Full transcript of Kieran McKenna's first Ipswich Town press conference

New Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured at Portman Road on his first day in the job

New Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured at Portman Road on his first day in the job - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd

New Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna spoke publicly for the first time this afternoon. Here's a full transcript of the new boss's opening press conference.

Hi Kieran, welcome to Ipswich Town. Why trade a coaching job at Manchester United for this role at Ipswich Town? 

KM: It was a decision to be made. I have a big affinity to Manchester United and was a fan of the club as a boy. It’s a fantastic club to work for and I have really good relationships with staff, players, owners and all the managers I worked under. 

I was happy there and could see a future there, but this is an ambition I’ve had right from the start of my coaching career. I’ve worked really, really hard to get this opportunity and I’ve developed myself as a coach very well over the last 12 or 13 years to become the best coach I can be. 

The ambition all along was to take this step to lead a team and lead a club, so I knew that day would come (where I’d have to leave Manchester United). 

So when the initial contact came from Ipswich Town I knew the background of the club and new it was a club of fantastic traditions and history. I also knew the current situation with the ownership and the investment that has been put into the club. 

I had some good conversations with Mark (Ashton, CEO) about the direction and how the club wanted to take it forward and we had a really similar view on how that could best be done. 

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It was a really good match and the right time for me to take the step and it was the right club with the right profile for what I was looking for. 

I’m grateful to Ipswich Town for this responsibility and I’m confident I will be able to repay that faith in the future. 

Have you applied for or been offered other jobs over the last few years? 

KM: I haven’t applied for anything over the last few years. 

When you work at the club with the size and scale of Manchester United, I was so focussed on the day-to-day there and put my heart and soul into the club to try and make it better. 

I don’t think it would have been right, with the responsibility I had there, to be applying for jobs or even looking too far forward. 

I always trusted and knew that it was a case of, if I worked to develop myself and my skillset as I knew I could, then my reputation within the club and within football would eventually lead to the right club coming to approach me. 

Thankfully that was the case with Ipswich. It was done in a very respectful way and I’m grateful to United for how they handled it. 

This is the right offer at the right time. 

Jim Magilton believes Kieran McKenna is an excellent appointment for Ipswich Town

Jim Magilton believes Kieran McKenna is an excellent appointment for Ipswich Town - Credit: PA

Did you tap into Jim Magilton’s knowledge of the club before taking the job, given you’ve worked together before? 

KM: I’ve not been able to catch up with Jim yet but he’s very much on my call list.  

This opportunity came very quickly in the middle of last week and it’s been a very intense period with Man United as well.  

I’ve been overwhelmed by the wishes of support I’ve received, both from United and externally across football. 

I know Jim’s history with the club and was fortunate to work with him for a short period with Northern Ireland Under 21s but I’ve known him through the years. He’s a good man, who’s good to work for. 

He was successful here and I’ll be getting in contact with him to tap into his experiences here and his opinions on how he sees the club going forward. 
What were your first impressions of the team after watching them on Saturday? And are any of them familiar to you? 

KM: I know quite a lot of the playing squad. Kane (Vincent-Young) and Tom Carroll were both at Tottenham when I was coaching there. 

I know quite a few of the other boys through the academy system, especially boys who came through the London acadamies, and I know some of the others because us football coaches are watching football and thinking about it 24/7. I know quite a lot of the squad. 

In regard to the game on Saturday, I enjoyed it a lot. The occasion and how the club set it up with nearly 30,000 fans was a fantastic occasion to see. 

I thought the performance, in the first half especially, was really positive and I liked the commitment, aggression and mentality of the team. 

It certainly looked like a team who are still fighting for things this year and aren’t ready to give up on the season just yet. I liked that. 

I liked how the fans and players interacted and the players relished the crowd and the noise. That was great to see and is something we need to harness going forward. 

In terms of impressions of the team, I’ve watched a lot of games this season, especially over the last few days. I’ve gone through maybe the last eight or 10 games and seen footage from games before that as well. 

I feel like I have a good track on the strengths and positives in the squad and also a good feeling on where improvements can be made and where we need to focus our work. 

It’s been good meeting them. We haven’t had our first training session yet although a few of the injured boys were in. The players had a pre-arranged two-day break. 

I spoke to them on Saturday in the dressing room and I’m looking forward to meeting them and getting a first real session on the grass tomorrow. 

Incoming manager Kieran McKenna, (right) and assistant Martyn Pert look on.

Incoming manager Kieran McKenna, (right) and assistant Martyn Pert look on as they watch Town face Sunderland - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Can you tell us about your short and long-term ambitions in the game? 

KM: Short-term and medium-term I won’t be looking any further than this football club at the moment and what we need to do to get it moving in the right direction. 

As soon as you come down here you understand what it means to people and what a fantastic club it is with the fanbase and support. 

But also we realise where we are in the league table. It’s not been a successful couple of years and there’s a lot of work to be done behind the scenes to improve in all aspects. 

We focus on Gillingham on Boxing Day but also on the immediate improvements we think can be made around the training ground and the building to improve the environment.  

It’s been a difficult season so far for the team but we feel the season is still alive and we want to focus on picking up results and improving the performances of the team as quickly as we can. 

With the quality in the squad it’s possible to put a run of results together and, if we do that, let’s see where we’re at. That’s the immediate focus. 

In terms of the longer-term, the owners have big ambition and have invested in the squad and now myself and my staff. The ambition is to get Ipswich back up towards the top levels of English football where we feel it belongs. 

For myself, longer-term, I’ve worked well enough to get myself to a really high level in the coaching profession and have worked at the highest level in the Premier League and Champions League. I coached Champions League games at 32-years old. 

I enjoyed being at that level and it’s definitely an aspiration to be back at that level as a manager. The ultimate goal and the ultimate dream is to do that with Ipswich Town. 

It’s nice to have long-term goals and ambitions and to feel the ambition of everyone here to get this club back to the very top. But the most important thing now is to get to work, improve the team in every little way we can. 

If we put the right things in place and work day-by-day, then with the support we have and the investment we have then eventually the success will come. 

It will be a product of the things we do day-to-day. 

There is plenty of ground to make up to reach the promotion places, isn’t there? 

KM: There is, yes. There is expectation here and rightfully so because we feel we are a big club with investment in the squad. 

But there are no guarantees in this league. I’ve seen enough of it already to know that. There are other big clubs in the division who feel they belong higher and deserve to be. But that doesn’t mean anything. 

The only way you will climb the league is by doing the right things on the training pitch, setting up the team in the right way and managing to put it on the pitch to get results. 

We want to get promotion from the league. When that comes I don’t know. We need to go to Gillingham and make sure we do all the right things to put ourselves in a position to get three points. 

We’ll have to do it again three days later (against Wycombe) and then in every game after that. That’s the only way to get success. 

The fanbase and support can help the club move forward but the players and staff around them need to get results. 

New Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna (right) with CEO Mark Ashton

New Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna (right) with CEO Mark Ashton - Credit: Daniel Hambury/Focus Images Ltd

How do you feel your experiences have brought you to this point. 

KM: At 35 that’s maybe a typical retirement age for playing careers, but for me it’s been a really good journey. 

One of the benefits, if you can call it that, of retiring early from playing due to injury is that you get a big, big head start as a coach. I’ve had nearly 13 years of coaching at what I feel is a really high level with hundreds and hundreds of hours on the grass. 

I feel like all the experiences I’ve had and managers I’ve worked under at both Tottenham and Manchester United, as well as the sessions and meetings I’ve taken, have brought me to a really position to take this opportunity on. 

I have some other skillsets now that I want to develop in myself and I have the capabilities to do that. 

I need to use the knowledge others have given me but also trust in myself and my own ideas and look to imprint them as a manager. 

This is a great opportunity to do that. 

Can you tell us about your playing style?  

KM: I have a really clear idea in my head but I won’t talk in too much detail about formations now because we’re playing Gillingham on Boxing Day and don’t want to give too much away. 

But I do have a clear idea on how I want to the game to be played. 

I want us to be positive, to dominate games and play in the opposition’s half. I want us to attack in a clearly-structured but both balanced and aggressive way to create chances and score goals. 

Without the ball I want to be aggressive and win the ball as high up the pitch as we possibly can. 

I don’t think that will change across the leagues but it’s winter time and maybe the pitches aren’t perfect and things like that. 

I would like to think I’m adaptable enough to adapt where appropriate, to the league and to the players, but I do have a clear idea of how I want the team to play. 

We won’t get there overnight but I will be looking to implement some principles and things right from the off. 

“With more time to work with the players and time with the club to bring in players who fit the profile I want, I’m sure we can put a team on the pitch that the Ipswich fans can really get behind. 

In terms of formation, at this stage of the season, it’s about being versatile to the strengths of the players and doing what they are comfortable with and what will suit the squad. 

I’m a big believer in style and principles being more important than formations and within any formation it can look different whether you’re in or out of possession or whether it’s the first or third phase of the game. 

I don’t speak to players a lot about 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 3-5-2 and think it’s about them understanding their roles and responsibilities on the pitch, as well as the spaces we want to attack and where to defend. 

The principles and style we work to are the over-riding thing and then, within that, the formation can be adapted to our players and what suits them, as well as how we want to hurt the opposition. 

Manchester United's interim manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (right) and coach Kieran McKenna during the

Kieran McKenna, pictured on the Old Trafford touchline with former Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Credit: PA

What are your plans for the January transfer window? 

KM: We’ve had some initial discussions. To be completely honest my focus is on the players in the building at the moment.  

For sure the club will be active. I’ve handed in some recommendations in terms of personnel and positions in terms of what could be useful for us.  

That’s going to be a lot of work for the club to do and I’ll support them with that. 

My focus has got to be on the squad that we have though. A lot of players came in during the summer and we have a deep and talented squad at this level.  

So my focus is going to be on getting that right and getting the best out of the players that we have here by working with them on the training pitch and getting the environment where I want it to be.  

I know January is not a long way away, but every day is important and has to be maximised. It’s, what, nine days to January? Ninety-nine per cent of my man power and effort is going to be put into the players in the building. 

Celtic's Henri Camara (left) battles with Kieran McKenna of Tottenham Hotspur during their pre-seaso

Kieran McKenna, pictured playing against Celtic for Tottenham - Credit: PA

Can you talk us through how your playing career ended up ending early? 

KM: My hip injury came at around 20-years-of-age and at that time I was around Tottenham’s first-team group and had played in some pre-season friendlies. I was consistently training with the first-team and was captain of the reserves. 

I had nearly two years of surgeries, specialists, setbacks and disappointments and failed comebacks. It was really challenging but it was also a period when I learnt a lot about myself. When you go through that level of disappointment you learn about your character and it’s a period I am proud of. 

I had to examine what I wanted to do after football and what I wanted to turn my commitment to. Even at that stage as a player I had decided I wanted to attack coaching. I laid the groundwork in that period. 

I had good support around me, never felt sorry for myself and when I did have to retire I knew my next move. 

Tottenham were great and within a week of my last surgery I was out on the grass coaching on crutches with some fantastic coaches. 

The youth team then had Harry Kane, Tom Carroll, Ryan Mason, Andros Townsend in it and it was really talented. It felt right from the start and there was no sulking. It came pretty naturally and gave me something to devote my energy and time to. 

You do miss playing but I am out on the pitch, can still kick a ball around and I love being around football. There’s not been many times I’ve missed playing. 

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (top) speaks with assistant first-team coach Kieran M

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (top) speaks with assistant first-team coach Kieran McKenna during the Premier League match at Old Trafford, Manchester. - Credit: PA

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was criticised for a lack of coaching at Manchester United. What do you make of that? Was he treated fairly and how did that impact your confidence as a young coach? 

KM: When you work at a club like Manchester United its par for the course and rightly so. If they are not winning the league every year then there will be criticism for the players, manager and staff. 

That’s been the case for Ole and was the case for Jose (Mourinho), Louis (van Gaal) and David Moyes. Some fantastic managers over the last 10 years. 

It’s a club that’s so used to success and has had that over a long history, so that external pressure is nothing unusual.  

I thought Ole conducted himself fantastically through that period and I never saw it impact him. He had a couple of years of really good progress, taking the club to some very good league positions ahead of some great teams and reached cup finals. 

He can be proud of his work there at the club and was a fantastic boss to work for. He’s fondly remembered by everyone there and the fans. 

There’s nobody bigger than Man United and you have to get used to, if the team isn’t winning trophies, having the criticism.  

If Ole was still the manager at United, would you have taken the Ipswich job? 

KM: That’s good question. I’ve been asked that privately. 

This is an opportunity that I wanted at the age I wanted. I feel I’m ready for it. 

Ralf Rangnick is not too long through the door and I’ve built a really good relationship with him over a couple of weeks. He was fantastic and wanted me to work for him going forward. 

You can’t really say (if I’d have stayed with Ole) because it’s a situation that never happened. But I know this was an opportunity I wanted to take. 

I’m just very happy to have taken that and to be here. 

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