North Stander: 'I honestly see no reason why we shouldn’t finish in the top six'

Ipswich players celebrate Luke Chambers pulling Ipswich level at Gillingham

Ipswich players celebrate Luke Chambers pulling Ipswich level at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

Paul Cook watches the warm-up at Gillingham

Paul Cook watches the warm-up at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

ONE SHOT on target... Gills reaction to Town defeat

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.

Town's Teddy Bishop and Kayden Jackson leave the pitch disappointed after defeat at Gillingham

Town's Teddy Bishop and Kayden Jackson leave the pitch disappointed after defeat at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

PLAYER ratings from the Gills game

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.

Kayden Jackson's second half header which hit the bar at Gillingham

Kayden Jackson's second half header which hit the bar at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

STU Watson's 5 observations on the Gillingham game

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.

Keanan Bennetts at Gillingham

Keanan Bennetts at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

Josh Harrop is fouled at Gillingham

Josh Harrop is fouled at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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...

James Norwood is loses out at Gillingham

James Norwood is loses out at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

LUKE CHAMBERS... Big interview

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.

Andre Dozzell commits a foul at Gillingham

Andre Dozzell commits a foul at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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.

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