"The board felt, with the greatest respect to Paul and his staff, now was the time to make the decision"
Mark Ashton spoke to iFollow Ipswich following the news of Paul Cook's departure at the weekend.
Paul was relieved of his duties following a goalless draw against Barrow in the FA Cup, with John McGreal having been confirmed as interim manager this morning.
In the interview, which is also available to watch on iFollow Ipswich, Mark discusses the Club's decision to look for a new manager, John leading the team at Charlton tomorrow, and a meeting with the senior professionals at the Club this morning.
The full transcript is available below:
Mark we appreciate you talking to us this morning. It has been a busy couple of days for the Club and it goes without saying that Paul Cook and his coaching staff leave with the best interests from everyone at Ipswich Town. Could you give us an insight please as to why that decision was made and why you felt this was the right time?
Absolutely and to your first point, it’s a difficult day and it’s been a difficult weekend for lots of people in and around the Football Club. It’s only fit and proper that I start by saying thank you to Paul [Cook] and his staff. When you make a decision to change any manager, it’s not easy. Paul had been with us since I started at the beginning of June and he has been great to work with, as have his staff. The Club is in a period of transition and he worked really hard. I thank him genuinely for his commitment, his honesty, and his professionalism all the way through. But, on Saturday night, having spoken to the board following a recent run of frustrating results and disappointing performances, they were absolutely clear and unanimous with me that it was time to make a change so that is what we have done.
You use the key word there – transition. Yes the Club is in a period of transition but do you also act now with hopes of still achieving something this season?
Yes, definitely. I spoke yesterday with a number of the senior players and I then spoke to all of the players this morning. The feeling in the camp is: ‘100% this season is not dead’. We’re seven points outside the play-offs with a lot of games to go and heading into the January transfer window. Again, when you take that all into consideration, it was the debate with the board. They felt, with the greatest respect to Paul and his staff, now was the time to make the decision.
John McGreal has been named interim manager. Why was that decision made?
John joined the Club last week and came into the Academy, U23s and development setup. Let me be really clear about what I’m about to say. After the game on Saturday, once the decision had been made, we sat down with John to explain the situation. Mike O’Leary (Chairman) and I spoke to him and asked him if he would take the team. John was shocked. His reaction told us he was totally shocked when we had that conversation. But he’s an Ipswich man, and he said he would step forward and help the club that he loves. Why John? He has experience in management and a large number of games under his belt and we felt he was the most experienced in the door at this moment in time. We spoke to Kieron yesterday and he’s another person that loves the Club and is passionate about the Club. Kieron will support John with Rene Gilmartin. Rene is someone that we know very well, and he has worked with John before. He’s a very detailed coach and I think he will make a positive impact around the place as well.
It’s a lot to take in, but as is often the case in football, it’s a quick turnaround to the next game and the full focus has to be on Charlton…
It’s the nature of the business. We’ve had three-game weeks for a while now and they’re still coming, and we have to aim to hit the ground running. As you can imagine, on Saturday night things were busy and things were difficult. I’m not going to lie, things were difficult for me and others involved. There is a personal side to things because we have worked with Paul and his staff for months on a day-to-day basis. The board have acted, though, and in absolute unity they said they wanted to make a change. As I say, I spoke to all staff and players this morning to make sure we are aligned. We need to prepare for a January transfer window and we need to be prepared for Charlton tomorrow night. We’ve got games to win because we need points on the board and we need to do everything we can to make it happen.
There will be things from the meetings that remain in those four walls, but overall how did they go? With the likes of Sam Morsy and the senior players…
They’re outstanding professionals. I can’t speak highly enough of Sam, the Club captain, and the other senior members. That goes for the other members of the squad as well, who have also been fantastic. Some of them came to me this morning, wanting to chat about one or two bits. They were very good because, when a manager departs, everyone has to look at themselves. You need to ask the questions: ‘what could we have done differently?’, ‘Where could we have been more effective?’, ‘what can we do better?’. I include myself in that. Everyone has to look at themselves in the mirror. The senior players said it this morning – at the end of the day the buck stops with them. They know they need to perform better and do more, but their attitude was first class.
The search for a new manager, does it just take as long as it takes?
Yes. We want to get someone in as quickly as possible, but we have to do it correctly. A number of managers, in and out of work, have contacted us about what is a very attractive position. This is a big football club and it’s a football club that everyone, including myself, believes will only go in one direction. There is a process and a number of us will be involved in it. We’re on it, but as we speak, John McGreal is in charge, it’s his team, and we need to get behind the lads. Getting behind him will give us the breathing space to get through this properly.