'You can't kid supporters... we have to give them a lift' - Cook previews Crewe clash
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Ipswich Town slipped to 13th in the League One table following Tuesday night's 2-0 home loss to Rotherham. Here's what manager Paul Cook had to say ahead of Sunday's visit of rock-bottom Crewe.
A: How happy have you been with recent performances? How close are we to seeing a Paul Cook side in full flow?
Q: Listen, it’s a really good question. You always have to be careful because at some point our start is going to handicap us.
Whenever you have a performance like we did on Tuesday night we then look back for excuses as to why we were so bad.
Tuesday night came on the back of probably one of our better performances of the season at the Stadium of Light, without a shadow of a doubt.
But our inconsistency this year has been our inconsistency. That is a big, big disappointment.
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Tuesday night was a really, really disappointing night for us as team.
You must pay the opposition respect. It’s easy to sit here and say we were this and we were that.
But we have to find consistency. For our supporters to want to trust us, we have to find consistency.
Even if you go back to Oldham at home in the FA Cup. Four days previous we’ve won 4-1 at Wycombe.
Wycombe, Rotherham, Wigan, Plymouth... these are the top teams in the division guys. Make no bones about it. Sunderland... And we’re walking into them.
Everyone can have an opinion. My opinion is I’m still searching to put that team on the pitch that I trust, the supporters trust and even the players probably themselves trust.
Tuesday night was really, really disappointing. I fully agreed with any supporter. It was everything I dislike about a team.
But that comes off the back of Sunderland, especially the first half, where it was everything I like about a team.
I’m no different to any of our supporters. I’m very, very frustrated. It’s very, very hard to take. It’s very disappointing.
But as we go out this morning to train it’s about culture, habits and trust. They’re the big words in football guys. They’re massive.
If you think you’re going to develop a culture, habits and trust over 19 league games then you’re better than me, you’re a lot better than me.
If you use Rotherham as an example... Habits, culture and trust. Wow – every box ticked.
That’s something we’re searching for. It’s something we want to get right, hope to get right and need to get right.
It goes on. Our messages as staff are consistent as to how we want to play – front foot, aggressive, play forward, crosses in the box, penetration. On Tuesday night we were the opposite adjective of every single one of those words.
As to why, I don’t know. As to how we fix it, I do know. That’s my job to do that.
I hope that’s answered your question!
Q: Is this process going to take longer than maybe some fans expected it to take?
A: You see football today. We all know football and what goes on. How long does it take to build a good football club? That’s a question sometimes probably for other people to answer.
My messages are consistent. I want to be the best team on the pitch, I want us to play off the front foot, I want us to play forward... If you watch us play Tuesday night all we do is play sideways and back. Like you and every person in the stadium, I don’t get it.
At every club I’ve been at it’s something I’ve faced and at every club I’ve been at I’ve solved it. Hopefully at Ipswich the outcome will be exactly the same.
For the players, myself and everyone, it’s about hard work, it’s desire, it’s habits.
When you get the ball why do you play sideways? Why, when we have a free-kick on the halfway line, does it end up back with Christian Walton? I’m a supporter, I don’t want to see it back at Christian Walton. I want to see it going forward! That’s something we’re still working on and we’re still trying to ingrain into the players.
Q: Is that a confidence thing, or a bravery thing?
A: It’s just habits. Again, we go back to culture, habits and trust. If you look, that’s what I’ve tried to create at every club I’ve been at.
It’s about trying to create the create culture to work hard and playing forward. I would rather a positive pass forwards rather than a negative pass back, all the time.
At our best we do it really well. At our worst, like Tuesday night, we look as bad as you can get.
I think that’s when you have to look at the opposition and say ‘that’s a benchmark’. As a team their whole identity was clear to see. Their desire to win the game was clear to se. Their energy to run forward was clear to see.
That’s where we’re trying to aspire to be at Ipswich Town Football Club.
Q: How big a dilemma is it for you picking that attacking three behind Macauley Bonne? You have so many talented option in that area of the field.
A: On Tuesday night we were without (Sone) Aluko and (Wes) Burns on the right side. We were without both lads at Plymouth too.
Sometimes we’re having to shuffle a little bit. We didn't want to play Santy (Celina) on the right if the truth be known.
Everyone thinks we’ve got an abundance of options, but sometimes I don’t think we’ve had quite as many as people would think.
Within that, we want to see performances like the performances we’ve had which we all enjoy. We don’t want to see the performances we’ve had which we don’t all enjoy.
I’d use the Oldham game as the perfect example. After the Wycombe game, at the height of our positivity, energy, feelgood factor, we drew a home match which resulted in us having to travel up to Oldham to finish a game. That should have been finished off at Portman Road!
Again; culture, habits, trust. The three big words I’ve always used at the football clubs I've been at.
Sometimes, changing players’ habits is not as easy as people think. My culture is working hard. My culture is analysing games and, most importantly, getting your supporters excited by how you play.
Unfortunately for us, on Tuesday night we were the total opposite. For that, like every Ipswich fan in the stadium, I went home absolutely deflated.
But my job is to make sure that when those fans leave the stadium on Sunday they see the work we’ve put in to address a problem and to try and find that consistency.
Q: How much are you missing Wes Burns?
A: It’s not just Wes, it’s not Sone, it’s not Santy.
You can look back on our 19 league games now and within those 19 league games the inconsistency is what we clamour for. It’s what we absolutely search for.
It’s how we play, it’s our identity, it’s your habits, it’s what you do when you get in areas of the pitch. All of a sudden now we don’t cross the ball anywhere near as much as we have been doing. You can go on and on.
I think when you become a Rotherham you’re dead happy because you sit there knowing exactly what you’re going to get out of your team. Unfortunately for Ipswich fans at the minute they don’t particularly know what they’re going to get out of us at the minute. That’s my job to sort out, 100%.
Q: They’re expecting their team to win on Sunday and that’s fair enough, isn’t it?
A: It’s always the most important game or a ‘must win’ game. I’ve always been of a culture where I must like what I see in front of me.
Because when you start seeing what you like in front of you, the reality is the results follow.
So if we weren’t to win on Sunday, you’d love to see the keeper making 10 world class saves, we’ve hit the bar 12 times and the post 16. Then we could all leave going ‘Jesus, how did we not win that?’
The reality is if we play like we did on Tuesday, which was lacklustre, then we’re not going to send our supporters home happy. Let’s do our best to send them home as happy as we can.
Q: It does look a chance to regain some momentum when you look at these next three games – Crewe, Arsenal U21s and Barrow all at home.
A: It is what it is. We have a big game Sunday, we’ve got a cup game Wednesday night and we’ve got an FA Cup game next weekend.
We want to win three times in a row for the first time. Next round of the Papa Johns, next round of the FA Cup and a little bit higher in the league – that's our job.
Hopefully we win the next two and then we all won’t sleep next Friday night because we’ll all suspect what’s coming! Let’s just try and win the first one on Sunday.
Q: What do you make of Crewe?
A: Every club in the division is different. When you look at Crewe, for example, they sold players in the summer. People always want to mention budgets and Crewe are at the very bottom end of the money. Yet Dave (Artell) has always done a great job. They always play a really good style of play.
Again, ‘culture, habits and trust’.
The manager has done a magnificent job. Promotion and then staying in League One playing a very good way. They always score goals.
They will come here on Sunday with no fear of us, no fear of the stadium and very much looking forward to making a big win for themselves.
Dave’s a good guy, he’s got good coaching staff with him and they’ve got every chance of getting out of that bottom four for sure.
Q: You said Tuesday night was ‘difficult’. Now you say it was ‘disappointing’...
A: I don’t think you can ever kid supporters. I think a good supporter will always give you an honest point of view of where they see your team are and where you can go.
I think if you’ve watched us against Oxford and Sunderland you’d probably quite enjoyed us. I felt we were the better team in both those games.
Unfortunately we all left the stadium on Tuesday night thinking there’s a lot of hard work to be done.
We know there is a lot of hard work to be done. I’ve never been under any illusions as to that. I’ve watched us grow and I’ve watched us fall away.
I’ve watched us not be consistent. And if you want to become a good team, a team that challenges at the top levels of leagues, you have to have consistency. Inconsistency will see you not be there.
For me, 19 league games in, still in a couple of good cup competitions, there is still so much to look forward to as a club. It’s my job to sort that out.
EADT & Ipswich Star
Q: Looking back on the last five league games – Plymouth, Wycombe, Oxford, Sunderland and Rotherham – is the Rotherham performance the only one you’re really disappointed with? Do you think the team has played better than the four points from those games suggests?
A: I’ll always try and be an honest manager. Tuesday night was the only game that we’ve been flattened in. You hold your hands up.
But we should have got something at Plymouth. Come on guys! You can’t miss the chances we missed. At Sunderland it’s the same.
In the second half, Oxford’s only intention was to go down with cramp and see it out.
Eventually we will find a consistency. The culture at our club is changing every day. The habits of how hard you work Monday to Friday determines the outcome of Saturday.
As you can imagine we’re now about to embark on two very hard days work in preparing for the game on Sunday.
All you can do is keep making steps forwards. Whenever you get a disappointment in this game you must step forwards again.
I don’t believe in anything other than being aggressive with your play, going forwards with the play and being positive. That was the most disappointing thing on Tuesday night.
As I say, I watched us have a free-kick on the halfway line and the ball ends up back with Christian Walton. I think to myself ‘wow!’ Is that a lack of confidence? I just perceive that as a lack of bravery. Make positive mistakes. Be positive with your play.
We’ve seen our highs – i.e. Wycombe and Portsmouth, which were magnificent wins. But we’ve also seen the lows.
We’ve now got to find that consistency. That’s what we’re searching for.
Q: The atmosphere on Tuesday night felt a little bit subdued. You have rightly praised the fans to the hilt this season – home and away they’ve really got behind the team, even during that tough start. Is the onus now on the team to give them a timely lift? Because these fans have had several false dawns and plenty of disappointments over recent years. It feels like they just need a little injection of belief.
A: Absolutely, 100%. If I was an Ipswich Town fan coming in the stadium on Sunday I would demand the team to give me a lift.
I’m the manager and the message to them will be quite clear. That’s what we’re intending to do.
Q: You said you went away deflated on Tuesday night. Can you understand if there are some fans feeling a bit flattened by the last few days?
A: Optimism always rises when you see something and optimism will always go away when you believe it might not happen.
What our supporters will be feeling right now is the likelihood is we’re not going to go up this year. That’s what our fans, the most negative ones, will be feeling.
I’ve been in management long enough to know that you’d be a fool to try and answer those questions and enter those conversations.
Just go and win some football games. The you’ll see the optimism go from where it is now to where you want it to be.
Let’s start by trying our best to beat Crewe on Sunday.
Q: Is it particularly frustrating that some of the best performances of the season have been instantly followed by some of the worst?
A: Don’t forget guys that we put a brand new team together in the summer.
I don’t want to keep going back to that, because it’s not an excuse, but if you’re walking into teams like Rotherham, Plymouth and Wigan... all the teams in the league in general. They’ve got substance to them.
Our programme, the upheaval, it is what it is. It’s not an excuse, it’s not a cop out. We are working hard to make our club better.
Unfortunately, people are so reactive to a result now – and rightly so. That football.
But if you do things properly over a period of time the reality is you will get exactly where you want to be.
At most of my clubs I’ve had low points. The experiences of what you’ve bene trough help you get through these moments.
I won’t wilt away, the players won’t wilt away. We’ll come out fighting and strong.
When those results turn the right way the optimism in the stadium will grow again.
Our supporters are right to be having a bit of a low at the minute.
It’s now three games at home, three different competitions, so let’s see what we can get out of them.