How does new Ipswich manager Kieran McKenna affect the promotion odds?
After a near two-week search, during which a multitude of managers were linked with the vacancy, Ipswich Town have unveiled Kieran McKenna as their new boss.
McKenna, who has left his coaching position under Ralf Rangnick at Man Utd, replaces Paul Cook after signing a three-and-a-half-year deal at the League One club.
Interim boss John McGreal will oversee Ipswich for the final time on Saturday when they face Sunderland at Portman Road, before handing over the reins to McKenna and his assistant Martyn Pert who follows him over from Old Trafford.
The appointment is a risk - what appointment isn’t? - but Ipswich will hope the decision to opt for McKenna over more experienced contenders will pay off. His track-record of developing young players and day-to-day work with world class stars at Man Utd certainly catches the eye, however transitioning from coach to outright manager is a whole different ball game.
Below we take a look at McKenna’s coaching background, why he swapped Man Utd for Ipswich, what attracted Ipswich, and if he can be the man to elevate the club back into the Championship…
Why McKenna swapped Man Utd for Ipswich
The Ipswich job may represent McKenna’s first managerial post but he has valuable coaching experience from his time at two big Premier League clubs - Man Utd and Spurs - after a hip-injury cut short the playing career of the former Tottenham reserve teamer at the age of just 22.
McKenna would go on to study Sports Science at Loughborough University, he cut his coaching teeth within Tottenham’s academy and gained experience working in the academies at Leicester City and Nottingham Forest, as well as a spell as an guest assistant coach at the Vancouver Whitecaps.
McKenna led Tottenham’s U18s to the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup, before he left to join the academy set-up at Man Utd where he led the U18s to the Premier League Northern Division title.
“He was a breath of fresh air, a very good coach,” Nicky Butt said of McKenna’s impact at Man Utd (via the Athletic).
“He’s on it. He didn’t get to the top of football [as a player] so his next thing was, 'I’m going to be the very best coach I can be.' He’s very, very, very good.”
In the summer of 2018 McKenna was promoted into Jose Mourinho’s first-team set-up, alongside Michael Carrick, following the exit of assistant manager Rui Faria.
McKenna remained at the club following Mourinho’s departure and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s subsequent appointment, and helped coach United to third and second placed finishes in the Premier League, while they finished runners-up in the Europa League last season.
Why he swapped Man Utd for Ipswich
McKenna remained at Man Utd following the appointment of German interim manager Ralf Rangnick last month.
However, just a few weeks later McKenna has decided to leave the Red Devils and branch out into management for the first time.
Here’s what he said about that decision: “I’d like to thank Mark Ashton and the owners for putting their faith in me and Martyn to take the Club forward,” he told Ipswich’s official website.
"Leaving a club like Manchester United was obviously a difficult decision, but I strongly believe in the opportunity to build something here.
"It feels like the right time, project and Club to make my first step into first-team management.
"For now, the focus for the team has to be on a huge game on Saturday. After that, I cannot wait to meet everyone and get to work."
Why did Ipswich appoint him?
Ipswich have been linked with an avalanche of managers over the last two weeks, but McKenna’s name only entered into the mix 24 hours before his appointment.
Ipswich may have grossly underperformed this season but it’s a big club with talented players, ambitious new owners, and cash to splash.
While the club have previously opted for experienced managers with promotions on their CV - including Paul Lambert, Mick McCarthy and Paul Cook - they’ve decided to change their approach and place their faith in 35-year-old McKenna who has never managed at senior level. A move which may have taken many by surprise, but the change of direction is a welcome one to many frustrated fans.
"I’m delighted to officially welcome Kieran and Martyn to the Club," CEO Mark Ashton, who explained why the club opted for McKenna.
"Kieran is a highly-respected young coach who has been working at the top level of English football and with one of the biggest clubs in world football for a number of years in Manchester United.
"He comes to the Club with pedigree within the game and with exciting plans about how he is going to take the team forward. When we met, there was a clear meeting of minds in terms of how we will execute the vision of this football club."
Meanwhile, former Ipswich manager Jim Magilton previously said of McKenna: "He is a meticulous planner yet every session is spontaneous. Nothing is set in stone. He adjusts the session to how the players are and gets what he wants out of the session. Everything is linked and game related. Nothing is for show - it has to be about the game."
Can Ipswich win promotion this season?
It’s the big question.
Ipswich dropped down into League One in 2019, but have since failed to even make the play-offs; finishing 11th and 9th.
At the time of writing they are bang in the middle of the table (12th), nine points adrift of the top-six and 14 points off the automatic promotion spots.
It will be a tough ask, but there’s still over half of the season remaining (24 matches) so McKenna has plenty of time to spark a talented team into life.
Ipswich can be backed at 10/3 (BetVictor) to finish in the top-six, 10/1 (William Hill) to win the play-offs, 12/1 (Betfred) to win promotion, and 50/1 (BetVictor) to embark on a stunning run and finish in the top-two!
League One Promotion Odds