Ipswich Town CEO Mark Ashton says Blues' boss Kieran McKenna has 'surprised and delighted' since he brought him to Suffolk to 'breathe fresh life' into the club.

Ashton poached McKenna from the coaching staff at Manchester United for his first senior management role - a move which was seen as something of a risk in the wake of Paul Cook's sacking and amid struggles on the pitch.

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But, in his first full season as a boss, the articulate and analytical Northern Irishman led Town to promotion to the Championship and some eye-popping numbers.

That made McKenna one of the hottest managerial properties in the game, with the likes of Celtic and Leicester City linked with a move for him earlier this summer.

East Anglian Daily Times: McKenna led Town to promotion in his first full season as bossMcKenna led Town to promotion in his first full season as boss (Image: PA Images)

He signed a new four-year deal at Portman Road last month though, and Ashton says he sees a lot of qualities in McKenna that he shares with other big name bosses.

"At times I get criticised for my managerial appointments," Ashton explained, speaking on the Price of Football podcast.

"If you look at my career – Aidy Boothroyd at Watford, first-time manager, promoted to the Premier League.

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"Aidy replaced by a young coach out of Chelsea called Brendan Rodgers, Sean Dyche and Malky Mackay were at Watford in the coaching set-up.

"Michael Appleton at Oxford, Lee Johnson at Bristol, Kieran McKenna at Ipswich Town.

"Their DNA is very, very similar. It fits our model and the way we want to build the football club."

East Anglian Daily Times: Ashton says McKenna has similar qualities to Brendan RodgersAshton says McKenna has similar qualities to Brendan Rodgers (Image: PA)

Ashton continued: "When we brought Kieran in, Ipswich is a big football club and it’s got two former England managers, history – it’s a lot of pressure!

"I wanted someone who I thought would breathe fresh air, fresh life into the football club and wouldn’t just be a steady pair of hands – I wanted someone who was more than that.

"Since Kieran’s walked in the door, he’s done nothing but surprise and delight. Hard-working, professional, outstanding values and has worked already with some of the biggest names in the industry at Tottenham and Man United."

And Town's CEO said that, despite all the speculation around McKenna's future, he was always confident that he'd commit to a new deal.

East Anglian Daily Times: Ashton says he and McKenna shook hands on a new deal within days of the end of the seasonAshton says he and McKenna shook hands on a new deal within days of the end of the season (Image: Ross Halls)

"We talked right at the end of the season about a new contract," Ashton explained.

"He wanted to make sure that our values and our vision for the club was still aligned and we hadn’t changed, which we hadn’t.

"And probably within a couple of days after the end of the season the two of us had a handshake on his new deal. That takes three or four weeks to paper, holidays etc.

"You will have read the press. He was very highly-regarded by other clubs in the industry, so to lock him down for another four years I think is perfect timing for us."