Ipswich Town made it six League One games without victory after a disastrous 5-2 home defeat at the hands of newly promoted Bolton Wanderers. The Tractor Boys, who have extensively rebuilt their squad in the last five months, have shipped the second highest number of goals in the EFL so far this season, heaping the pressure on boss Paul Cook.
Cook, who opted to take a “Demolition Man” approach to gutting the Ipswich squad at the end of last season, has very little room for manoeuvre after signing 19 of his own recruits this summer. At the start of the season, Town were the bookies’ favourites to not only gain promotion but win the League One title. Given the sheer turnover of new faces, their 7/1 odds at the start of the season may have been poor value, with the squad always likely to need time to gel. The best value football picks are often those you least expect. They are often hand-picked by tipsters and analysts with proven records like Tom Love and Ryan Elliott, who shop around for the best lines across the UK’s leading bookmakers.
In fact, Town’s most recent destroyers Bolton Wanderers have been the biggest surprise package, racking up 12 points from their opening seven league games to move into third place. Bolton’s odds to win League 1 have shortened to a best price of 25/1, which is ironically the same best price available for Ipswich at present. Therefore, despite their disastrous start, the bookies clearly believe they have the squad to bounce back in the coming weeks.
Although the traders of the leading bookmakers are yet to write off Town’s promotion chances, patience is already wearing thin among the Portman Road faithful. Cook has won just three of his League One games in charge of the Suffolk club. Cook would argue that last season’s squad was ill-equipped to reach the top six in 2020/21, but with very little credit in the bank with some supporters a 0% win rate in 2021/22 is already seeing awkward questions asked of Cook by the media.
Cook receives a grilling in his post-match press conference
In his post-match press conference, Cook described the 5-2 loss as “one of [his] toughest days in management” and a “really difficult day”. Cook insisted he would not be making any public “criticisms” of the squad and took full responsibility for “putting the team on the pitch”. However, Cook did admit the squad was “a million miles away” from where it needs to be when playing without the ball, with the team’s defensive shape woefully exposed time and again by Wanderers at the weekend. Perhaps unsurprisingly when a club signs 19 new players, Cook says his players are demonstrating “individual qualities” as opposed to “collective ones”.
When pressed on whether the issues lay in the club’s coaching department, which the Sky Sports reporter deemed to be a “fair question”, Cook appeared to be irritated and blurted “come on mate!” before ending his conversation with the journalist in question. The club’s coaching department has been called into question by Ipswich supporters throughout the summer, ever since Cook’s decision not to appoint an assistant manager. His usual number-two, Leam Richardson, opted to remain in charge at Wigan Athletic, with Cook deciding to stick with his coaching team of Francis Jeffers, Gary Roberts and Ian Craney – the latter two having very little senior coaching experience. It remains to be seen whether Cook will look to add a new face to the setup, with former Ipswich player John McGreal having been spotted at recent senior and U23 games.
Cook pinning his hopes on Sam Morsy’s arrival
BBC Radio Suffolk reporter Brenner Woolley asked Cook whether he was “worried” by the start to the season. Cook refuted those claims because he knows “the personnel in the building”. Cook appeared to be relating to Egyptian midfielder Sam Morsy, who signed on deadline day from Championship side Middlesbrough. Cook insisted that “everything” the team lacked in terms of shape and defensive mentality “will be there times 10 from him”. Cook was adamant there would be “no [further] performances like that” when Morsy is ready to feature for the Tractor Boys.
Morsy received a debatable red card in his final game in Middlesbrough colours. Despite appealing the questionable decision, the red card was upheld and the three-match ban remains in place for Morsy, meaning he will miss tricky tests against Lincoln and Sheffield Wednesday, as well as the Bolton game. Cook going public on his reliance over Morsy’s influence on the squad is unlikely to sit well with fans, particularly given that the other 18 signings in the building are Cook’s own players – as opposed to players from legacy regimes at Portman Road.
Wanderers boss Evatt confident Ipswich and Cook will come good in 2021/22
The mutual respect between Ipswich boss Paul Cook and Bolton boss Ian Evatt was there for all to see post-match. Evatt, who played under Cook during his time at Chesterfield, described Town as a “fantastic team with a very good manager”. Evatt insisted the Suffolk side will “come good” and that the project “needs time”.
How much time the project gets remains to be seen. CEO Mark Ashton led the calls for patience just a fortnight ago, with the club’s new American owners (Gamechanger 20) also insisting that restoring the club’s status in the English football pyramid was a long-term objective.
The Town XI against Bolton featured two more debutants, with keeper Christian Walton – a season-long loan recruit from Brighton – and central defender George Edmundson coming into the fold. Cook will take some time to decide his strongest starting eleven, but the Liverpudlian will be under no illusions that he must start picking up points in the meantime.
Cook is said to have earmarked an away trip to Accrington Stanley in early October as the time when he will have his squad fully fit and up to speed. Kosovan loanee Bersant Celina will be in contention by the end of the month, having also signed on loan for the season after recovering from heart condition pericarditis sustained last year.