'It's very important to me' - McKenna on Town's 'markedly' improved fitness levels

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

Kieran McKenna has been impressed with Ipswich Town's fitness levels - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Kieran McKenna believes Ipswich Town are reaping the rewards for their increased fitness levels since he took charge. 

The Northern Irishman has overseen a run of seven victories in his first 11 matches at the helm, with the Blues keeping a hugely impressive eight clean sheets in that time. 

Solidity at the back has been a key feature of McKenna’s success, but just as important is high level of fitness required to make McKenna’s system work. 

That fitness is all backed up by numbers, tracked on a daily basis, with McKenna and his team encouraged by the physical progress they have seen over the last two months. 

“The data is important of us and for most clubs at this level and beyond,” McKenna said of his side’s fitness. 

“We measure a lot on a daily basis (in training) and we measure match loads and have figures we want to hit. 

“We know those numbers are close to the ones players at elite levels hit and the players here are interested in that. They want to give high outputs in games and show they can give more and more.  

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“The players have put in a huge physical graft over the last couple of months and the numbers and data show that our high-speed sprints and running have increased markedly over the last couple of months 

“In terms of our high speed and sprint distances, they’re important references for us to hit. They’re not the only indicator but they are an important one, and we’re getting some of the tactical things we want onto the pitch too. 

“We have seen some good returns and some good numbers so far and that’s been reflected with what you can see on the eye with some of the performances. It’s very important we are able to back up what we can see with numbers where possible.” 

Former Town boss Paul Cook questioned the fitness of the Ipswich Town squad, speaking after his sacking in December, but McKenna has insisted his approach to fitness is not linked to any situation at the club prior to his arrival. 

It’s about what’s required to make his approach to football possible. 

“It’s something that’s very important for me, with the style of play that we want,” McKenna said. 

“I want us to play with a real intensity and be running all the time. That’s one of the key rules here – one the ball is in play we’ve got nobody walking and everyone’s active on the pitch both in and out of possession. 

“We want to run with intensity, push high up the pitch, and show penetration when we do have the ball. When we win it we want to attack first and, to do those things, you have to run hard. There’s no hiding place there. 

“That all tends to be reflected in the numbers. 

“This isn’t anything to do with what was done at the club before I arrived. I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the old numbers or where the boys were at. I just made it very clear it’s important to me and something I want to see on the pitch.” 

And McKenna feels his squad have bought into his approach. 

“Most footballers, in general, want to work hard,” he said. “Certainly the boys here do and we have a hard-working group. 

“The important thing is that the structure is good and they feel all the running they are doing is to the benefit of the team. It’s always for a reason and always within our structure. 

“Whether it’s defending, pressing or on the transition and needing to break out quickly, it’s important players understand their roles and the structure of the team. 

“As long as they have that, players enjoy working hard and are willing to make the effort for the team.”