Matthew Crichton: Ipswich endured a difficult start to the season, failing to win any of your first six games. Now that you’re sitting ninth, just four points away from the playoffs, are you confident that your promotion hopes are back on track?
Rich Woodward: Expectations have certainly increased after being knocked back after that tough start. I’ve supported ITFC for 30-odd years and know that as soon as you show confidence in us succeeding you tend to get disappointment instead!
After rectifying the silly individual mistakes which cost us points earlier in the season, I’m confident we’re in better shape to try and compete for top 6 – how about that?!
MC: The club hired Paul Cook on the back of an excellent spell during difficult circumstances at Wigan, is the fanbase united that he is the best man to the club back to the Championship?
RW: As much as our fanbase can be I guess. There’s always factions on Social Media that deal with Paul Cook and other ITFC matters in absolutes when the reality is much more complex.
For the last chunk of the 20/21 season, Cook couldn’t get a tune from Paul Lambert’s team (who were 6th when he joined); then his rebuilt side had a poor start this season.
That led to justified questions being asked, but he’s largely answered them now to his credit. We’re hoping we can move on with confidence given his track record at this level.
MC: The club were taken over by new owners ahead of this season, what changes have they made so far that have positively impacted the club?
RW: The biggest change is how the new owners have gone about integrating community and club.
Marcus Evans’ 13 year ownership couldn’t have been more the opposite – running everything on a tight budget and all the focus being on the pitch at the detriment of everything else.
The Gamechanger 20 ownership group is making a longer term investment (it has to be for a L1 club!) which only works with the local community behind it. Initiatives like #PackOutPR and the quarterly supporters Q&As are examples that the owners realise that you have to do more, and it’s working so far.
MC: On-loan QPR striker Macauley Bonne has scored 11 league goals already this season. What are the factors behind his electric form, and are you concerned that he may be recalled?
RW: The loan recall situation is complex, and I think largely in QPR’s favour if press talk is to be believed.
Yes that is a concern, so we’ve tried to put it out of our minds and hope for the best in January! It would be great if we could make the deal permanent; money talks ultimately.
As an Ipswich boy, a Town fan, that seems to give him an extra boost. When he’s confident he’s a real menace – especially to goalkeepers not concentrating!
MC: To say Ipswich made some signings this summer would be an understatement…. which of your 20 new players have impressed you the most so far, and why?
RW: Scott Fraser is clearly a very smart footballer but I fear he’s not a fit for Cook’s system – I like him regardless!
George Edmundson has settled into being a really calm presence in defence, and Christian Walton has brought further reassurance in goal.
Sam Morsy has arguably made the biggest difference though, a real fighter and leader in the centre of midfield. It was a real coup by all concerned to sign him from ‘Boro.
MC: On the other hand, which of those new players have been disappointing so far and why?
RW: I think it’s more about whether they fit the system or not, rather than having disappointed.
Joe Piggott (free) and Louie Barry (loan) both signed to much fanfare but for various reasons haven’t been able to contribute. The latter felt like a deal we were excited to get done rather than having an actual plan for.
I know Sunderland were keen – maybe it was just us making a statement! I hope we give him a chance but expect him to be recalled in January.
MC: Both Sunderland and Ipswich had complete clearouts this summer, but whilst we went down a more youthful route, yourselves went for more experienced solid League One players - do you think that lack of experience will cause Lee Johnson’s side problems?
RW: I think both Sunderland and ITFC supporters have come to realise it’s rarely the teams of individuals who get promoted out of L1; well organised and hardworking teams tend to get the results over the course of a season.
Certainly Ipswich, and maybe Sunderland, thought by having better teams on paper they’d storm the league. Well here we both still are a few seasons on! Our greater experience will only count if we exploit it for the good of the team.
MC: What style of play can Sunderland expect from Cook’s side and which 11 players do you think he will select?
RW: My assessment of the game is like the Spiderman pointing meme – two teams set up and limited in almost identical ways!
We will attack down the wings in a 4-2-3-1 system and pass the ball trying to find openings, whilst also being defensively suspect at times.
It might be that we cancel each other out, or it will take a moment of individual quality to win it. I’d expect a similar selection to the Oxford game, with maybe Bersant Celina dropping out in favour of Conor Chaplin in the number 10 role.
MC: Sunderland did the double over Ipswich last season - what is your honest prediction for today’s match?
RW: As I mentioned above, I think we’ll end up cancelling each other out.
Two teams that score goals but aren’t great at keeping them out suggests it might be a high-scorer, so I’ll predict 0-0 to be controversial!