The players who could benefit most from McKenna's arrival at Town
- Credit: Archant
Kieran McKenna has replaced Paul Cook as manager at Ipswich Town. Andy Warren looks at the players who could benefit most from the Northern Irishman's arrival.
Homegrown defender Luke Woolfenden made only one league start during Paul Cook’s final three months in charge of Ipswich and had become something of a forgotten man.
George Edmundson is surely the first name on any Ipswich Town team sheet right now, no matter who’s in charge, but life since Cook has shown there’s a vacancy alongside him. Possibly two, should Ipswich continue with the back three used against Sunderland.
Woolfenden has an on-pitch approach any coach at top clubs would want to see, with McKenna surely interested in the 23-year-old's calm head and comfort on the ball. He should be hopeful of filling one of those vacancies.
He still has improvements to make in his game but the high level of coaching McKenna can offer could mean he is the man to help Woolfenden take the next step.
We’ve seen little evidence of senior players improving as a result of good coaching at Portman Road in recent years. Now would be the perfect time for that to change.
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Schooled by the best
McKenna has said he already feels like he has a good handle on the Ipswich Town squad, but there are two players he knows better than most.
Kane Vincent-Young and Tom Carroll were in the Tottenham youth ranks when the new Town boss began his coaching journey, just days after his own playing career was finally ended by a long-running hip problem.
Both Town players have had injury struggles but both, as we’ve seen, possess quality.
Vincent-Young has worked his way back into the picture since Cook’s sacking while Carroll is fit again after a hip problem of his own.
He has quality, we’ve seen that even though he’s only made two league starts for the club, and that may be an attraction for McKenna as long as he can stay fit.
Just because Carroll and Vincent-Young are known to the Town boss through their Tottenham links, doesn’t mean they’re automatically going to jump to the head of the queue.
But the fact they were schooled in a top youth system means they are the kind of players McKenna is used to working with.
You can add Bersant Celina to that list, too, given he came through the youth system at Manchester City.
That’s an impressive education right there.
Rekeem Harper looks a little lost at Ipswich Town.
He arrived in Suffolk as a highly-rated midfielder who described himself as a ‘midfield beast’ during pre-season, only to struggle when asked to play in one of Paul Cook’s deep midfield roles.
Then he was used in attacking midfield role but, despite some sparks, didn’t look entirely comfortable there, struggled to get past traffic in his way and was extremely quiet in his two most-recent Ipswich games.
But he’s still only 21, a good attitude, plenty of talent and could be reinvigorated by the arrival of a new boss.
We could also throw Kyle Edwards into the mix here. We know a lot more about the winger's role in this Ipswich Town squad but there is more we want to see from a player who has shown glimpses of magic but too many inconsistencies.
McKenna has spoken of a desire for his teams to ‘be aggressive and win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible’.
That should be music to his strikers’ ears, particularly Macauley Bonne and James Norwood.
The pair, who started together against Sunderland, love to hassle defenders and bare their teeth when they’re on song. They seem to fit the bill for McKenna on that front at least.
Whether they’re paired together (as Bonne has said he’d like them to be) or played alone, they have an important role to play under McKenna.
The forgotten pair
It’s fair to say Aston Villa teenager Louie Barry's loan to Ipswich has not gone to plan.
He’s barely played, not starting a league game since August and not playing at all since the start of November.
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Villa called him back, with Swindon Town said to be keen to take him as they bid to win promotion from League Two.
But could McKenna’s appointment give him a new lease of life?
We’ll know the answer to that question within a couple of games of the new boss’s tenure, with Villa’s chance to recall Barry rapidly approaching.
Then there’s Myles Kenlock, a player pushed to the fringes by Cook and not eligible for league football given he is not included in Town’s 25-man squad.
That can change in January, though, and with every Ipswich player starting with a clean slate, he’ll be hopeful of at least returning to the league fold.