McKenna on promotion: 'It's not our job to dream, it's our job to do'


There have been seasons gone by when 87 points would be enough to win you promotion to the Premier League.

But this is not an ordinary Championship campaign. And it seems even more ridiculous when you consider the team with that tally are Ipswich Town, and when you take into account the teams they are currently sat above, and how much more they may still need to do to reach their desired destination.

“We’d have to say we wouldn’t have thought we’d be where we are in terms of points accumulated at this stage,” Kieran McKenna, the 37-year-old operating with his usual calm demeanour, tells Sky Sports.

“But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it. It’s about building and continuing the journey we’ve been on.

“We’ve focused on imposing ourselves on the league and bringing our identity to the Championship. I’m delighted we’ve managed to do that.”


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In a league where 90 points has always been guaranteed to end with a top-two finish, there is every chance that a total of 100 this season may only be enough for the play-offs.

But this is old hat for McKenna. Last season they were also involved in a record-breaking promotion race, where 98 points proved just enough to take them up from League One.

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Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship clash between Ipswich and Southampton.

Rather than bemoan their misfortune at being brilliant during a season of brilliance, McKenna is instead enjoying the ride and proud that players are mixing it in the way they are.

“It’s been two incredible seasons we’ve been a part of, and we have to look at the positives of being involved in it,” he says.

“The teams we are competing with are as strong as we’ve ever seen at the top of the Championship. It’s a mixture of that, and everyone really performing well and pushing each other.”

One player who represents Ipswich’s growth as much as any other is Leif Davis. He has been a crucial part of the rise, and is sat with a total of 16 assists from left-back this season.

There is an argument to be made that he is currently the best-performing Englishman in his position in the country.

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Ipswich Town’s Leif Davis chatted to Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam last November about the role Kieran McKenna and Marcelo Bielsa have played in turning him into the most influential attacking full-back in the Championship.

“Leif arrived last summer and he hadn’t played a full season in men’s football,” says McKenna. So it was the right step for him to come to a club where he could find a home in an environment that would help him.

“The challenge for him, like all our players, was to push on and show they could compete in the Championship. He’s had a really strong season and is a big part of how we play. The consistency of his output is really high from a physical and technical perspective.

“But he’s still got a lot of growing and developing to do.”

It is hard to pick out individual names from this Ipswich side as so many are playing superbly, but one player who has stood out in particular is Omari Hutchinson.

Used sparingly and mostly off the bench in the first half of the season, the 20-year-old on loan from Chelsea has been heavily involved in the latter part of the campaign. The future is bright for the winger.

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Ipswich Town’s Leif Davis chatted to Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam last November about the role Kieran McKenna and Marcelo Bielsa have played in turning him into the most influential attacking full-back in the Championship.

“He’s given everything you’d want from a loan player and more,” says McKenna. “He’s young and has high potential, but he hadn’t played any senior football before this season.

I really liked his mentality, and we were on the same page as him, his family and his representation about what he needed, not just in terms of minutes but also development.

“He’s come into the club with the right application and picked things up really quickly about what it takes to succeed. That has endeared him to the senior players right away, and he’s built that as the season has gone on.

“He’s hitting a good level but he’s still really young. It’s not going to be a linear journey from here, but he’s got really high potential and a really good mentality towards achieving that potential.”

Whether it is Davis, Hutchinson or anyone else, players who arrive at Ipswich Town nowadays tend to thrive.

That is largely down to what McKenna and his staff have built at a club that had spent two decades drifting before his arrival in 2021.

“It’s not just me, a lot of hard work has gone into creating a positive atmosphere from a lot of people, to help develop the culture and the learning environment at the club,” McKenna says.

His experiences at Tottenham and Manchester United in the past should also prove invaluable going forward, with the club set to revamp their facilities following new investment announced last month.

“I’ve always had a say in developments to the training ground and I’ve been consulted on some stuff at the stadium, too.

“I always want to lend any experience and insight I have that I can. I was at Tottenham when we moved from Chigwell to Enfield, which is one of the best training facilities in the world. Then I was at Manchester United when the work was done at Carrington.

“I’ll always manage the club as if I’m going to be here forever. Hopefully we can build something that will stand the test of time, and try and set it up to be a great place for many, many years to help the club have a successful future.”

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Jobi McAnuff and Robert Snodgrass analyse the race for promotion from the Sky Bet Championship after Ipswich, Leeds and Leicester all picked up wins on Easter Monday.

For now, the focus is on the final six games of the season, starting with a huge East Anglian derby at Norwich City on Saturday – live on Sky Sports.

They may head to Carrow Road top of the table and off the back of that remarkable Easter Monday win over Southampton, but it is not in McKenna’s nature to get carried away.

“We’ve had some initial discussions, because we can’t wait until the summer to decide what our squad will look like depending on what league we’re in,” he says. “But those conversations have been pretty minimal. Ninety-nine per cent of all planning always goes into the next game!

“Of course it would be incredible for the town. But we’ve not planned how the celebration would feel.

“We’re deeply rooted in reality. We know the level of competition, and there’s still such a long way to go.

“It’s not our job to dream, it’s our job to do.”



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