False dawns, raising expectations and preserving records - how Town bosses past fared in opening games

Kieran McKenna takes charge of his first Ipswich Town game this week, following Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy and Joe Royle

Kieran McKenna takes charge of his first Ipswich Town game this week, following in the footsteps of Roy Keane, Mick McCarthy and Joe Royle - Credit: Archant

Ahead of Kieran McKenna’s first game as Ipswich Town boss, ANDY WARREN looks at how recent Blues managers fared in their opening matches in charge.

George Burley 

December 31, 1994 – lost 4-1 v Everton (Premiership) 

The legendary player, who was part of Sir Bobby Robson’s great Ipswich sides of the 1970s and 80s, returned to Portman Road as manager with the Blues deep in relegation trouble. 

He replaced John Lyall following a controversial departure from Colchester and was introduced to the Ipswich crowd before the 2-0 home loss to Arsenal on December 28. While the history books say Burley’s reign had already begun, it was caretaker Paul Goddard who picked the Ipswich side that night. 

George Burley meets the fans at Portman Road during his first game against Arsenal in December 1994

George Burley was introduced to the crowd before the Arsenal game - Credit: Archant

His first full game at the helm came three days later at Goodison Park, where a side including the likes of John Wark, Frank Yallop and Craig Forrest were beaten 4-1. 

Paul Rideout scored a brace between Duncan Ferguson and Dave Watson goals, after Steve Sedgley had given Burley’s side the lead. 

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Ipswich ultimately fell through the relegation trap door that season by Burley soon ensured his side were regular promotion contenders before winning the Division One Play-Off Final in 2000, taking the Blues back to the top flight and subsequently into Europe. 

Ipswich Towns manager Joe Royal comes on the pitch before his sides match against Slovan liberec, du

Joe Royle's first Ipswich Town game in charge was in the UEFA Cup - Credit: PA

Ipswich Town V Slovan Liberec, Uefa Cup 2nd round 1st leg. FOOTBALLDARREN BENT CELEBRATES HIS

Darren Bent scored the winner for Town in Joe Royle's first game - Credit: Archant

Joe Royle 

October 31, 2002 – won 1-0 v Slovan Liberec (UEFA Cup) 

No pressure… 

Joe Royle’s first game in charge of Ipswich Town saw him tasked with defending a proud 30-game unbeaten home record in European competition, masterminded by Sir Bobby Robson and then added to by George Burley. 

He took over a side 17th in the second tier following Burley’s departure but managed to lead his side to a 1-0 victory over the Czech side thanks to Darren Bent’s strike in the 69th minute. 

The unbeaten record had successfully been stretched to 31, (which has been untroubled for 19 years and you imagine will stand for the foreseeable future), and Royle was off and running. 

His first league game was less successful though, as Crystal Palace were 2-1 victors at Portman Road the following Sunday. 

SPORT/STOCKPic Simon ParkerIpswich Town stock pictures V Crystal PalaceFootballIpswich M

Jim Magilton celebrates his side early goal against Crystal Palace - Credit: Archant

Jim Magilton 

August 5, 2006 – lost 2-1 v Crystal Palace (Championship) 

There was a sense of expectation in the air as iconic former player Magilton took to the dugout for the first time as manager. 

New signings Alex Bruce and Dan Harding both started in front of a loud Portman Road crowd and the early signs were good as Nicky Forster fired the Blues into the lead. 

However, Jobi McAnuff equalised in the second half before, three minutes later, former Ipswich striker James Scowcroft scored the winner for the Eagles. 

The Blues ultimately finished 14th in Magilton’s first season in charge before climbing to eighth in the following campaign. Magilton was fired the following April just days after a 3-2 victory over Norwich (the last time Ipswich beat their rivals) and was replaced by Roy Keane. 

Ipswich Town's manager Roy Keane during the Coca-Cola Championship match at Ninian Park, Cardiff, Wa

Roy Keane's first Ipswich Town came was a victory at Cardiff - Credit: PA

Roy Keane 

April 25, 2009 – won 3-0 v Cardiff City (Championship) 

The Manchester United legend was installed almost immediately following Jim Magilton’s departure and made the best possible start. 

The 3-0 victory at Cardiff, which came thanks to goals from Pablo Counago, David Norris and Jon Stead, and the 2-1 victory over Coventry on the final day of the season raised expectations levels to the extreme as Keane returned for his first full season as Ipswich boss. 

However, he failed to win any of his first 14 league games at the start of the following campaign ahead of a 1-0 success over Derby on October 31, before the ship was steadied and the Blues finished 15th. 

He was sacked the following season and replaced by Paul Jewell. 

Millwall v Ipswich Town.The New Den 15.1.11PICTURE WARREN PAGEPaul Jewell gives instructions t

Paul Jewell's first Ipswich Town game was a defeat at Millwall - Credit: Pagepix

Paul Jewell 

January 15, 2011 – lost 2-1 v Millwall (Championship) 

Jewell’s arrival was proudly announced on a big screen set up outside Portman Road prior to the 1-0 League Cup semi-final first leg victory over Arsenal, which was overseen by caretaker Ian McParland. 

Jewell got down to business at The Den the following Saturday and, like Burley and Magilton before him, saw his side take the lead before ultimately ending on the losing side. 

Tamas Priskin had put the Blues ahead but goals from Danny Schofield and Steve Morison ensured it was the Lions who took the points. 

Jewell led Ipswich to a 13th-place finish before being fired the following October with the Blues bottom of the table. 

Mick McCarthy on the touchline at Birmingham on Saturday giving out instructions to his players

Mick McCarthy leads from the touchline in his first Ipswich Town game - Credit: Pagepix

Mick McCarthy 

November 3, 2012 – won 1-0 v Birmingham (Championship) 

The former Sunderland and Wolves boss began his Ipswich Town rescue mission in the best possible way as his side scrapped out a 1-0 win at St Andrew’s. 

Rock bottom, five points adrift and with a squad full of loan players and short-term contracts, McCarthy had a real job on his hands. But an early goal from DJ Campbell made life a whole lot easier. 

The Blues rode their luck as the hosts peppered Stephen Henderson’s goal and giant striker Nikola Zigic wasted gilt-edged chances. But the three points went home to Ipswich. 

Big defeats at Crystal Palace (5-0) and Leicester (6-0) followed but McCarthy was able to guide his side away from relegation as they finished 14th, thanks largely to a run of seven wins in his 12 games prior to the start of 2013. 

He took Ipswich to the play-offs in 2014/15 before a breakdown in his relationship with supporters played a part in his exit in April 2018. 

Town manager Paul Hurst ahead of the game. Picture: STEVE WALLER WWW.STEPHENWALLER.COM

Paul Hurst salutes the Portman Road crowd on the way to the dugout for the first game - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Paul Hurst 

August 4, 2018 – drew 2-2 v Blackburn (Championship) 

The new era started so well. 

There was once again a real buzz inside Portman Road as Hurst took charge of his first game after replacing McCarthy, with an explosion of noise after new signing Gwion Edwards gave the hosts the lead after just five minutes. 

The advantage lasted just 15 minutes (Hurst led for just 29 minutes in total in his games at Portman Road) before Danny Graham equalised, with Bradley Dack putting Tony Mowbray’s Rovers ahead just nine minutes later. 

Tayo Edun grabbed a fortuitous stoppage time equaliser to rescue a point, as the home crowd left the stadium satisfied. 

Hurst would go on to win just once as Ipswich manager prior to his sacking on October 25, without ever tasting success on home soil. 

Town manager Paul Lambert acknowledges fans ahead of the Ipswich Town v Preston North End game. P

Paul Lambert waves to the Portman Road crowd - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Paul Lambert 

November 3, 2018 – drew 1-1 v Preston (Championship) 

Former Norwich boss Lambert will have instantly seen the size of the task at hand as he sat in the stands, hidden under a big coat and flat cap, to watch what was a miserable 3-0 loss at Millwall, immediately after the departure of Hurst. 

But when he took charge of his first game, dressed from head to toe in Hugo Boss clothing, the Scot had managed to inject plenty of energy and desire into a group of players sapped of all confidence. 

That yielded a 1-0 half-time lead, as Freddie Sears fired home a penalty just before the break, before Paul Gallagher equalised for his side with a little over 15 minutes remaining. 

Gallagher took centre-stage from that point, forced to go in goal after Chris Maxwell had been sent off and making an excellent save to deny Danny Rowe in the closing stages. 

The early signs were promising but, ultimately, Lambert couldn’t save Town. 

Paul Cook after his first game in charge of Ipswich at Gillingham

Paul Cook lost his first game in charge at Gillingham - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

Paul Cook 

March 6, 2021 – lost 3-1 v Gillingham (League One) 

Town were on something of a roll when Cook arrived, winning three games on the spin before he took his place in the Priestfield dugout. 

This was certainly the most low-key start to any Town manager’s reign, given it came in an empty stadium as both Cook and the Ipswich supporters were denied that special moment of coming together as one for the first time. 

It didn’t start well, though, as Jack Tucker gave the hosts the lead before Luke Chambers levelled things up with what proved to be his final goal as an Ipswich player.  

Sadly, though, it counted for little as Vadaine Oliver struck twice to win it for the Kent side. 

And, as we know, the play-offs fell away dramatically under Cook before a slow start after ‘Demolition Man’s summer rebuild ultimately caught up with Town and cost him his job. 

Over to you, Kieran McKenna. 

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