Former Portsmouth assistant details 'surreal experience' coming up against long-time partner Paul Cook as Ipswich held by Wigan

Leam Richardson admitted it was a ‘surreal experience’ to come up against his long-time partner Paul Cook in the opposite dugout as Wigan dented Ipswich’s promotion hopes on Saturday.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 5:00 pm
Former Pompey boss Paul Cook, right, and Leam Richardson were in opposite dugouts for Ipswich's draw with Wigan. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richardson has opted not to become Cook’s assistant manager at a fourth club since he took charge at Portman Road.

The pair have enjoyed plenty of success during their time together.

Taking the Fratton Park hot seat in the summer of 2015, Cook and Richardson led Pompey to League Two title glory in the 2016-17 season.

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They then left for the DW Stadium less than a month later and ensured Wigan lifted the third-tier crown.

After guiding the Latics to 13th in the Championship last term, however, the club was relegated after entering administration – resulting in Cook’s resignation.

Richardson has remained at the DW as boss and is trying to ensure the Latics avoid successive relegations.

They currently sit third from bottom but picked up an important point by holding Ipswich to a goalless draw.

And Richardson admitted it was a strange feeling to come up against his trusted companion Cook.

He told the Wigan Post: ‘It was obviously a very surreal experience, having worked so closely with him for so long.

‘I know how good a manager he is, how he sets his teams up and the energy he brings to every club he's at.

‘I heard him say before the game he's been carrying me for years – he got that in first, which I don't mind!

‘But we'll have a beer and have a chat, and have that conversation again.

‘In a way, it wasn't a nice situation to be in opposition to him, because we both knew how important the points are to Wigan Athletic at the moment.

‘We both know how important it is we stay up, and how hard the group's worked to give themselves a chance of doing so.

‘At the same time you always like to see your mate doing well, so maybe a 0-0 draw was the right result on the day.’

Ipswich have dropped to 11th in the table and are two points outside the play-offs.

Cook still believes a top-six finish can be yielded – but the Tractor Boys will need the rub of the green.

He said: ‘We huff and you puff and do what we do, we sort of revert to where we look at times defensively quite OK, but we finished the game very nervily, which I don’t understand.

‘We should be controlling games and opening teams up and putting quality balls in the box and it’s just something we’re not doing at the minute.

‘We just keep going, get on that training ground and you work harder and harder and you remind the players, and myself, that when you’re managing and you play for a big club there’s an expectancy and that’s a really good expectancy because it’s something you’ve got to step up to and at the minute I’d suggest, myself included, we’ve got a little bit of a way to go to get to that mark.”

‘Yes. Come on, if I can’t believe (believe Ipswich can finish in the play-offs, who can?)

“Someone once told me: “If you can’t believe, how can anyone else?”. I look at it and go to myself: “We need a big rub of the green”.’