‘If we’re on a long journey the path isn’t going to be all smooth’ – Hurst on why he’ll never be scared to make big decisions

Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst. Photo: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst says there will be times he had to abandon his ideals, but that he is very clear about how he wants his team to play in the long run.

Kayden Jackson (bottom left) watches his header beat Brentford keeper Daniel Bentley on Tuesday nigh

Kayden Jackson (bottom left) watches his header beat Brentford keeper Daniel Bentley on Tuesday night. Photo: Steve Waller - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The Blues boss has stressed that fast starts, exciting wingers and a high press are central to his football philosophy.

However, he devised a specialist game plan for the visit of high-flying Brentford at Portman Road on Tuesday, picking a 3-5-2 system and instructing his players to go more direct.

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It didn’t work, he switched to 4-2-3-1 at the break and Town, greatly reducing their errors on the ball, came from behind to secure a gutsy 1-1 draw.

“There’s nothing wrong with changing formation, players or whatever for the opposition now and again,” said Hurst, speaking ahead of today’s Championship home game against Bolton Wanderers.

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“But I’ve been told that last season there was a feeling within the group that there seemed to be more focus on the opposition on a regular basis.

“Whether that’s them looking for an excuse, I wouldn’t know. I know what players are like, I’ve been one myself, I’ve been involved in dressing rooms when things aren’t going right and you cling on to the tiniest crumb of comfort to say ‘it’s not our fault, the wind were blowing a bit, my passes were overhit’ or whatever it is.

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“For me, you do your homework and pay respect to what you’re going to come up against, but at the same time a lot of focus has to be on how we can hurt the opposition.

“The other night was a change because I didn’t feel we would have done as well sticking to what we had been doing in that game – and I stand by that.

“To clarify what I’m saying, the other night we may well have started with the system that started the second half, but it might have been the same sort of game because if you keep giving the ball away it doesn’t matter what system you play.

“And then we might have changed at half-time and done a little better. We can get carried away with it but we did have a clear plan of what we were trying to do.

Toto Nsiala is available again for Ipswich Town after serving a three-game suspension. Photo: Pagepi

Toto Nsiala is available again for Ipswich Town after serving a three-game suspension. Photo: Pagepix - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

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“If we’re on a journey, and hopefully a long journey, the path isn’t going to be all smooth.

“There are going to be times we might have to go away from what I ideally want to do. But for the long term I’m very clear in what I want to achieve and whenever we can look to do that along the way then that’s what we’ll do.”

Asked if he might operate with wing-backs again at some stage in the future, Hurst replied: “I think we’ve got the players that can do that. I’ve heard a few comments, not directly, from within the squad they felt comfortable with that and think that that’s something that could work.

“It didn’t work (on Tuesday) but not because of Jordan Spence and Janoi (Donacien, as wing-backs). It didn’t work because we didn’t keep the ball well enough. Watching it back that was the biggest thing more than anything else.

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“Brentford will cause any team problems in possession but what we didn’t do well enough was execute the game plan with the ball. That’s not particularly to do with the system.

“At half-time I just felt we needed to get a couple more players on the pitch who are a little bit more attack-minded and that lent itself to a change of system.”

When quizzed whether the players had a say in the half-time change of plan, Hurst smiled and simply replied: ‘No’.

He continued: “That’s what I’m paid for. When you’re walking off the pitch sometimes you hear comments like ‘we’re getting overrun in here’ or ‘that’s not happening’, but that’s very much my call and I know why I did what I did – whether that was starting or changing.

“That’s what I’m paid for and a lot of thought goes into it, despite what some people might think. You live and die by decisions but ultimately you’ve got to do what you think is right.”

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Bolton players brawl during a 2-2 draw at Preston. Photo: PA

Bolton players brawl during a 2-2 draw at Preston. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The man who has already made a series of bold statements, including dropping goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski, added: “I think if I’m ever deemed to be someone who is scared to make a big decision I’ll start to question myself.

“As a manager, you’re the one with your head on the block. Irrespective of what anyone else thinks, I’m always going to make decisions which I think are right.

“That’s what always confuses me when people question decisions, whether it’s myself or other managers. Unless they’ve got a massive pay-off and are hoping someone wants to let them go an lie on a beach, you’re trying to do what’s right to keep you in a job and get you results.

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“I’d say we’re in the job as managers because we’ve in the main had either a decent track record or you know the game, have been in the game a long time and are probably in a place to at least attempt to make those decisions.”

Polish right-back Pawel Olkowski has been Bolton's star man. Photo: PA

Polish right-back Pawel Olkowski has been Bolton's star man. Photo: PA - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Opposition lowdown

Manager: Phil Parkinson (June ‘16): P113 W43 D27 L43


Last game: L 2-0 Middlesbrough (a) – Weds

Last five finishes: 21st (Champ), 2nd (Lg One), 24th, 18th, 14th (Champ)

Top-scorers: Magennis (4), Wildschut (2)

League ever-presents: Alnwick, Beevers, Lowe, Olkowski, Wheater

Last meeting

Bolton Wdrs 1 Ipswich Town 1

Date: Saturday, January 20, 2018

Mick McCarthy admitted this was ‘the worst game I’ve seen for long time’.

Gary Madine ghosted in at the back post to put the hosts in front (53) before Joe Garner finished off a rare slick move (82). Martyn Waghorn rattled the woodwork in the last minute.

Ipswich Town team news

• Toto Nsiala is available again following a three-game suspension. Luke Chambers and Matthew Pennington have forged a good central defensive partnership in his absence.

• Jon Walters is a major doubt with the Achilles injury which kept him out of Tuesday night’s 1-1 home draw with Brentford.

• Paul Hurst may well start with the team that finished the comeback draw against the Bees, Jon Nolan and Gwion Edwards having stepped off the bench in that game.

• Emyr Huws, Teddy Bishop and Tom Adeyemi all remain a long way off reaching full fitness following injury set-backs.

Bolton Wanderers team news

• Phil Parkinson named a defensive 5-4-1 system for Wednesday night’s 2-0 defeat at Middlesbrough and could well revert to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

• Centre-back Jack Hobbs has been ruled out after suffering a head wound that required several stitches at the Riverside Stadium.

• Winger Sammy Ameobi faces a spell on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage in last weekend’s 2-1 home loss to QPR.

• Left-back Andrew Taylor could come back into contention following a thigh strain.

Stat attack

6 -Draws in last 8 games at Portman Road (W1 L1)

5 – Straight home wins against Bolton

2005 – Town haven’t lost to Bolton since an FA Cup tie in January 2005 (P10 W6 D4 F13 A5)

Possible line-ups

Bolton Wdrs (4-2-3-1): Alnwick; Olkowski, Wheater, Beevers, Grounds; O’Neil, Lowe; Noone, Williams, Wildschut; Magennis.

Ipswich Town (4-2-3-1): Gerken; Donacien, Pennington, Chambers, Knudsen; Skuse, Chalobah; Edwards, Nolan, Ward; Jackson.

Opposition key man

Pawel Olkowski

Quick and composed, the 13-cap Polish international right-back has looked a cut above the rest following his summer arrival from German club FC Koln on a free transfer. Trotters’ weakness is down the left.


Ipswich Town 1/1

Draw 27/11

Bolton Wdrs 7/2


Stephen Martin (Staffordshire)

Games: 6, Yellows: 14, Reds: 0

Stu’s prediction

Ipswich Town 2 Bolton Wdrs 0

Town finished strongly on Tuesday, while Bolton had a long trip on Wednesday. Today the win comes. Edwards to star. Jackson and Nolan to score.

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