Kieran McKenna: Why the Ipswich boss is so in demand this summer amid links to Brighton, Chelsea and Manchester United | football news

Kieran McKenna is the wanted man this summer, for all the right reasons.

The 38-year-old has guided Ipswich to consecutive promotions to the EFL and a first Premier League campaign at Portman Road for 22 years, but there is a serious question mark over whether he will remain at the club next season.

Sky Sports News has revealed that McKenna is a candidate for the vacant roles at Chelsea and Brighton, while he would also be in the running if the Manchester United job became available.

Ipswich are aware of the links, but have not received any official approach from any club. They will do everything they can to retain McKenna and plan to hold talks about his future.

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McKenna says speculation linking him with vacant jobs at Chelsea and Brighton is not his focus after leading Ipswich Town to the Premier League.

The Championship runners-up are considering offering McKenna a new contract but it remains to be seen whether he would be interested in signing it.

So why is McKenna such a sought-after manager? sky sports take a look at the reasons…

What the statistics say…

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Ipswich’s attacking style of football caught the attention of many in the Championship this season.

McKenna’s team finished as the division’s top scorers, despite being a newly promoted team, with 92 goals scored in 46 games.

Ipswich were also one of the second division’s set-piece kings, with only Cardiff (21) scoring more set-piece goals than the Premier League newcomers’ 19.

But what really kept fans on the edge of their seats was the plethora of late goals scored by McKenna’s team. Ipswich scored 25 goals in the Championship last season after the 76th minute, and many of them were decisive.

It means Ipswich gained 32 points after losing positions last season, a third of their total total.

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Jeremy Sarmiento scored a last-minute winner against Southampton in April to send Portman Road into a frenzy.

How McKenna got the double promotion

Adam Williams from Sky Sports:

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Ipswich Town players bathe in champagne as they celebrate promotion to the Premier League.

On 16 December 2021, Ipswich confirmed that Manchester United assistant manager McKenna, 35, had been appointed as the new manager on a three-and-a-half-year contract.

“Kieran who?” There was understandably most of the reaction beyond those perhaps unfamiliar with McKenna’s work under Jose Mourinho, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralph Rangnick at Old Trafford alongside Michael Carrick.

Soft-spoken at first, but methodical, clear and honest in his media engagements, fans soon welcomed the departure of McKenna’s more daring and sometimes overbearing predecessors.

Promotion would prove too difficult a task to achieve in the remainder of that season as Ipswich finished 11th, but McKenna already had irons in the fire for his first full season in charge.

Freddie Ladapo, Dom Ball and Leif Davis would be the notable signings of the summer and it was clear from the start that the race to win League One that season would be a close one.

Plymouth scored and kept pace throughout, while Ipswich, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley all tried to keep up.

After falling to fourth place on February 14 with a goalless draw against Bristol Rovers, thoughts understandably turned to another season of disappointment with them eight points off the top two.

But in the January transfer window there were already four key additions: George Hirst, Harry Clarke, Massimo Luongo and Nathan Broadhead. They would prove hugely pivotal as Ipswich won 13 of their remaining 15 league games, including eight in a row, to collect 98 points and automatic promotion to the Championship after a four-year absence.

It felt good to be back in the second tier and when the season started many supporters were hoping to win more games than they lost and use it as an opportunity to continue building on the good work of the previous 18 months.

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Massimo Luongo and Kieffer Moore reflected on a challenging match against Coventry as they moved a step closer to promotion to the Premier League.

But 46 games later they return to the top flight. A season of goal-free, free-flowing, full-speed football has seen Ipswich and McKenna’s stocks soar.

What McKenna’s players say about him

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Ipswich Town’s Leif Davis tells Sky Sports about the role McKenna and Marcelo Bielsa have played in making him the most influential attacking full-back in the Championship.

Ipswich defender Leif Davis told Sky Sports in November:

“From day one when I walked in the door, he (McKenna) told me he would help me improve my game, and he’s done that tremendously, forward and defensively.”

Davis, now 24, joined Ipswich last season from Leeds United, the club they beat to promotion, and helped their rise from League One. This season he is the Championship’s top assister, with 18 goals created from left back.

“I didn’t think I had that quality in the final third, it was definitely not my strongest point, but now I would say it is.

“The way he has worked with me in training to be more comfortable with the ball at my feet in the final third and to find passes rather than just putting it in the box and hoping for the best.

“My way of playing in the team is more advanced than that of a normal left back. I don’t really have anyone in front of me and I have to do a lot on that side.

“But that’s my job. That’s why they hired me and he trusts me to play that role, at least I hope so!

“It was one of the best decisions I made coming here. It was a two-league relegation, but it’s what you have to do to play football. The rewards come if you work hard.

“It’s a similar type of training with Kieran and Marcelo Bielsa. They both have very high demands in training because they want you to work hard, learn every day and keep improving.”

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McKenna praised his players after winning promotion to the Premier League and said it will be a big challenge next season.

Ipswich winger Wes Burns to Sky Sports in January:

“The boss always says that if we give 100 per cent, stick to our principles and execute the game plan he gives us, then he will be more than happy with that.

“He’s such a brilliant coach that we trust everything he says 100 percent. That trust has been carried onto the field and we’re executing it brilliantly for him. I think that’s why we are where we are.”

“We are a very hard-working team and I think hard work helps a lot in this league.

“From the first day he arrived, there was a lot of information to take into account. But from the outside you can see the improvements we have made as a team and as individuals. He has taken us all to the next level, which is a sign of an incredible coach .

“For me personally, it’s just simplified my game, and for a lot of players, just doing that can get you a lot more out of it.

“I have key things that I bring to the team that they want from me every week. Establishing roles within the system, and as long as I execute them on game day, is effective.

“I went to Fleetwood (in 2015) as a number 9, and I’m definitely not a number 9. So finding my position has definitely helped me progress.

“And then obviously coming here and the boss coming in, he changed my position slightly again. And that’s where I’m really starting to get the biggest rewards.”

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Ipswich Town winger Omari Hutchinson talks about what it means to take the team to the Premier League

Ipswich loanee Omari Hutchinson to Sky Sports in March:

“I talked to the manager and had a really good connection with him seeing him for the first time. And I thought, you know, this could be the best place for me.

“He’s been to the academy, he knows what young people are like. So I thought he hadn’t thought about coming here.

“Sometimes, when you come to the team as a substitute, the coach tells you that we need a different dynamic. A skilled player who can get to your man and who can go both ways.

“Personally, I enjoy that. I like entertaining the crowd and the coach gives you that freedom.”

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