Paul Cook revealed he’s taken some selection criticism from his own father this season – and all because he can’t find a starting berth for Conor Chaplin.
Ahead of the home showdown with Crawley, the 18-year-old had scored seven goals this season.
My dad’s the chairman of that kid’s fan clubPaul Cook
But that impressive haul has still not been enough to oust Caolan Lavery or Marc McNulty from their positions in recent weeks.
Mr Cook Snr clearly feels Chaplin should be given more opportunities on the pitch – and has expressed that view to his son.
Cook smiled: ‘My dad’s the chairman of that kid’s fan club.
‘Even Conor laughs at it now.
‘Dad asked me earlier in the season why I wasn’t playing him?
‘I said because he’s lively and score goals.
‘Dad hammers me about it, to be fair.
‘Conor’s Conor. We are trying to manage him correctly.
‘For an 18-year-old, leading the line at a club like this is a big ask.
‘Maybe he’s not quite ready to lead the line like Lavery does just yet.
‘But that’s not a criticism because he scores goals.
‘He’s a fantastic player.’
Aside from loading too much expectation on to the young talent, Cook believes it’s essential to have the right balance in his side.
He said: ‘For me, and it’s only me as manager, it’s been difficult for young lads just two years since coming out of administration.
‘But when you are trying to build a successful team, it’s not about individual players.
‘It’s a massive thing a team’s built on balance.
‘If you look at us at the minute, touch wood, we have balance.
‘We have energy and stability. It doesn’t mean we’re a good team but we have balance.
‘So it’s important to put those pegs in correctly and, as we go along, Conor will be one of those pegs.
‘That’s without a shadow of a doubt because he’s a smashing player.’
Perhaps also playing against the home-grown forward is fitting into Cook’s system with one centre-forward – the number nine role – and others playing behind him.
Cook said: ‘I still think he’s a nine. That’s my big thing. That’s maybe one of the reasons he hasn’t played as many minutes.
‘If you see Lavery, he’s a nine.
‘He’s brave with the way he plays and runs in behind you.
‘He’ll physically go up against you. He has that all-round game.
‘Matt Tubbs is another number nine.
‘To me, McNulty is more of a number 10 playing in behind.
‘He’s clever and he’s intelligent, he makes runs and receives the ball well.
‘Conor probably falls in between both but he’s in a good place because he’s learning the game.
‘He’s an assassin. He’s a finisher. If you are that type, for me, you must be a nine.
‘His goalscoring record dictates that. He’s a finisher.
‘Number 10s tend to create more. Conor doesn’t do that.
‘It’s not a criticism. Players like Roberts and McNulty do a bit of supply.
‘They are good number 10s because they create and score goals.
‘Conor’s emphasis is on scoring – but I think it’s a fair debate about what role he plays. Naturally he’ll go one way. He’ll do that himself.’
Cook has also seen the value in different types of striker from his days as a Liverpool fan and also from a long career in the professional ranks.
He said: ‘Look at someone like Michael Owen – he is a number nine.
‘But going back a bit, Peter Beardsley was in one of Liverpool’s good teams and was a number 10.
‘There were always number 10s years ago but we just didn’t know because we all played 4-4-2.
‘I played with Roy Wegerle at Coventry.
‘He was a natural number 10 alongside Dion Dublin, who was the number nine.
‘Roy wouldn’t go up against the defender. He’d drop off and pick passes out.’