North Stander: For the first time in ages, I'm feeling really positive

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna celebrates after his sides 1-0 victory over Wycombe Wanderers.

Terry Hunt says Kieran McKenna has had an impressive start to life at Ipswich Town - Credit: Steve Waller - stephenwaller.com

Journalist and Ipswich Town fan Terry Hunt shares his thoughts on the start of the Kieran McKenna era and the challenges which lie ahead...

New Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna has created a really good first impression, both on and off the pitch.

I know he’s only had one game, and a couple of media conferences, but I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen and heard so far.

When Paul Cook was sacked, I really hoped the club would break the mould and try something different. My preference was a bright young coach, probably someone who none of us had heard of.

I was fed up with the tired old managerial merry-go-round, and I really didn’t want someone like Neil Warnock or even the much younger Neil Harris.

Ipswich Town manager Kieran McKenna pictured with Janoi Donacien after the victory over Wycombe.

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

So when McKenna was appointed, I was delighted. Of course it’s a gamble, but one well worth taking. And, as I said, the 35-year-old has made a truly impressive start to his time at Portman Road.

Off the pitch, he’s calm, measured, balanced, and doesn’t resort to the usual tiresome “manager speak.” His summing up of the Wycombe game was absolutely spot on, and so refreshing.

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I loved his understated celebration after we beat Wycombe. You could tell he was absolutely delighted, but he clearly knows there’s a lot of work to do. Quite right.

He’s already made his mark on the pitch. He kept faith with the team which did well against Sunderland, apart from the enforced absence of Christian Walton, but there was a marked difference in the set-up.

The back three of Janoi Donacien, Luke Woolfenden and George Edmundson were clearly encouraged to travel with the ball when they could, which created some exciting moments.

Sam Morsy looked great playing further forward, especially the mazy last-gasp run which ended with Conor Chaplin hitting the post. Was that Morsy or Messi? I just wish he was more willing to shoot.

And, glory be, we’re playing two up front! The Bash Brothers, as McKenna has named the combination of James Norwood and Macauley Bonne, will surely be a terrifying test for League One defences between now and the end of the season.

It’s so good to see Norwood back in the fold and doing what he does best - being in the right place at the right time and scoring goals. There were never valid footballing reasons for his exile from the team. Let’s hope he stays fit and firing.

For me, the most pleasing aspect of the Wycombe game was the clean sheet. We’ve seen umpteen examples this season when we’ve been ahead only to crumble late on as the opposition piles on the pressure.

We dug in and stayed solid against Wycombe, who have been ugly but effective this season. We gave them only one chance, which thankfully they messed up. Let’s hope we can finally learn how to manage games to the final whistle. It’s been a huge weakness.

So, we’re impressed with McKenna, and it seems he’s equally impressed with our club. He sounded genuinely taken aback - in a good way - by the fantastic atmosphere generated by the big crowd at Portman Road for his first game.

If he didn’t realise already, he now knows there’s huge potential to work with. Allied to the money we now have, we might at long last have found a winning combination.

Before we get too carried away, there is undoubtedly a big job to do.

With just over half the season played, we are where we deserve to be - in the middle of what is a pretty low quality division. The gap to the play-offs is daunting. Not impossible, but it will need a stunning second half of the campaign.

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

January will be important for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, there’s the opportunity which is the January transfer window. Our chief executive Mark Ashton has already promised we will be active, so who will arrive?

The speculation has obviously centred on possible teenage loanees from McKenna’s former club, Manchester United. That may happen, but frankly I’d rather see a couple of permanent signings to sort out weaknesses in the current first team squad.

The second opportunity in January is a run of games against teams we really should be capable of beating. If we can take advantage of that, and add a couple of players, then the McKenna era really could get off to a flying start.

For the first time in ages, I’m feeling very positive.

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