'He's nowhere near his full capacity' - McKenna on Woolfenden's progress

Luke Woolfenden and Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, on the pitch at the end of the 3-0 victory

Luke Woolfenden and Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna, on the pitch at the end of the 3-0 victory over Burton Albion. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Kieran McKenna believes Luke Woolfenden still has plenty more to give despite his impressive start to life under the new Town boss. 

Academy product Woolfenden has arguably been the player to benefit most since McKenna’s arrival, lining up alongside Janoi Donacien and George Edmundson in all 11 matches, with the trio helping to keep eight clean sheets and concede just four goals during that time. 

Woolfenden has consistently produced the quality we’ve seen in patches during his senior Ipswich career to date. But while McKenna has enjoyed working with the defender, the Town boss still sees plenty of areas for him to improve. 

“We’ve been pleased with his performances on the pitch and his contribution to the team, defensively to the clean sheets and to the organisation that we’ve had,” McKenna said of the 23-year-old. 

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured with Luke Woolfenden after the victory over Wycombe.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured with Luke Woolfenden after the victory over Wycombe. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“But on the ball as well, he contributes really well and has taken on a responsibility to start the attacks off, and that’s something he enjoys doing. 

“I’ve enjoyed working with him so far. It’s very early days and Luke’s still a very young player. I don’t think he’s anywhere near his full capacity yet, I think he’s got a lot of development to go in all areas. 

“And it’s up to him now to stay hungry and to keep improving. I think he’s in an environment here where he’s got every chance to improve and take himself to higher levels. 

Most Read

“I think he’s in a team that support him well, a team that plays in a style that can help him develop as well and it’s up to him now. It’s about his ambition and his drive to keep his concentration levels and his work-rate where it’s been, and set new boundaries and limits for himself and really see where he wants to go in his career. 

“He is very coachable and has got a good brain for the game, and I’m really hoping and looking forward to pushing him and challenging him now to see if he can keep going in that direction.” 

Previous Ipswich managers have regularly discussed Woolfenden’s laidback demeanour, with Paul Lambert once joking ‘if he was more laidback he would be horizontal’ and Luke Chambers saying sometimes ‘jump leads’ were required in order to get the best out of him. 

“I think that’s his nature,” McKenna said of the defender. “He’s a laid-back character and he doesn’t get too stressed about things day to day. 

“When I speak to him about his life off the pitch, I think he enjoys a quiet and relaxed life and enjoys being with his partner and walking the dog and taking things pretty easy. 

“That’s good, that’s fine with me. For me, everybody’s nature is their nature. Players are entitled to have their own personalities and they don’t have to fit into a certain box here, they don’t have to be something that they’re not. 

“But when they come to work, there is a demand on their focus and concentration and a willingness to come in here and improve yourself. 

“He’s certainly done that in my time here. He’s trained well, he’s focused in the meetings, he’s receptive to feedback and has shown a willingness to improve himself, and that’s all we can demand really. 

Luke Woolfenden deals with a dangerous ball.

Luke Woolfenden deals with a dangerous ball. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

“After that, do what you like when you go home. Sit on your sofa and how relaxed and how laid-back he wants to be when he’s not in work mode is fine by me. 

“It’s a privileged position for footballers, they’re not working 14 hours a day so they need to be able to dial in and concentrate and put their football face on for a few hours a day. After that, as long as you’re a respectful person, which he certainly has been inside the building here, then everyone is free to have their own personality and be how they are.”