Cook's new-look coaching staff putting Ipswich players through their paces
- Credit: ITFC/PA
There's been a big turnover of staff, as well as players at Portman Road this summer. ANDY WARREN profiles the backroom team.
Gary Roberts – first-team coach
The former Ipswich Town winger was back at the club in March, ending his playing career and leaving Accrington Stanley to follow Cook through the door at Portman Road.
He knows the Ipswich manager’s methods inside out, having played under him at Chesterfield, Portsmouth and then Wigan, winning promotions with all three of those clubs.
It’s been a big learning curve for the 37-year-old but he’s highly rated by Cook, who himself has a good track record of helping young coaches make real strides.
Roberts is taking his coaching badges this summer.
Francis Jeffers – first-team coach
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Next through the door, once the season had finished, was Francis Jeffers. Another player who had previously represented the Blues on the pitch.
It’s 14 years since the ex-striker impressed, scored goals but ultimately turned down a permanent Ipswich move at the end of his loan – a move he’s briefly expressed regret for.
But he’s a coach now and, since hanging up his boots, has earned a good reputation in the coaching ranks for his work at boyhood club Everton. He had progressed through the ranks there, ultimately working his way up to assist David Unsworth with the Toffees’ Under 23s.
Like Roberts, this is Jeffers’ first full-time senior coaching role, though he did assist Duncan Ferguson during his time in charge as caretaker at Goodison two years ago.
Ian Craney – coach
Next through the door is another man Cook knows well and, like Roberts and Jeffers, is another from the city of Liverpool.
The former Accrington, Swansea and Huddersfield midfielder worked as Cook’s kitman at Wigan but, in Suffolk, he’s very much a coach.
He said: “It’s a big club with big ambitions and shouldn’t be in this league and I’m looking forward to being involved and trying to move the club on.”
Kieron Dyer – Under 23 manager
The former Ipswich player and 33-cap England international isn’t a new face, of course. He was already at the club when Cook arrived and, following a hugely positive early meeting, took on a role with the first-team during the final weeks of the campaign.
He’s back in his Under 23 role now but will have added responsibilities and will still be involved in the first-team picture.
It’s going to be an interesting summer for Dyer, given his Under 23 squad currently includes several senior players demoted from the first-team squad. It will be interesting to see how Dyer handles that.
John Keeley – goalkeeping coach
Keeley replaces Jimmy Walker as goalkeeping coach and is another man Cook knows well, having worked with him at Portsmouth. He joins from Fratton Park this summer.
“I was at Portsmouth with Paul and I loved working with him,” he said. “I was very close to going to Wigan with him when he left.
“We have stayed in touch over the years and that shows you how we get on and I was delighted when he asked me to come to Ipswich.
Jon Ashton – fitness coach
Fitness is key this summer, with Cook hinting on several occasions last season that he didn’t think the conditioning of the players he inherited was anywhere near the standard required.
Town operated without a full-time fitness coach after Jim Henry was put on gardening leave in November, though the club insisted he was working on a consultancy basis, so the appointment of former Premier League player Ashton is key.
No relation to CEO Mark Ashton, the former Leicester and Oxford joins having previously worked as fitness coach at Stevenage and will be getting his claws into the Ipswich players in the coming weeks.
Andy Rolls – director of performance
Rolls fills a new role at Portman Road and arrives in Suffolk having worked under Mark Ashton at Watford and most recently Bristol City, while also spending time at Arsenal and West Ham.
His job is a broad one, covering all areas which can affect players’ performance, ranging from fitness, to travel to food.
But initially he will focus on the club’s medical and sports science teams, looking to ensure Cook has fit and available players after the Blues’ injury struggles in recent years.
Rolls recently spelled out what the Ipswich players can expect at the start of pre-season training: “Initially it will be roughly three sessions a day,” he said. “There’ll be a pre-breakfast session which will be about stability, mobility, getting stronger, getting the bodies back used to the work they’re doing because they have had a bit of time off.
“Then there’ll be breakfast, then there will be the main football session, the fitness session, which will be football based with top-up runs at the end.
“Then there’ll be lunch and a downtime period, and then in the afternoon there will be different gym sessions for different specific things. There’ll be a lot of isometric and isotonic gym sessions and that’s basically the outline of the day.”
Andy Costin – head of sports science
Another intriguing appointment.
The 33-year-old grew up in Australia and took something of a gamble when he left his job working as head of sport at a college to seek a career in English football.
He was rejected by more than 30 clubs before getting a foot in the door at Stevenage and then being head hunted by Ashton at Bristol City, before following the CEO to Portman Road this summer.
“As head of sports science I’ll oversee the pitch-based stuff, as well as the strength and conditioning, in conjunction with the head of strength and conditioning,” he said, explaining his role.
“That’s my primary role and I’m also doing some work in the data side of things, like recruitment and some other areas as well.”
Costin has been credited with helping turn Adam Webster from a quality defender with fitness issues at Ipswich into a durable performer at Ashton Gate, allowing City to make a 10-fold profit when selling him on to Brighton just a year after signing him from Ipswich.
There are plenty more individuals playing important roles in Town’s bid to succeed, of course.
Head physio Matt Byard, a man who continues to play a vital role in terms of managing the risk of Covid at the club alongside his medical duties, remains in place. Rolls believes the extra support he now has will benefit both him and the club. Byard is assisted by Alex Chapman.
Sports therapist Tom Walsh stepped up following Henry’s exit, having been brought in by Paul Lambert from Bury in 2019, and is a popular and well-respected member of the club’s staff.
Will Stephenson remains as head analyst, supported by George Buckley, while former Ipswich goalkeeper James Pullen is the club’s kitman.
Town are also expected to name a new head of strength and conditioning in the coming weeks.
Adem Atay remains in charge of the U18s following their recent run to the FA Youth Cup semi-final.