North Stander: McKenna has great credentials - now we have to give him time

Incoming manager Kieran McKenna speaking with Ipswich Towns Chief Executive Officer Mark Ashton duri

New Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna, left, in discussion with CEO Mark Ashton during yesterday's draw with Sunderland - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt gives his thoughts on the Blues and new boss Kieran McKenna after their 1-1 draw with Sunderland....

Here we are at the dawn of another new era at Ipswich Town. I really do believe it could be an exciting and successful one - if we all show some patience.

Like just about every Town fan, I was completely taken by surprise when Kieran McKenna was named as our new manager. I’d never even heard of him, but recognised him from watching Man Utd on TV.

He clearly has terrific coaching credentials. He wouldn’t have survived the regime change at Old Trafford if they didn’t rate him very highly.

New Town manager Kieran McKenna looks on from the directors box.

Kieran McKenna, centre, watches on yesterday. His assistant manager Martyn Pert is on the left, with CEO Mark Ashton right - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

I’m sure he will be able to transfer those skills to our squad. Mind you, the change from coaching Cristian Ronaldo to working with League One players might be a bit of a culture shock!

McKenna is young, and clearly ambitious. He’s much the same age as Sir Alf and Sir Bobby when they came to Ipswich. I know you can’t compare different eras, but it’s not a bad precedent, is it?

Crucially, McKenna has a clearly identifiable right-hand man in Martyn Pert. The pair have come as a package, and will no doubt complement each other in terms of their talents, style, and personalities. As has been well documented, it’s what Paul Cook so obviously lacked.

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So far, so good. Where McKenna will have to develop and grow is in the wider role of management, away from the training pitch. Whatever your job title, if you are the most senior person on the footballing side of a club, then your job is wide ranging, complex, and multi-layered.

McKenna will have to learn how to deal with the media, for example. As a back room figure, I don’t suppose he’s had to do that before.

His working relationship with chief executive Mark Ashton will be crucial. They will know where the lines of responsibility are drawn, and exactly who does what on a day to day basis.

Again, going back to Paul Cook, his position was always weakened by the fact that he was not appointed by the new regime at Portman Road. It always struck me as very odd that Marcus Evans went ahead and appointed a new manager when presumably he was in the final stages of selling the club. Why not wait?

I was told by people whose views I respect that an experienced manager like Cook would not work well with Ashton’s hands-on style, and if results weren’t good, then his tenure would be a short one. So it proved.

Ashton and the American owners now have their own man, they will have agreed who does what, there will be none of that potential friction and conflict. It is a much better basis on which to work.

In my opening sentence, I mentioned the most important word of all: Patience. The owners have shown they are prepared to give McKenna time, with a three-and-a-half year contract. That’s a really good sign.

Sam Morsy clears.

Sam Morsy clears. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

There is clearly a big job to be done, and he won’t be able to perform miracles overnight. There is a good deal of talent in this squad, but there are also significant weaknesses.

Cook used to say the most consistent thing about the team was their inconsistency. They simply cannot put it together for a run of games, or even for an entire 90 minutes, to be honest.

Look at the Sunderland match. For the vast majority of it, Ipswich were the better team, played very well, and probably deserved three points.

But there was an inexplicably dreadful ten minutes right at the start of the second half when we conceded the equaliser and would have let in another without a good save from Christian Walton.

That spell came after we’d gone ahead in first half injury time through the resurgent James Norwood. Why does it keep happening? Well, McKenna witnessed it first hand, and he will know he had to resolve it.

Macauley Bonne congratulates James Norwood after his goal.

Macauley Bonne congratulates James Norwood after his goal. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

I’ll come back to the patience we all need to show. I know it’s been a wretched time for everyone who loves the club, but it’s so important we all give the new manager time.

The owners look as though they will, and we fans need to be patient as well. Of course we are so desperate for success, after so many disappointments. But we need to get right behind McKenna, and trust in the job he’s doing.

There will no doubt be bumps in the road, and not everything will work immediately. But that, unfortunately, is football. If we can see progress, as I’m sure we will, then that’s good for me.

Pyrotechnics ahead of the Sunderland game.

Pyrotechnics ahead of the Sunderland game. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Finally, a word about our extraordinary fans. A crowd of more than 29,000 to watch a mid-table third division team on a pretty filthy December day. Incredible.

Kieran McKenna will have no doubts about the huge potential of his new club. He has a great opportunity. I wish him every success.

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