‘It’s going to be a long time until they have success unless something changes’ - Hurst reflects on Town job
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Former Ipswich Town manager Paul Hurst appeared on Sky Sports’ EFL Matters show last week, where he discussed his time at Portman Road.
How has your month been since you left Ipswich?
PH: I managed to get away pretty quickly with the family – it coincided with the school holidays so that worked out well.
After that I’ve taken in a couple of games and have been away with the LMA, which was good, and I’ve done things at home that you’re not able to do when you’re in work.
Have you had a chance to assess going in at Ipswich, coming out, and anything that stands out that you would change?
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PH: I think, honestly, there are so many things you would change or things you felt contributed to you not getting the results. Some things were out of your control and some others you would probably have done differently with hindsight.
Everything was done with the right intentions and for the football club. There was a lot of talk about change and I think the football club needed to change and still does.
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It will now have looked at itself, and I’m not just talking about Paul Lambert and a new manager going in, but the club itself if they want to try and succeed in what is a very difficult league.
They’ve only taken two points since you’ve left, Paul, but what was the remit at the start of the season and has it changed now, given where they are.
PH: I think it has to now and, to be honest, when I first went in it was all about a new start and not setting any specific goals.
My mantra to the players was ‘be the best that you can be’ and ‘have no excuses’. I think initially that was fine.
There was a big change in terms of training and they were all welcomed – I was told it was good and they were enjoying it – but when you don’t get the early successes that’s when players can look for those excuses and maybe don’t get behind the change.
There’s no doubt for me that change was needed. You’ve used the word ‘comfortable’ earlier and I think that’s still evident there.
I think Paul’s gone in and his biggest thing will be about trying to give the players some confidence and get smiles on faces. But that will only last so long unless they get results.
There are probably six teams that will fight it out and you have to make sure you finish fourth bottom.
Did you have the ability to bring the right personnel in? Were you happy with the business you are able to do?
PH: Some of it.
But what I would say is that we needed some of the more experienced players to step up.
There’s no doubt we made a lot of individual errors that were nothing to do with what goes on on the training ground from experienced players that didn’t help.
I still think some of the players we brought in, in the long-term, will do well for the football club but they weren’t brought in to play every single game every week.
Ultimately that’s where the club found itself – a bit of a transition and it probably is still there.
You believe the players who did come in can make the step up and establish themselves?
PH: Gwion Edwards got into the Welsh squad, albeit as a late call-up, and he’s done well.
I’ve been a big fan of Jon Nolan and (Toto) Nsiala who I’ve managed previously and, for me, they can still do it but need a bit of time.
Ellis (Harrison) got injured relatively early but he’s another one that was on stand-by for Wales so there’s obviously some quality there. It’s about finding your feet and gaining that confidence.
When you join a team and the season doesn’t start so well it probably dents your confidence as well.
There were also players to leave the football club as well including some cornerstones of the dressing room. Does that offer up a different set of problems?
PH: We lost three players.
Adam Webster was sold to Bristol City and I was told I could replace him, and in time I could. But we actually started the season off with one recognised centre-back.
For me that was another big part of it. I couldn’t shape the squad how I wanted because dealings were taking far too long.
You then lose Joe Garner and Martyn Waghorn. People can say I didn’t have to let them go and I understand that, but when a player wants to leave you’re not going to get the Martyn Waghorn from last season when he’s being offered a lot more money.
That probably dragged along a little too long.
Was another part of the job bringing the fans and the football club back together?
PH: When I speak about change I’m saying the players wanted change, the owner wanted change and the fans wanted change.
I have to say they were right behind myself and the team and it was only towards the last couple of games, and I understand that because we all want our teams to win games of football.
I’ve got no criticism for the fans whatsoever. I feel for them a little because what you have at Ipswich is a rich history of the European days but they are so far away now. Even from competing in the Championship, unless you have one of those seasons when everything comes together and you have that luck along the way.
I think it’s going to be a long time until they have success unless something changes at the football club. Realistically we’re talking about finance.
You can go against the odds but more often than not you do finish where you are in financial terms.
THE STORY OF PAUL HURST’S 149 DAYS IN CHARGE OF IPSWICH TOWN
May 27: Paul Hurst’s Shrewsbury Town are beaten in the League One play-off final by Rotherham, with Hurst now the clear favourite for the Ipswich Town job. “I don’t want to pass comment on that – I’m still very much hurting from what I’ve just seen,” he said after the game.
May 29: Ipswich Town confirm they have made an official approach for Hurst’s services. The following day, Shrewsbury chief executive Brian Caldwell accuses the Blues of making an ‘illegal approach’, after he was contacted by the manager’s agent rather than Ipswich themselves. Town issue a statement insisting they have complied with EFL rules throughout.
May 30: The 63-day pursuit of a new manager is over as white smoke emerges from Portman Road. Hurst is appointed on a three-year deal and will begin work once he returns from a family holiday in Dubai. Marcus Evans insists Hurst was always his first choice, stating: “We are looking to build on the club’s history of playing an attractive, winning style of football; developing youth through our academy and getting the most out of every player we have here.
“Paul ticks all the boxes when it comes to these key attributes.”
June 12: Hurst and assistant Chris Doig are introduced to the media as the new Ipswich Town boss takes time out from an LMA course in London. He speaks of his pride at being appointed and immediately states and aim to bring wingers into the club. “There hasn’t been that many managers here,” he said. “I think you are given time to be a success, and I hope that is the case, and put your own stamp on a football club where a lot of good things are already happening.”
June 18: Hurst officially begins work as manager of Ipswich Town.
June 25: Ipswich Town return for pre-season training as the players work with their new manager for the first time. Later that day, Trevoh Chalobah becomes Hurst’s first signing.
June 28: Adam Webster is sold to Bristol City for an initial £3.5m fee with the potential to rise as high as £8m.
July 14: After a week at a Spanish training camp, Hurst’s first game in charge of Town sees them beaten 2-0 by National League side Braintree. After the game, Hurst pulls no punches: “I am Ipswich Town manager and I’m looking at my team and expecting a lot, lot better.”
July 16: After a £3million bid from Birmingham is rejected, star goalkeeper Bartosz Bialkowski signs a new three-year contract with the Blues.
July 17: Hurst signs Gwion Edwards for an initial £700,000, with Ellis Harrison (£750,000, July 23) and Janoi Donacien (loan before £750,000 move, July 31) coming shortly after. All the while, Martyn Waghorn continues to be linked with a big money move away with Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and Derby leading the chase.
July 24: Waghorn is left on the bench as Ipswich win 1-0 at MK Dons in pre-season, sparking yet more speculation.
August 4: The Blues’ new era begins in earnest on the opening day against Blackburn. Edwards puts Ipswich ahead inside five minutes but new loanee Tayo Edun is ultimately required to rescue a 2-2 draw. Waghorn is not involved.
August 8: Waghorn is sold to Derby for an initial £5million fee, bringing a long-running saga to an end. Hot on the heels of this, part of the fee is reinvested in Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan as Hurst goes back to his former club for two of his key players in a combined £2million deal.
August 14: Ipswich are humbled in the first round of the Carabao Cup as they are beaten on penalties by League Two Exeter. Hurst again pulls no punches, giving a damning assessment of his side’s display. “There need to be a few home truths. That performance worries me,” he said.
August 17: Luke Chambers responds to criticism with a much-critiqued interview with the club’s in-house media team. He said: “We can use that as fire to show we do care, of course we care. Our attitudes shouldn’t be questioned – we’ve made it this far in our careers to be professional footballers so we need to respond to that criticism and perform in a way where we can show we can play at this level and can put performances in to the standard required.”
August 30: The final two days of the transfer window are a whirlwind. Jon Walters makes an emotional return to Portman Road on loan, while there are also links to Josh Windass and the continued attempt to bring in Curtis Tilt from Blackpool. Ultimately, it’s Matthew Pennington who arrives on loan from Everton to fill a central defensive role.
September 2: The East Anglian Derby is seen as the best chance in a decade for the Blues to get one over rivals Norwich. There is a big call prior to kick-off, with Hurst dropping three-time player of the year Bartosz Bialkowski to the bench for a game which ultimately ends 1-1.
September 15: While being far from a swashbuckling performance, the draw with Norwich offers cause for optimism during the two-week international break. Sadly, though, the Blues fall flat on their return at Hull as they gave away two poor goals once again in a 2-0 loss.
September 22: Another chance for a win goes begging as Ipswich fail to break down a Bolton side which played for nearly an hour with 10 men. The game ends 0-0, but injury is added to insult when the Blues lose Jon Walters to an achilles injury which ends his time at Portman Road.
October 6: Relief is in the air as Ipswich secure a dramatic 3-2 victory at Swansea, with Chalobah grabbing the late winner. Hurst is quick to insist the Blues hadn’t ‘cracked it’ and there is plenty more hard work to come.
October 20: Another international break and another flat display at the other end. The Swansea win was supposed to relieve some of the pressure on the Blues but, once again, they never really get going and they are roundly beaten by QPR. ‘I’ll take my responsibility but the players have to take theirs as well’ – that was the theme of Hurst’s post-match press conference.
October 22: Matt Holland had his say on the state of his former club, questioning Hurst’s recruitment policy and suggesting owner Evans had already begun the process of speaking to other managers.
October 23: Hurst hits back at Holland’s comments in his press conference ahead of the game with Leeds, with the Ipswich boss also stating ‘there is a lot at this club that I would change’ and insisting any ambitions for Premier League football at Ipswich Town are unrealistic.
October 24: Ipswich are beaten 2-0 at Leeds in what proves to be Hurst’s final game in charge. After the game he says: “If it’s deemed not good enough then so be it.”
October 25: Hurst and assistant Doig depart Portman Road with just one win to their name in 15 competitive matches in charge. They were not able to secure three points at home and leave after 148 days – by far the shortest reign in the club’s history.