Pre-season friendly plans in place as Cook bids to produce fit squad who can 'run the race'
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Ipswich Town’s pre-season schedule is in place, with manager Paul Cook wanting the Blues to begin the new campaign with a squad fit enough to outlast the competition in League One.
Town finished last season ninth in the third tier but will likely have an unrecognisable squad when next season begins, with Cook planning a significant overhaul.
Cook’s players will return for pre-season training at the end of June, six weeks before the new season begins on August 7, with the Town boss already nailing down his side’s pre-season opponents for games which will help mould a new-look squad.
It’s understood newly-promoted Championship side Peterborough United contacted Town this week, regarding a potential friendly, but were told the Blues’ summer schedule is already full. Announcements are expected soon.
“As far as I’m aware I think nearly probably 90 per cent, 95 per cent is absolutely nailed down and done in terms of dates back, in terms of where we’re going, who we’re playing etc,” Cook said.
“I’m sure the club will be announcing all that stuff at some point because I think one of the most exciting things at the minute is the fact that fans are going to return. We’re all desperate for fans to return to football.
“That first game of the season, hopefully we’re drawn at home. Hopefully to another big club in the league, maybe whoever comes down (Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham, Wycombe), and we can see a packed Portman Road with a team on the pitch that we’re all excited about and looking forward to watching play.”
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Cook has previously taken his Wigan sides away on week-long training camps to Spain while his Portsmouth team played friendly games in Ireland ahead of their League Two title-winning campaign in 2016/17. However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic means the Blues are likely to stay at home this summer.
“With what’s gone on in the world, possibly not,” the boss said, when asked if he would be taking his side abroad. “A training camp is something that I do enjoy, especially if new players have come in.
“But fortunately we’re at hopefully the end of Covid nearly. The lights have just started flickering. Hopefully that can be a great day. But that will probably result in us staying at home this summer, I would imagine.”
Cook is looking to build a new squad almost from scratch this summer, with the vast majority of his players told they move on and a significant number of arrivals expected.
The Town boss has left those coming to Suffolk in no doubt what they should expect from his pre-season plans, when they report to the club at the end of June.
“I pride myself on fitness, I think as a manager, a coach, a club we want to know that our players will run a race, if you like,” Cook said.
“Football and sport now is an industry where data and analysis is so readily available and that comes from training, and we’ve got to work really hard.
“As you guys know, everyone wants to beat Ipswich and this team. Everyone wants to beat Sunderland, everyone wants to beat Portsmouth. That’s just part and parcel of working and playing and being involved with big clubs.
“So we’ve got to make sure that everything we can do that gives us that chance to just get ahead of our opposition, we make sure we do it.
“The reality for the lads is that they will have six weeks of intense training, doing all the tactics, all the fitness and everything that we expect from them in the season.”