North Stander: 'I honestly see no reason why we shouldn’t finish in the top six'
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Well, that wasn’t in the script.
Paul Cook was supposed to arrive at Ipswich Town on a silver charger, instantly transform everything, win every single game, and lead a storming return to the Championship.
Sadly, in the real world of football, that doesn’t often happen. The gritty reality is that there are people like Gillingham manager Steve Evans, who come along and spoil our romantic, unrealistic dreams. That’s exactly what happened on Saturday.
Of course, it was always going to be a tough task for Cook in his opening game. The team were already looking a bit “leggy” in the previous match, but realistically the new manager wasn’t going to make lots of changes to a winning team after just one training session.
The result was they really flat, were bullied all over the park by Evans’ team, never got going, made some terrible mistakes at the back, and ended up being well beaten. Very disappointing.
After the game, we heard a refreshingly honest assessment from the new boss, admitting that his team hadn’t played well, and that Gillingham deserved to take the points. What a welcome change from Paul Lambert’s often ridiculous opinions after games, which regularly added insult to injury for long-suffering fans.
Cook comes across really well. Humorous, honest, witty, intelligent. A nice guy, who I’m sure knows exactly what he wants and will expect his new players to deliver it.
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I liked the way he said he didn’t want to be in a League One. Well, that certainly goes for the rest of us, Paul! I’m sure he will build a good relationship with the fans. It’s such a shame we can’t greet him at his first home game on Tuesday.
It’s good to see him wiping the slate clean for previously exiled Kayden Jackson and Jon Nolan, and how desperate for the latter to immediately suffer a season-ending injury. I’m sure Jackson will have a part to play in the run-in.
The next few weeks will be huge for our players. Of course they are playing for the team, trying to get into those play-off places. But so many are also playing for their own immediate futures, with their contracts coming to an end this summer. I suspect a lot of them will leave. We have a lot of dead wood.
So we move on, as they say in footballing circles. A tough one against Lincoln next. Who would have thought, a few years ago, we’d be thinking of Lincoln as a big game?
We all remember playing them in the FA Cup, when we were the big Championship club and they were non-league minnows. We know how that finished...
After Lincoln, our fixtures really don’t look too daunting, and I honestly see no reason why we shouldn’t finish in the top six. I’m sure Cook’s arrival will give us a “bounce” - despite the disappointing “dip” in his first game.
I keep saying it - there is absolutely nothing to fear in this dreadfully poor league. Our squad is big, and there is enough talent there to make the play-offs. Hopefully Cook can get the best from the players - something which Lambert so palpably and consistently failed to achieve.
The other big talking point at Ipswich Town is the speculation about an American takeover. Marcus Evans seemed to pour cold water on it last week, repeating his message that he’s not actively looking to sell the club, but would consider offers which could strengthen Ipswich Town Football Club. That’s a fair position.
But the rumours persist. What I’m hearing is that the offer from the US consortium is still very much on, and something could happen quite quickly. Watch this space, as they say.
Finally, back to the new manager. Everyone associated with Ipswich Town will wish him well. I’m sure he recognises the honour the role brings. He is, after all, following in the footsteps of two of the greatest, Sir Alf and Sir Bobby.
I hope he views that as an inspiration, not a burden.
The fans desperately crave success, and a reconnection with our club. Cook can play a big part in making both of those happen.