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Charismatic Liverpudlian Paul Cook hits all the right notes at first Ipswich Town press conference




With everything that has been coming out surrounding Ipswich Town Football Club recently, the new manager not appearing 20 minutes after scheduled for his first 'virtual' meeting with the press did seem slightly worrying.

We had had the odd situation of an interview with him put out by the club a few hours before said press conference, where he addressed the takeover rumours.

It came after owner Marcus Evans dismissed selling the club himself in a lengthy written address to fans last night. This despite land registry purchase searches on the training ground emerging from a company, Gamechanger 20 Ltd, said to be set up by the US consortium the Athletic claimed are in advanced talks to buy the club.

Paul Cook in his first press conference as Ipswich Town manager
Paul Cook in his first press conference as Ipswich Town manager

As gathered media we had wondered whether there might be some directive from the club to not ask certain questions, but that was not the case.

And from the moment Paul Cook, straight off the training ground with his bobble hat on, appeared on our screens joking about thinking we could not hear him, nothing appeared off limits.

It was my first meeting (if virtual counts, which it probably does in these times) with the Liverpudlian but I was familiar with the horse throaty voice and bundle of energy from his television appearances that was immediately evident.

Paul Cook is unveiled as Ipswich Town's new manager on Tuesday Picture: ITFC
Paul Cook is unveiled as Ipswich Town's new manager on Tuesday Picture: ITFC

The first awkward hurdle for the 54-year-old, who was with Wigan Athletic in the Championship last season, to negotiate his way through was the origins of his discussions with Evans – having replaced Paul Lambert just two days after he left by 'mutual consent' on Sunday.

His reply immediately lightened the mood: "I probably spoke to Marcus about two years ago telling him I wanted the job!"

After a hearty laugh followed, he quickly added: "I'm only kidding. I think the first conversation with Marcus was probably Sunday."

It was well played and set the tone for more jovial tongue-in-cheek answers to follow, which demonstrated that wicked but warm Scouse sense of humour I'm familiar with whenever I visit my wife's family on Merseyside.

Paul Cook has the assembled journalists laughing at one of his snappy jokes
Paul Cook has the assembled journalists laughing at one of his snappy jokes

Asked how his break in management had been and how much he had missed it he replied: "Horrendous, absolutely horrendous.

"My poor missus Joanne was absolutely in bits. She wanted me out ages ago."

But it was not quips all the way and he knew when to put his serious and empathetic face on, like when talking about the plight of his former club Wigan, whom would not have been relegated to League One were it not for a 12 point deduction, and other managers losing their jobs.

And like in his first interview with the club, he was quick to bring up the immediate target in taking the job, having admitted he had turned down jobs as he had wanted to stay in the Championship.

"On the Ipswich job coming round, on speaking to Marcus it is clearly obvious Ipswich don't want to be in League One, I particularly don't want to be in League One, so we have a great opportunity to help each other now," he said.

There were the usual tick box quotes of players starting with clean slates to get opportunities (good news for Jon Nolan and Kayden Jackson), not ruling out the top two while mathematically possible and working with what he's got in terms of players and backroom staff.

On the latter, we learned he would love Liam Richardson back as his assistant, having been so in his Football League managerial journey up to this point. But he said he did not feel it was 'the right time', while he is fighting relegation with Wigan Athletic, a club close to both of their hearts.

A manager with high morals was another important message for the fanbase and his players to take in there.

Now it was down to the nitty gritty with the first question on a possible takeover.

"Listen, my talk with Marcus is totally about football, about the future of Ipswich Town Football Club and what plans we had going forward," he said.

"Do you know, I've got total confidence in Marcus after speaking to him that whatever decisions he makes about other stuff will be for the benefit of the football club. So I trust Marcus totally with those decisions and I think Marcus has now trusted me to manage on the football pitch, so I think we'll both stick to what we're supposed to be doing."

Again, a really solid answer to a tricky situation on his first few days in a new job. And a great contrast to his predecessor's' last few spiky chats to the press that had no doubt contributed to his fate.

Turning to anticipating when his first game with fans does come, the jovial mask lifted with news of a serious health situation in his family.

"Listen, it will be a very proud moment for me," he said. "My dad's not well at the minute, Chris, and he'd be down here and he'd be very proud. It's something that I will smile at and I'll have a good smile for him," he said.

But it was soon back to the theatre of performance when it was put to him that fans have reacted with excitement to his arrival.

He said: "Listen, we haven't lost yet! Wait until we lose a few games, they'll be no thumbs up for me then, they'll all have their teeth right into me then!"

"Listen, I can only promise fans that I will do my best.

"If we can do that with myself, Gary (Roberts), the players, we can only give our best every week and you can guarantee that's what we will be doing to try and bring success back to the club.

"Every club has football history and you have highs and lows in your history and supporting your club is the most important thing and we've got a very, very strong support base and my job now is to try and make them happy."

After a false ending to the proceedings, with further questions then appearing after we had done a wave goodbye, including on Evans and a potential takeover again, Cook sounded an audible sigh of relief as he got up to leave.

It was a high-energy performance in front of the media that showed the warmth of the man-management skills he is famed for with those who have played under him.

He may be the fourth Paul Evans had brought in to sit there and sell the vision of bringing the good times back to Portman Road, but this time it feels different...

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