'We thought he could be someone special' - Comolli on McKenna's start in coaching

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Renowned football strategist Damien Comolli says he could see very early on that Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna was going to be 'someone special'.

McKenna came through the youth ranks at Spurs, but was forced to retire at the age of 22 due to a chronic hip problem. He immediately switched his focus to coaching, soon being named Tottenham's Under-18s boss, later getting poached for the same role at Manchester United, then getting promoted to the first team coaching set-up at Old Trafford before recently being head-hunted for the Ipswich job at the age of 35.

Comolli was director of football at Tottenham when McKenna's playing career came to a halt in 2008. The Frenchman, who went on to work for Liverpool, looked back on that time during a recent interview for the Football Journeys podcast.

"There are some kids I see now, in academies or first teams, that I'm thinking 'you could be a great youth coach in the future'," said Comolli, who is now the president of promotion-chasing French second-tier side Toulouse FC.

Liverpool Director of Football Damien Comolli in the stands

Former Tottenham and Liverpool chief Damien Comolli. - Credit: PA

"I always come back to the example of Kieran McKenna. When he was at Spurs he was a great kid, great commitment, a great pro, but he was not getting in the first team. But he was bright, he wanted to learn, he was proactive.

"I remember very well John McDermott, our academy director, the reserve team coach and myself sitting down, when Kieran had all his injuries, and us saying 'we have to find a way to keep him in within the club' because we thought he could be someone special.

"Believe it or not, four or five years ago, maybe more, the FA got in touch and they said that all the cohort of Pro Licence people were being sent down to Marseille for the Toulon Under-12 tournament. They asked if I would come and speak to them and I said 'of course'.

"So I came in and who is there? Kieran. I was so happy to see him. I started by saying 'I am so happy to see you here because you are the perfect example of us planning for you without you knowing what you could do in the future'. I was delighted. I was so happy."