'There’s nothing else on our radar other than promotion' - Cook on Town's cup attitude as Newport visit
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Paul Cook says he will field ‘a very strong team’ when Ipswich Town face Newport tonight, but admitted the Carabao Cup is firmly third on his list of priorities this season.
The Blues will begin their cup schedule with a clash against the League Two side tonight, in a game where Louie Barry and Sone Aluko could make their Ipswich Town debuts after signing for the club on Friday.
Macauley Bonne and James Norwood will also be hopeful of starts, after combining for the last-gasp equaliser against Morecambe on Saturday after coming off the bench, while further changes are likely across the pitch.
“It’s always a very, very interesting one,” Cook said recently, when he was asked about his approach to cup football. “I think if you look at the league campaigns now, we’re going to go into a 46-game campaign.
“So, from a manager’s point of view, this year we want to be promoted. There’s nothing else on our radar other than promotion.
“That’s top of the list. The FA Cup then is very much second in the list. Historically it’s a great competition to be in.
“I think as you fall, the Carabao Cup and the Papa John’s Trophy, I think you will see us make changes in those competitions due to the fact that we will prioritise the other competitions.
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“If you look at the Newport game, for example, we will have a very strong team out against Newport, but it mightn’t be the strongest team.
“The reality is the league is unbelievably the number one priority, FA Cup number two, Carabao Cup and then Papa John’s Trophy.”
Specifically discussing the latter of those competitions, in which Town have been grouped with West Ham Under 21s, Colchester United and Gillingham this season, Cook said: “It’s just a really good debate. We got to the final when I was at Chesterfield, we lost to Peterborough 3-1 and we went on to go up that year.
“But we felt it really hindered our promotion push. The reality is that if you could actually go and compete, then what a good day out at Wembley it is to win a football game. It was a great day at Wembley for me, but we lost. It actually felt with the squad it probably hindered us.
“The reality is that in those competitions we’ll probably see as we go, if we’re truthful. If there’s an opportunity to win games, we want to win football games. There’s no better habit in football than winning.
"There are opportunities for players through the academy and the U23s. A lot of our younger lads have been promoted to the first team too quickly. The reason for that is because the first team hasn’t been very good. Hopefully going forward those days will end.
“Our younger lads will aspire to be like the players in the first team. They’ll have role models they’re looking up to, not players that they’re better than. We’ve just got that balance wrong, but we’re in the process of correcting that now.”