Cook on Town's promotion goal, handling favourites tag and League One strength
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League One gets underway this weekend with manager Paul Cook seeing no reason why Ipswich Town can’t seriously challenge for automatic promotion.
Cook and CEO Mark Ashton have rebuilt the Blues this summer, with a raft of summer signings replacing the 20+ players who have left the club following last season’s ninth-placed finish.
The quality of Town’s additions and the Blues’ perceived spending power has led to Cook’s side being heavily touted for success this season and, while not entirely comfortable being given the ‘favourites’ tag, the Ipswich boss is confident.
“One hundred per cent! Why not?” Cook said, when asked if his side can challenge for automatic promotion ahead of the clash with Morecambe.
“Would I have Ipswich as favourites? No, I wouldn’t. If you look at Sheffield Wednesday, for example, this week bringing Lee Gregory and Marvin Johnson in, going under the radar and signing good players, and they’ve already got a squad full of good players.
“And that’s why I don’t speak about the opposition. Sorry (Owls manager) Darren (Moore), I don’t want to speak about you. I’m not jealous, I’m not in any way antagonised with what other clubs do.
“Sheffield Wednesday is a fantastic club, a big club and that’s exactly how big clubs act, they go and sign good players.
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“The challenges are there for us all, the challenges are ahead of us and every time a team takes to the pitch against Ipswich Town, they will desperately want to beat us, and no more so than Morecambe.”
Cook sees a division packed with strength, good coaching and teams looking to prove a point.
“I think if you look at the league this year, you’ve got Accrington under John Coleman, for example, who continually defy and outweigh every possibility of what they can achieve, who go into the season and can’t wait to beat teams like Ipswich, Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday,” he said.
“All through the league, there’s David and Goliath games and there’s different managers, Doncaster with Richie Wellens, MK Dons new manager (Dean Lewington, caretaker), Darren Moore first time at Sheffield Wednesday, Danny Cowley is in at Portsmouth.
“The coaching levels in the league is so strong now, teams are so well organised, so tactically aware of what the opposition is going to do, and my big one is that it comes down to the players.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the players that we’ve recruited, and I know we’re going to carry on. I know we’re going to bring more in.
“And as a manager and coach, you concentrate on your own players. You concentrate on us getting it right, on us being the best we can be.”
While the Town boss is convinced his squad is capable of big things, he stressed the need for patience as he and Ashton continue Town’s squad build at a time when the team needs to gel.
“You’d be a fool to think not, wouldn’t you?” he said, when asked if a bit of patience is needed. “If we’re still on about two or three new players by Monday and the reality is that won’t be the end of it.
“We’ll still be looking for more to come in and we’ll probably be going to the window still looking for players.
“So if anyone thinks we can just hit the ground running and everything will be perfect, then they are just fools.
“How quick can we get players gelled? How quick can the partnerships on the pitch grow? How quick will George Edmundson be back in the team? How quickly will a new signing integrate into the team?
“They are the challenges for myself and all the staff at the club. The supporters are to go into the season with all the optimism that’s around the town, it’s fantastic and the feel-good factor around here is amazing at the minute, and that should only be harnessed.
“No one is going to pour cold water on that. We set out as one of the favourites this year, and we want to stand out of that pack.”