'Timing is important' - McKenna responds to Dyer's youth frustrations

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna speaks to the press after the game.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says he was surprised by Kieron Dyer quitting as Under-23s manager this week. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna says he will play academy talent only when the time is right, in response to Kieron Dyer's reasons for quitting as Under-23s manager this week.

Former England international Dyer walked away from the club on Monday, stating his disappointment at the lack of first team game time for his table-topping youngsters this season. The 43-year-old added that he didn't agree with the club's vision and that staying on would have made him a 'hypocrite'.

"It was a surprise," said McKenna, speaking ahead of Town's big League One clash with Plymouth at Portman Road tomorrow.

"I've had a good relationship with Kieron in the short time we've been here. I didn't know him before, but we've had some good conversations and he was very welcoming. He's been a good bounce board on players over the last couple of months. He's been involved in a few of our training sessions. We've been trying to strengthen that link when we can.

"So it did come as a surprise. I've had a couple of texts with Kieron over the last couple of days but I haven't had too much of an in-depth conversation with him. Hopefully we'll meet up for a coffee over the next couple of weeks, have a chat, and I can take a little bit more from his experiences at the football club. Obviously he's a legend of the club.

"Hopefully we'll continue to stay in touch. He obviously has his reasons. I'll have a conversation with him, try and understand a little bit more. But from my view it was a positive relationship and obviously I wish him well for the future."

Kieron Dyer pictured ahead of the game against Bristol Rovers.

Kieron Dyer quit as manager of Ipswich Town's high-flying U23s this week. - Credit: www.stephenwaller.com

Asked what he made of Dyer's comments, McKenna said: "I haven't read that much to be honest. I've had a couple of private texts with Kieron where we haven't gone into too much. He just said he felt it was the right time to move on. I haven't read too much about what's been said so, in respect to him, I'd rather have that conversation with him privately whenever we get a chance."

When some of Dyer's frustrations about player pathways were relayed, McKenna - who worked as an academy manager at Tottenham and Manchester United - said: "Look, academy football has been a very important part of my pathway and my progression to get here.

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"Then, when we worked in first team football at Manchester United our aim as a staff, as it always has been at Man United, was to trust in young players and develop young players. That's something I very much believe in, something I feel I have good experience with, a good eye for and a good track record in.

"Ipswich is going to be a very good place for young players to be over the next few years in my opinion with, hopefully, the quality of coaching and development that there's going to be. The style of play that the first team are going to play, that oftens lends well to talented young players coming into that type of football.

"It's going to be a club that is hopefully very attractive for young players. But, as is always the case, it has to be my decision and the staff's decision on when somebody is ready to make that impact in the first team. The timing of that is very important.

"I think patience in youth development is very, very important for players and for staff. It has to be at the right time. You have to make well informed decisions as to when is the moment to stretch and challenge a player and when is the moment for them to keep working hard behind the scenes.

"I feel like that's an area that, not just myself, but also my staff, have really good experience in. We'll look to draw on that experience over the next few years."

Cameron Humphreys at Dartford

Kieron Dyer believes Cameron Humphreys is the second best midfielder at Ipswich Town. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd

With Dyer having highlighted Cameron Humphreys and Tyreece Simpson as talented homegrown players who have not been in first team matchday squads, McKenna added: "As for the Under-23s now there is a good group of players there that I've seen quite a bit of over the last few months.

"I still want to continue to see more of them. I could name names but I won't do for now because I think there's quite a talented batch of players. Some of them are 17 years old and I think at 17 years old it's very, very early to make any grand statements about where a player is going to be in a couple of years times or where their true level is.

"At 17/18 years old it's important to work very, very hard on the training pitch, listen to your coaches, develop yourself, be hungry and be ready for opportunities whenever they come.

"From the attitude I've seen in the Under-23 group so far that's something they do well. I've been very pleased with the interactions I've had with that group of players. I look forward to seeing more of them and developing more of them. Because the development of high quality young players is going to be a big, big part of the future of this football club over the next few years."