Pride, expectations, squad building and creating history - full transcript of Hurst’s first Ipswich press conference
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Paul Hurst spoke to the media for the first time today following his appointment as Ipswich Town manager.
Q: Paul, congratulations, you are only the 16th permanent manager of Ipswich Town in 82 years, how proud do you feel?
A: Very proud. Very proud and very honoured and excited about the challenge ahead.
Q: You were with Shrewsbury just a few weeks ago in the play-off final. Had you gone up with Shrewsbury that day, would you have been sitting here now?
A: It would have been a difficult decision but, ultimately, this football club and it’s history (is a big pull). Also, I think the potential here means it would have been a very difficult decision to turn this opportunity down. I’m very excited about working with the group of players who are here.
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Last year they had a lot of injury problems along the way and, given a bit more luck on that side they could of finished higher up the table I’m sure. So there’s a lot of potential here.
I’m keen to assess the squad very quickly, add to it as soon as possible and see what we can achieve.
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Q: How big a step up is it going to be for you from Shrewsbury?
A: I’ve said for a long time, even when I was in non-league football and certainly once I was full-time, that the work we do and the professionalism, not too much changes (moving up the leagues).
What you do get is a lot more interest but more resources and people to work with. I think we can complicate the game of football and the approach very much, but for me I like to strike a balance between what people might like to deem as old school, but also a lot of new school in there as well.
I see it as a challenge, of course and I’ve got to earn the players’ respect and they have to earn myself and Chris’s (Doig, assistant) as well. But in general it will be a very similar approach that has got me to this point to have this opportunity.
Q: Ipswich are starting a 17th consecutive season in the Championship. Can you get them out of it?
A: It depends which way you mean! (laughter). No, of course, every time you start a season you are hopeful you can be fighting for promotion. I did see something where certain people have got us towards the other end. I kind of take no notice from that. I had that at my last club and we certainly managed to show that wasn’t the case.
We will approach it with optimism, but what I have said already is that I won’t sit here and make false promises I can’t keep. What I can assure people is that we will do everything in our power to demand from the players that the fans have a team they can be proud of. One they see at an absolute minimum giving everything to the shirt and who knows where that can take you.
It’s a very competitive league, but at the same time this club has got a very good history and we would like to create our own piece of history moving forward.
Q: Like Mick McCarthy you are another Yorkshireman. Are there any similarities and what do you think of the job he did here?
A: Let’s put it this way, Mick was here a long time and did a very good job for this football club. There was obviously a change made but I’ve got total respect for him. I think we have some similarities without knowing Mick personally, although I’ve spoken to him a few times, but naturally there are going to be things that are different as well. Every manager’s different.
I think we share values in terms of the work ethic. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the squad’s character, which doesn’t surprise me guessing what Mick would be like. So I’m grateful for the squad which has been left behind on that.
Again, along the way there will be changes but they will all be done in time. I want people to have the opportunity to impress, first and foremost.
Q: Ipswich fans are waiting for a first win over Norwich since 2009. Can you do something about that?
A: I’d like to think so. I watched one of the games back and they were talking about how long the record was. Certainly those games, when the fixtures come out, will be ones we are looking forward to.
Q: Have you played down here before? Any memories of Portman Road as a player?
A: Yes, I think I’ve only played here once (April 5, 2005. 4-3 Ipswich win). It was a midweek game with Rotherham and we got beat, but one of our players (Jamal Campbell-Ryce) actually got a standing ovation from the Ipswich fans. I don’t think myself and his team-mates thought he deserved that and the manager certainly told him that afterwards, but he showed a side to the Ipswich fans that they appreciate good players,
That’s my only real memory but I guess I have looked at the club thinking it’s a well-run and well-respected club throughout the leagues.
Q: Your squad - you may not have seen them in person but you will be aware of the stats - but what kind of squad is it do you think?
A: There are a lot of good young players who are clearly coming through and I know it’s part of the club’s tradition. We all know fans love it when people they call ‘one of our own’ come through the academy. Added to that there are some good experienced pros in there so there’s a nice mix.
I think it’s slightly unbalanced and that’s something we have already spoken to the owner about. We’ll try and do something in due course about that.
There are some good footballers, It wasn’t a case of (Ipswich) just staying up last year and that was with problems along the way in terms of injuries. That’s something we’ve got to look at very quickly - are those players fit and available and can we keep them fit? If we can, we certainly have some very good players at our disposal.
Q: Lots of long-term injuries... is that something you can address yourself?
A: I hope so. Obviously some you can’t - contact injuries are what they are. Sometimes I find myself standing on the side and questioning whether it is a contact sport or not, but it is.
Work on the training ground, the monitoring we will do, will help reduce the injuries. You are always going to get some along the way but certainly at the previous club the actual muscular injuries were limited to about two or three.
Players want to be fit when you are winning games so hopefully we can see a similar trend here.
Q: Mick lasted five years so what would be a success for you?
A: For any manager, five years is a very good record but I never really put any timescale on it. It’s funny, we’re on a course at the minute and we were saying it’s almost deemed as a job where you are trying to survive.
But what I would say, and it was brought up there, there hasn’t been that many managers here. I think you are given time to be a success, and I hope that is the case, and put your own stamp on a football club where a lot of good things are already happening.
Hopefully we can add to that.
For me, as a manager, it’s about trying to improve a football club. I think every one I’ve been at to date I’ve left in a better place. That’s satisfying from my point of view. Hopefully we can do the same here.
Q: I believe you are already one of the favourites for relegation. Will you be doing what you did at Shrewsbury in terms of sticking that up in front of the players so that they can get sight of it?
A: It will certainly be mentioned, although I’m not sure if we will go down the exact same route.
When you work with a group of people it doesn’t matter if it’s football, business - that team has to share a goal, a vision and they have to be together. If that helps bond the players more and give them an extra edge and determination, whether it’s to prove people wrong, then we’ll see.
I think they (the bookies) have gone a little bit early in terms of predicting we will be at the wrong end of the table.
Q: Is your partnership with Chris Doig good cop, bad cop? Do you bounce ideas off each other?
A: Some people refer to it as that then Chris will say that I’m the bad cop really and vice-versa.
But we work well together, that’s all I will say. We have very similar views and demands that we put on our players, but at the same time one thing I do like is that he’s certainly not a yes man.
We will have debates and I’m sure I’ve picked teams in the past that he would not have done but ultimately we are both hungry for success.
We have both managed to get to a very good level and a very good football club. That’s not to say that’s where I want the journey to end. Hopefully we can progress here and we will do everything in our power to do that.
Q: When you first went into management who was your mentor? Who encouraged you to take that step?
A: No-one is the honest answer.
I feel bad when people ask that question because I have respect for a lot of managers. In truth that has, in general, been from afar and not really knowing them personally.
I was thrown into a job as a player manager and I was a joint manager at the time so I would never have thought I would have got to this position. But hopefully through a lot of hard work, some good decisions and by building relationships, I find myself sat here at Ipswich Town and feel very grateful for this opportunity.
Q: It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks for you, hasn’t it? From the play-off final to a holiday to a management course and now here today. How has that been for you?
A: I’m surprised I can talk and understand where I am, really, but thankfully I do!
There are a lot of emotions. A very gruelling one which didn’t quite have the ending that we all wanted, to then get a call for this job and the interest.
Trying to be a husband and a father and then having lots of things going on in my head and calls to make means there hasn’t been much rest in all honesty. But would I change it? Certainly not because I am very proud and honoured to be sat here today talking to yourselves.
Q: Are the family moving down to the area?
A: That’s very much up in the air to be honest with you, more to do with my children and the ages they are at and school, but that will all play out in time.
For myself I will certainly be based down here, but we’ll see whether the family move or whether I get a bit of piece and quiet down here on my own.
Q: Is this your first day at the stadium, today? The first time you have been able to take it all in?
A: Yes because obviously we’ve had the final and then the following day there was the approach and then I was away. I’ve looked at some footage online, some videos and spoke to lots of people.
But in terms of seeing it first hand, walking in the home dressing room for instance, seeing how the pitch is growing and then the training ground, then this is all new, yes.
Q: You must have seen the statues, the stands named after Robson and Ramsey… There’s a lot of history at this club and that must be something you are honoured to take on. On the flip side, it’s also a pressure any new manager takes on too when they come to a club like this.
A: Of course, but you want to be involved at clubs like that. I’m sure everyone associated with Ipswich Town are proud of that history, and it shouldn’t be forgotten. Just walking through there you can see new images, as well as articles and pictures relating to the past. It’s important you don’t forget, but from my point of view it doesn’t help me and Chris get results in the coming season.
The goal is to try and create our own bit of history here. I’m not saying a statue – albeit it wouldn’t cost a lot to make a life size one of myself! But we want to be fondly remembered here in years to come.
Our vision, while be respectful of the past, is very much about the future.”
Q: Very honest conversations with the owner (Marcus Evans) about budget? He’s made it clear that’s not going to change and you’re not going to be one of the big hitters financially. That’s something you’ve dealt with throughout your managerial career.
A: In fairness to Grimbsy Town we were not as big as everyone thought we were, but we always felt we were in with a chance (financially in the National League). Certainly going to Shrewsbury Town we weren’t (one of the big budget clubs in League One).
Even before that, in the Conference North etc, we didn’t have the big budgets.
Maybe it’s the Yorkshireman in me, but I try to treat the money as my own. I’m not too keen on parting with it. I like to get value for money.
If money was the only thing that brought you success then there would be no point starting the season. We’ve got to bridge the gap in certain ways. Certainly the teams that come down from the Premier League it’s pointless trying to compete with them on financial terms. But teams have managed to compete with them (on the field) in the past. And we’re hoping that we can be one of those.
Q: You’ve touched on the fact this is a stable club, everything is not broken and there has just been a mid-table finish. But it’s just gone a little bit stale here and maybe a little bit of apathy has crept in. We’ve seen that with the drop in attendances.
How do you do about reinvigorating this fanbase?
A: Just the fact there has been a change, to some degree, will hopefully help.
I know I’ve got to prove myself to those fans. Ultimately, winning games of football and performances are the biggest thing that attracts fans back.
From what I’ve been told my appointment has been greeted very well in most areas. And I think I’m right in saying that even over the last couple of games the attendances went back up.
Everyone wants this club to do well and at the beginning of every season there is renewed optimism. We’ve got to try and make sure that doesn’t fade away quickly. We want that to carry forward and for as long as possible.
Fans will only put up with bad results for so long. But if the performances and the style of play is right then I’m sure they will get right behind the players and us as staff.
Q: Tell us a bit about your style of play and the football philosophy. You’ve talked about front foot football and always setting out to try and win. Tell us a bit more about that approach.
A: You speak to people, depending on what roles they are in, and they say it’s about more than just winning. I’m not going to sit here and lie to anyone – I like winning games of football. That brings you success and people enjoy winning games of football.
There are different ways of winning. We like to try and pass the ball when possible, but we like to press. I’m bored of watching football on TV, and I’m not saying we won’t ever have to do this, but just generally I’m just bored of watching games where players have got so much time on the ball and no-one is willing to go and press.
It’s like watching a game of chess. If I wanted to play chess, that’s what I’d do. I want to play football. I want it to be high energy, I want it to try and be exciting where possible.
What I would say is there are some very teams in this league. We’ll have days where they have good spells of possession and we might not get close to them and we have to adopt a slightly different approach.
But we will be positive. Win, lose or draw, I want to come off knowing the players have given me and the fans everything. If we do that then I think we can all live with a little bit of disappointment easier. Hopefully we’ll have a lot of good days.
Q: The academy is a big part of the history of this football club. The owner has made it clear that a big part of his plan, going forwards, is to get that production line going again. This week the club has said it wants a bigger link-up between the academy and first-team going forwards. How much of a hands-on role will you take with the academy and what are your thoughts on blooding youngsters?
A: In terms of the last point, blooding youngsters and the production line, I think that is still happening to a degree,. Whether they have quite established themselves, or made the club lots of money, might be slightly different. But there are still a lot of young players here who have come through.
In terms of the link – we are all on the same side. I don’t understand why there wouldn’t be a close link. I do like to wander around the training ground and have a look at all the teams and talk to everyone who works here. I want everyone to feel part of this football club.
I guess if, they want to refer to it this way, is that they are all part of my team.
There will be close links. Any club wants to bring their own players through. I’m told there are some very good ones here. There are others who have had debuts towards the end of last season.
What I would say is that they’ve got to be good enough. I haven’t made any promises that we’re going to play X amount of players just so it looks good. Because I’ll be gone before anybody else. They’ve got to prove themselves.
But if I believe they are good enough then age isn’t an issue. That’s the same at the other end. If some of the older lads are worried about any talk of us wanting younger players, well if they are performing then it doesn’t matter. The way that people look after themselves now has change so careers can be prolonged.
So, yes, there is a lot of talk about younger players. But you have to have a balance in my opinion. That’s what I’ll be looking for.
Q: Does everyone start with a clean slate in this squad? Do you come in and assess everyone with fresh eyes?
A: Yes, because I think everyone responds differently to different managers and different voices. Maybe a different formation suits a certain player better. While I have done my research, and I have watched quite a lot of games, there is still part of me not drawing a line and saying ‘I’m not working with him’.
Let’s give them a little bit of an opportunity. All I would say, from the research I have done with Chris, if we very quickly see a very similar trend happening which we don’t like – that player will either move on or have to try and attempt to change vey quickly to improve and ensure that he can be part of our plans going forwards.
Q: Do have some specific transfer targets in mind?
A: Yes, of course. One thing I don’t mind saying publically is that, in terms of balance, I don’t think we have got enough wingers. I like wide players. I like players to carry the ball up the pitch.
Going back to the night I played here, the lad who got that standing ovation was a winger (Jamal Campbell-Ryce). He certainly did catch the eye at times and was a good player, but I thought he needed a bit more end product.
As fans we like those players naturally. Someone who can get you off your seat. There has to be an end product though. A couple of lads I had last year (Alex Rodman and Shaun Whalley), not only was there the assists and the goals they contributed to, but they also did the other bits. There has to be clear evidence they are contributing. There is no point beating three players and kicking it behind the goal. You might get a little round of applause, but if you keep doing that will soon stop.
It’s an area I am keen to bring a couple of players in.
Q Have you got thoughts on who may be the new fitness coach and goalkeeping coach?
A: Our new fitness coach is here today, stood there at the back of the room smiling. Nathan Winder worked at Barnsley and Leeds under Paul Heckingbottom. He comes very highly recommended. He’s another Yorkshireman – we’re not trying to take over the area! It’s important you click with people and speaking to him and how he works he is very much aligned to what we did last season (at Shrewsbury) and what we’ll be looking to introduce here.
On the goalie coach I am meeting Darren Smith (formerly Malcolm Webster’s assistant) later. I want to get to know a little bit more about who else is in the system in terms of coaches, but I’ve heard very good things.
I haven’t promised Darren anything and we’ll see how that progresses, but at the minute he’ll be working with the keepers when we come back for pre-season.
Q: Anything to say to the Shrewsbury fans?
A: I hope that they can understand. I think they were a very fair group of fans that we built a very good relationship with/ I’m sure, for some people, that will have been soured. But there is a lot there that understand and respect my decision.
There was a fantastic turnaround at that football club and we were in dreamland for a lot of last season. We couldn’t quite get over the line, but we got to know a lot of good people there, had a very good rapport with them an I hope if we meet in a cup game we would get a decent ovation. It’s football though and I know that isn’t always how people think.
Q: Any plans for pre-season and the trip away?
A: I’m speaking to the owner about that. We’ll see how that goes. The pre-season games are there already. I’ve got my thoughts on those which he’s aware of. But we’ve got a lot of work before we even think about that.
It’s not only about me assessing them in terms of fitness and getting them up to speed, but also characters. Everything I’ve heard is that I’ve got a really good group, but what someone might accept or let slide… We talk about standards every day on the training pitch. There might be one or two that might not enjoy the first few days.
Hopefully they will get to know we don’t hold grudges and move on. If they are prepared to listen, we believe that we can make them better. That is a common goal – to improve people, to improve the team. Hopefully they can see that.
Pre-season will be tough – that’s all I’ll say to them. Players do look after themselves in the off-season these days, but I have worked with players from Championship level or higher who tell me they have done a really tough pre-season, come into my squad and are nowhere near the levels that we expect.
That’s why, in an ideal world, as well as bonding the squad and building the team spirit, we would like to get something sorted as soon as we can. But I do appreciate that might take time.