Alright I know the title is a little cheesy and there are probably many better ones I could have gone for, it is however finally nice to have a manager with a headline friendly name, after all where can you go with Sheridan?
Following a very good start to Captain Cook’s (sorry, that’s the last one) tenure as Chesterfield manager, a blog post of my first impressions of the new man was always high on my list. I know we are only two games into the new era, but as we all know first impressions are important, and I have to say I’ve been more than impressed.
So hand’s up who wasn’t a little disappointed when the rumours first broke of Paul Cook being the next manager? I’m guessing most Chesterfield fans, if they’re honest, were hoping for a bigger name to get the juices flowing. This name obviously didn’t following the likes of Sean Dyche, Paul Ince and Nick Barnby being bandied around the message board and Twitter, I suppose the guy had very little chance of his name creating a buzz.
Like I guess most fans did when the rumours were far too strong to be anything but nailed on, I did a bit of research and watched a few post and pre match interviews he had done in his soon to be departed role as manager of Accrington Stanley. First of all I didn’t know he was from Liverpool. It’s amazing how even where somebody is from has an impact on your expectations. Think Liverpool and football, think the 1980’s side that dominated domestically and in Europe with flowing, passing, attractive football. Combine that with the Accrington side that came to the Proact and passed us off the park, even though they somewhere managed to lose 4-3, and that buzz begins as you think what this guy could bring to our club.
Next up was the press conference. Flanked by owner Dave Allen and Chief Executive Chris Turner, Cook spoke really well about how he believes in “hard work on the training ground and preparing the best way possible for Saturday’s game.”
The revelation from Dave Allen regarding the 2 to 3 hour, 4 days a week training regime that had been employed in recent times, came as a shock to me. How could professional footballers be expected to perform to the best of their abilities with such little training? Surely this was not the ‘norm’ in football? Things were obviously about to change with the new man and rightly so, the recent performances had looked lack lustre and lethargic, was this lack of training the reason?
The terms ‘winning football’ and ‘played the right way’ are always good ones to hear from a new manager. Paul Cook’s performance was promising and it was finally nice to have a manager who looks at ease with the media, maybe the fans would start to get some refreshingly honest feedback before and after games.
With the appointment happening on the Friday before Saturday’s home game to bottom side Barnet, recent caretakers Tommy Wright and Mark Crossley were to pick the side and be in charge for the final time. They had done a sterling job trying to steady the ship while a decision was made regarding the manager. I think like most, a fresh approach was required to provide a lift at the club, fans and squad alike. They hadn’t done too much wrong in their roles, it was simply time for a change.
It was reported Paul Cook would take his seat in the stand during the Barnet game and take charge ‘proper’ on Monday morning. I more than anybody was very pleased to see him immediately take his seat in the dugout following his introduction to the fans on the pitch. What manager worth his salt would not join his new team in the dugout? Within 5 minutes of the game he was stood at the side of the pitch, arms folded and shouting out instructions. The obvious enthusiasm of the man was there for all to see.
The resulting performance leading to a 1 nil defeat would have left him with a good idea of what he was up against. The team has shown promise in flashes but an incredible inconsistency so far this season. His comments after the game again were impressive, stating “Performances like that won’t be accepted. It’s important the lads cop onto the fact that we’re a big club in this division.”
With a full weeks training to get the side ready for the visit of Hartlepool in the first round of the FA Cup, I was hopeful he could have some effect and see us through to round two, not something we’re used too as Chesterfield fans. Managerless Hartlepool were bottom of League Oneso we had a chance. This was to be Paul Cook’s first team selection, what formation would he play? Would any regulars be dropped to warm the bench? Changes were inevitable with the suspension of captain Sam Hird and Huddersfield Town loanees Liam Ridehalge and Chris Atkinson not granted permission to play from their parent club.
The biggest surprise in the team news was Scott Boden leading the line in what looked like a 4-5-1 formation. Craig Clay was given a start alongside Togwell in centre midfield, with Randall, Whitaker and Darwikwa, A new loanee in centre back Liam Cooper from Hull City had been drafted in during the week; he was also given a start.
In what has to be the biggest change in a side I have ever witnessed from a previous performance, we went on to totally dominate the game and go thorough to the second round with a 6-1 victory. The energy, possession and creativity was a pleasure to watch. How Cook had got this performance out of the squad in only a week was incredible.
A good post match interview again impressed and the message was of moving on and looking forward to the league tie away at Bradford on Tuesday night. A tough fixture against a side having a very good season would provide a test. It was great to see him pick the same side that had played so well at the weekend, with the only enforced change being Sam Hird replacing the injured Liam Cooper.
I couldn’t make the game so a night in front of the PC and Spireites Player it was. In what sounded like a fairly solid performance ending in a 0-0 draw, another reason to be optimistic that the board have appointed the right man.
It’s obviously still early days in Paul Cook’s reign but the signs are promising. He talks a good game and has definitely had an impact in the short period of time he’s had to work with the squad. All we can hope for now is to see continued improvement and a climb up the league table to give us a chance of promotion. From what I’ve seen and heard, Captain Cook can sail the good ship Spireites towards League One, let’s hope there’s no icebergs lying in our way!
Written by Dean Mansell, We Are Going Up’s Chesterfield Blogger & editor of the Away End website.
Dean tweets at @awayend
You can purchase Dean’s book, “The Away End” from Amazon right here.