'It's a strong squad... but we don't want to settle' - McKenna on transfer plans

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna is keen to strengthen the squad this month. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna believes he can improve the squad with new additions this January transfer window.

Even with Louie Barry's loan spell from Aston Villa having been cut short, the new Blues boss still has 29 players who have played at League One level or above.

That won't stop a club that made 19 summer signings making more mid-season recruits in an attempt to bridge an 11 point gap to the play-off places. 

"We're not in a position where we want to settle," said McKenna, whose side are at Gillingham tomorrow afternoon.

"We know we have a strong squad, we know we have depth, but the club are looking at options and if there is a marginal gain or a gain that we can make then we'll look to do so.

"We always want to improve on whatever aspects we can, whether it's quality or whether it's variety, maybe something we don't have in the squad in terms of cover.

"I'm happy with what's here, but at the same time we're in a position where if there is something we feel can improve the group for whatever reason then we're in a position to look at that.

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"We're not thinking we urgently need someone in the door tomorrow, but like I said we want to improve. We have to improve. The team has to better, the club has to do better.

Bersant Celina celebrates his goal just before the break with a lift from teammate Sone Aluko.

Bersant Celina hasn't started for Ipswich Town since scoring his spectacular goal against Crewe back in November. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"Obviously the club have already made a massive investment in the squad over the summer in terms of players coming in. The owners are willing and capable of investing in the squad even more going forward. It's really important that decisions are made not just to benefit the short-term, but also to fit into a long-term plan and a vision of how we want the team to be." 

McKenna's coaching career has been forged at the elite end of academy football. He managed both Tottenham and Manchester United's Under-18s before being promoted to the senior set-up at Old Trafford under Jose Mourinho's management in 2018.

Asked if he was looking at using his academy contacts to bring in some Premier League loan players this month, McKenna replied: "I feel I've got really good academy links not just at United, but at Liverpool, at Tottenham, at Arsenal and at Chelsea too. Obviously it's a good market to be able to tap into, but it's not the only option.

"I started coaching the first team at United when I was 32 and we had players who were 35/36, so I'm very comfortable working with experienced players. It's something I enjoy.

Christian Walton is beaten as Rotherham take the lead.

Ipswich Town are trying to sign loan goalkeeper Christian Walton permanently. - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

"We're very clear on the profile of player and profile of person that we want over the medium and longer-term. Over the short-term it's about what can help the group now.

"We have to look across the market. It's good to have young, hungry players who want to improve and develop with us over time, but also we need experience and people who have got lots of games under their belt, especially at this level.

"It's about having that balance and that blend. Our focus, not just in January but for the summer as well, will be about getting the right mixture and make-up of the squad we want."

Asked how quickly he expects new faces to arrive, McKenna said: "The club like to do the work early and they've been working on some players over the last few months.

"Obviously sometimes situations come up where you have to make a late decision, but in general we want things to be planned out, to be rational and part of a bigger picture. That's how we want to operate.

"January is a long month, we have time and we want to make good rational decisions that will help us in the short-term but also fit into the long-term picture. That's what we'll look to do over the next few weeks."

Town currently have the maximum permitted squad size of 22 senior outfield players. Will new arrivals mean current players have to depart?

"We want the squad to be hungry and we want everyone here to feel like they've got a chance to play," said McKenna.

"It does get to a point where if the squad is too big it's difficult to give everyone that feeling that they've got a big part to play.

"So the size of the squad is something we are aware of. There are players we are happy with, but there might come a stage where one or two want to move on if they feel they need to get games and exposure. 

"We would have that discussion with them. We need to do right by the club and the team, but also we want to do right by the players here. If it's better for some of them to get minutes elsewhere then that's something we'll look at."

With former Town boss Paul Cook have bemoaned the lack of a recruitment team in a recent interview, McKenna added: "That's definitely an area the club are trying to develop. I have a long-term plan and vision for how I want to develop the team in terms of playing style and profiles of players who we want in the building. The club know that.

"There are already systems and processes in place and a lot of work has gone in before I arrived, but it's also something the club feel they want and need to develop over time in terms of staffing, structure and resources."

Kayden Jackson plays the ball across goal during the second half at Barrow.

Kayden Jackson has been restricted to just two sub appearances in the league this season. - Credit: Pagepix Ltd


GK: Walton (loan), Hladky, Holy

DEFENCE: Vincent-Young, Donacien, Edmundson, Woolfenden, Nsiala, Burgess, Penney, Coulson (loan), Clements, Kenlock (not currently registered)

MIDFIELD: Morsy, Evans, Fraser, Carroll, Harper, El Mizouni, Nolan

ATTACK: Burns, Aluko, Celina (loan), Chaplin, Edwards, Bonne (loan), Norwood, Pigott, Jackson.

Jon Nolan looks uncomfortable as he walks from the pitch after picking up a first half injury. P

Jon Nolan's last competitive appearance was back in January last year.

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