'It's stronger than it's ever been' - Cook on League One ahead of Town's Sunderland clash

Paul Cook believes League One is stronger that it has ever been

Paul Cook believes League One is stronger that it has ever been - Credit: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town boss Paul Cook believes League One is stronger than it has ever been. 

Speaking ahead of Town’s trip to Sunderland this weekend, Cook was asked about the strength of the third tier at a time when the Blues, Black Cats, Sheffield Wednesday, Wigan, Portsmouth, Charlton and Bolton are all competing below the levels they have become accustomed to. 

Add into that the likes of Rotherham, Wycombe, Oxford, Plymouth and MK Dons, who are all strong teams in the third tier, and you have a division packed with sides hopeful of promotion. 

“Of course it is,” Cook said, when asked whether League One is the strongest in its history. 

“Last time, when I was promoted with Wigan (in 2017/18), ourselves and Blackburn were the two strongest clubs by far. 

“There was no real other competition in the league. I can’t remember the points tallies but we probably got to 99 (98) and Blackburn were on 97 (96). Shrewsbury pushed us on something like 85 (87) and then there was a gap of 15-20 points after that. 

“This year you don’t see any team running away with the league as we sit here today.  

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“There is so much football to be played, so many big and good clubs in the league and a big January winding coming where big clubs can look to make themselves better like they always do.  

“We always look after our own business and, at our club, we have a class about us that was seen in a really good light against Oxford last week. That was a game played in a fantastic atmosphere in front of a really good home crowd. 

“Keith Curle (Oldham boss) commented on the club after our game on Tuesday night (saying Town are ‘a really good club’) and that’s healthy to hear people speak about our club well. 

“We also have to be fiercely competitive and that’s what we have to try and do.” 

This weekend’s opponents, Sunderland, are now in the fourth League One season following relegation from the Championship, while Ipswich are attacking their third. 

Historically the likes of Leeds, Nottingham Forest and both Sheffield clubs have found themselves stuck in the third-tier for several seasons, when they might have expected quick returns to the Championship. 

Cook sees consistency in decision-making as a key factor in whether clubs are able to win promotion. 

“I see a lot of clubs continually sack managers and think that solves the problem,” Cook said. “I don’t see many clubs giving managers time.  

“The bigger clubs that have fallen into League One, if you look at Leed United today, Leicester City, Southampton, Wolves... Over a period of time, with good decisions, they’ve all got back where they wanted to be.  

“Everyone wants it to happen instantly and wants to win today and wants to go up today, but if you build properly – look at Brentford and where they are – success will come.  

“Supporting your team is so tough sometimes because the bad days are bad. They really are bad. There’s no getting away from that. Especially when you’re a big club and you’ve fallen from heights.  

“But the reality is that if the future is solid, the future will be good.” 

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