North Stander: This feels like more than just a new manager bounce

Macauley Bonne celebrates scoring the third goal at Gillingham.

Macauley Bonne celebrates scoring the third goal at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Ipswich Town fan and journalist Terry Hunt shares his views on the Blues and new boss Kieran McKenna after their impressive 4-0 win over Gillingham on Saturday...

That was the best 90-minute performance I’ve seen from Ipswich for many years. It was, at last, the quality display we’ve been waiting for. No team in League One would be able to live with it.

I was trying to think of a performance that good, and in all honesty I go back to Brentford away on Boxing Day 2014, when we were three up after half an hour. Of course, that was at a higher level.

So it’s been a long time since we’ve been able to enjoy such quality, such dominance, and such class from our team. It was an absolute joy to watch.

From the first to the last minute, we were so much on top, scored some great goals and ran Gillingham absolutely ragged. The stats are astonishing. Something like 75pc possession and 670 passes. Like peak Barcelona!

Wes Burns and Janoi Donacien celebrate at Gillingham.

Wes Burns and Janoi Donacien celebrate at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

The sublime through ball from Sone Aluko in the move for Macauley Bonne’s goal was pure class. Probably the best moment from a Town player since the magic provided by Gio dos Santos during his loan spell in the Magilton era.

Actually, Aluko deserves a special word of praise. When he arrived during that frantic summer transfer window, I have to admit I viewed it as probably the least exciting of all our 19 signings.

Most Read

Surely, I thought, here we have an ageing player who’s done it and seen it all in the game and is now looking for one last contract. I don’t suppose I was the only Town supporter who thought that.

But, to his eternal credit, Aluko has proved the doubters very, very wrong. He has given so much. It’s obvious he has great quality, which he’s shown plenty of times, but it’s his commitment which impressed me just as much. He clearly still cares - a lot.

As I’ve mentioned, it was the best 90 minute performance I can remember for ages. We’ve seen it in fits and starts, but not for whole games. Remember, even in the win at Wycombe, we were poor for the first 30 minutes.

What impressed me most was our hunger and commitment in the second half, even when the game was obviously won. There was never the slightest suggestion that we would take our foot off the gas, as has happened so often recently.

We just carried on attacking, passing Gillingham off the park, and looking to add more goals. Suddenly, we were showing intent, ambition, and a ruthless streak. Not qualities which you would always associate with this team!

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Gillingham.

Ipswich Manager Kieran McKenna at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

So, where did that display come from? Why haven’t we been able to perform at that level previously? The difference has to be the manager, surely.

From the outset at Gillingham, we played as a team, with every individual quite clearly knowing the role they were expected to play. The time on the grass at Playford Road has obviously been spent wisely. I bet Gillingham now regret getting the Christmas game postponed...

We looked organised, and well coached. Players are now being encouraged to use their strengths. Look at the displays of Sam Morsy and Lee Evans. So impressive.

Kieran McKenna has taken a bunch of talented but directionless players and got them organised, got them understanding their jobs, and keeping it simple but devastatingly effective.

Of course, there are those who are just putting this down to new manager “bounce” - a short-term mission to impress the new gaffer, which will soon wear off.

I don’t agree. I think there’s much more to it than that. Of course, we’ll see in the coming weeks. There will, inevitably, be bumps in the road. That’s football, as they say.

But I’ve been hugely impressed by McKenna. His calm, measured, intelligent personality comes across so well. I’m sure it works with the players too.

So, eight points from the play-off places. Is it possible? Yes, of course it is, especially if we produce displays anywhere near how we played at Gillingham.

Kieran McKenna applauds his players at Gillingham.

Kieran McKenna applauds his players at Gillingham. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

It would be great to make the play-offs, but I’m thinking longer term than that. I’m sure McKenna and the club owners will have the same opinion.

No-one would be more pleased than me if we have a bit of excitement at the end of the season, but the most important thing is to see progress. If that means waiting for a big promotion push next season, then so be it.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter