we don’t already know? Are you with me?
“You’re looking for me to be some sort of absolute magician. I’m not.
“But the truth is we’ve been away to Blackpool and won, we’ve been away to Hull and won. We’ve had strong performances at home.
“At the minute, if you look at the last few games, Rochdale, Wigan and MK Dons, if any of those games had been a 1-0 victory to Ipswich the margin for success would have been greater. They are the small margins I'm trying to change as a manager.
“I can’t make wholesale changes to make us better. We are what we are. Within what we are, can we be success at what we are? That’s the big challenge for me and the staff."
On facing AFC Wimbledon at their new Plough Lane stadium, Cook said: “We’ve just played Wigan, Rochdale and MK Dons. Obviously MK Dons are a little bit higher in the league. You see yourselves, there’s nothing in the games. You would never know that we are a big club and the other is in a relegation fight.
“The games are much or a muchness. There’s fine margins in the games.
“Wimbledon went away from home and had a fantastic result on Saturday (5-1 at Accrington). That will absolutely buoy their lads to the top of their tip-toes. They’ll see us coming into town now as a scalp that they want to take.
“They’ll be bang up to the game and they’ll put it onto us from the first minute.
“It’s a massive game for us and will define our season in my eyes. We have to go there and win. We have to go there and create more chances. We have to be so much braver in our play.
“Can we do that? Watch this space."