'The most important players are the ones not playing' - Cook on the art of good man-management
- Credit: Steve Waller/Pagepix
Paul Cook knows his man management skills are going to be tested given the size of the Ipswich Town squad.
The new Town boss has inherited a squad with more than 25 senior players currently available for selection, as well as a raft of youngsters, as he looks to push for promotion during the final two months of the campaign.
A key theme of Cook’s early press conferences has been the problems a bloated squad brings, with the former Wigan man aware he must have a positive impact on those players out of the team as well as those making his 18 on matchday.
“Your relationship with your players is huge and it’s paramount to your success because the most important people are the ones who aren’t playing,” he said.
“They’re the ones who are going to be the most unhappy at the club and you have to give them hope and belief they’re going to play a part in the future.
“One of my small criticisms of where we are today is the amount of players we’ve amassed. Every football club’s different but we’ve amassed a lot of players.
“When you do that it’s really difficult to keep everyone happy but everyone in the squad has bought into myself, Gary (Roberts, first-team coach) and the rest of the coaching staff. They all understand that I can’t keep everyone happy today but hopefully by tomorrow or the next week (I can).
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“Look at Kayden Jackson as an example, he’s a perfect case in point. He came on for two minutes the other night but the reality is over the next week we’re going to be seeing a lot more of Kayden Jackson.
“I think we’re just asking the players for a little bit of patience.”
On his squad, Cook continued.
“I like all the players. I’ll very rarely individualise but my job is to put them all into a collective. I believe the best teams are made up of all the components functioning.
“We need defenders who can defend, full-backs who can attack and midfielders who can handle the ball, pass it and break up play. We need flair players being productive in what they do and they need strikers to score goals.
“It’s been a whirlwind, great, week. You come into the football club not knowing anyone and then, a week later, you feel like you know people really well. That’s good because you have to build relationships with everyone at football clubs like ours.
“It’s a massive community club which plays a massive part in the Suffolk area so our success if paramount to the area.
“That’s mine and the players’ job.”
Cook has arrived midway through a run of six-successive midweek fixtures, with the Town boss hopeful next season will bring a brighter picture in terms of schedule congestion.
“If we keep giving them the excuse they’ll find a cop out,” he said, when asked if he thinks it’s possible for players to play every game during busy periods.
“We look historically at teams who used to play (and players played every game).
“But what we have to accept is that we’re in an extraordinary year. This time last year you probably had something like six fixtures left. This time it’s 14.
“The most important thing is we respect the year we’ve just had and then, going forward, I’m hopeful the congestion and demand on players becomes a little but less next year.
“We all need football, we all need supporters back in.”