North Stander: 'Our problem is we've got a very big squad, but no team'

Paul Cook gets animated as he shouts out instructions to his players during a scrappy draw at Wigan

Ipswich Town boss Paul Cook at Wigan. He faces a huge challenge to turn toothless Town around, according to Terry Hunt - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt gives his take on the Blues after their toothless 0-0 draw at Wigan Athletic.

Do you remember the outrage among Ipswich fans about 18 months ago, when Joey Barton had a swipe at the quality of our players?

Barton, who was then Fleetwood manager, described the squad as “probably as bad a group of players as Ipswich have had in a long time.”

James Norwood reaction to not getting a free-kick after being wrestled to the ground during the firs

James Norwood reaction to not getting a free-kick after being wrestled to the ground during the first half at Wigan - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

At the time, Town were flying high at the top of League One, and looking for all the world destined for an instant return to the lofty heights of the Championship.

We wrote off Barton’s words as nonsense. Many of us - including me - were convinced we had the best squad in this poor division. Surely they just needed the right manager to fire them up.

Well, I have to say it now looks like Joey was spot-on with his assessment, and people like me were deluded in our belief in our group of players.

Since Paul Cook’s arrival, it has become painfully clear that so many of our squad are simply not good enough, even for this poor division.

Instead of the usual new manager bounce, our hapless bunch have managed to produce a new manager dip.

They might have some talent, but are so lacking in passion and drive. Once again at Wigan, they allowed an appalling team to match them. In truth, the hopeless home side probably had the better chances.

So many of our players contributed so little. Sears, Judge, Dozzell, Edwards, Bishop - what did they bring to the party?

We’re so lacking in creativity. Poor James Norwood, who at least shows a bit of passion. I feel sorry for him.

Kane Vincent-Young battles at Wigan

Kane Vincent-Young battles at Wigan. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

To cap it all, Kane Vincent-Young picked up another injury. He probably shouldn’t have started, but it just shows how desperate we are to get some pace and attacking threat into the team. Hopefully he won’t be out for long.

Paul Cook must be wondering what he’s let himself in for. He faces a massive challenge. I’ve been confident we could make the play-offs, but that now looks like an utterly forlorn hope. We’re way off the pace.

The one shining light is Cook himself. I am confident he can turn things round, although obviously he’ll need time. He can get rid of the dead wood this summer and basically start again.

He will have a much smaller squad to work with, and that will be an advantage. A very wise Town fan said to me at the weekend: “Our problem is, we’ve got a very big squad, but no team.” Quite right.

I believe Cook will get us back into the Championship within a couple of years. Just look at his track record.

It speaks volumes for the quality of the man. Behind the public face of the chirpy, wisecracking Scouser is a man who thinks deeply about the game. He will do the business for us, so long as he gets the right level of support from the owner.

I know lots of Town fans will be concerned that Marcus Evans won’t back Cook to the extent that will be needed.

But I don’t think the manager will need mega-bucks to take us back to the Championship. A few decent arrivals with the right characters are all that’s needed. The wage bill will be trimmed with a smaller squad.

What about us, the long-suffering fans? Being an Ipswich supporter must be one of the most miserable experiences in English football at the moment. Miserable, annoying, frustrating - take your pick!

Paul Cook issues instructions at Wigan

Paul Cook issues instructions to Kayden Jackson at Wigan. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

We have become such an anonymous, irrelevant club. Do you remember the days when Ipswich were everyone’s second team? I don’t think many people know we still exist!

It is tempting to think about walking away, isn’t it? There have been many, many times in recent years when I’ve thought there must be lots of better ways to spend my money and time than watching Ipswich Town.

Of course, logic says that’s absolutely right. But supporting a football club isn’t about logic. It’s about heart ruling head. It’s about passion, and loving your club. You can be cross, you can be desperately disappointed. But you can’t walk away.

So, we will wait to see how Paul Cook pulls things round. It won’t happen overnight. But, by this time next year, he will have improved things a great deal. Believe me.

In Cook we trust.