Ipswich's 'incredible coach' McKenna – In the words of his players


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

Those were the words of Kieran McKenna just last month, as Ipswich Town headed into the final eight games of their Championship season.

Even then, despite them sitting in third place in the table, promotion looked an awful long way off.


Saturday 4th May 11:30am


Kick off 12:30pm


Now, with just a point needed at home to all-but relegated Huddersfield on the final day of the season on Saturday – live on Sky Sports from 11.30am; kick-off 12.30pm – to seal second spot, Ipswich Town, their fans, and the manager, can begin to dream.

Here, some of his key personnel tell us about McKenna, the man who has Ipswich on the cusp of back-to-back promotions and a first return to the Premier League for the Tractor Boys in 22 years… (while we also spare a word for the gaffer on his players, too…)

Key permutations

  • Ipswich will be promoted if they get at least a point at home to Huddersfield
  • Also promoted regardless if Leeds fail to win

‘From day one he helped me to improve my game’

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

“From day one when I walked in the door he told me he’d help me to improve my game, and he has done massively, going forward and defensively,” Leif Davis told Sky Sports back in November.

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

“I didn’t think I had that quality in the final third, it definitely wasn’t my strongest point, but now I’d 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 instead of just getting it into the box and hoping for the best.

“The way I play in the team is more advanced to a normal left-back. I don’t really have anyone in front of me, and I’ve got to do a lot on that side myself.

“But that’s my job. It’s why I was brought in and he trusts me to play that role – at least I hope he does!

“It was one of the best choices I made to come here. It was a move down two leagues, but it’s what you’ve got to do to play football. The rewards come if you work hard.”

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Simeon Gholam and David Prutton look ahead to the final day of the season as Ipswich and Leeds jostle for the final promotoion spot on the Sky Sports Championship Predictions podcast

Davis also acknowledged the similarities between McKenna and Marcelo Bielsa, the manager who handed him his senior debut for Leeds United.

“I’ve said it before but it’s a similar kind of training under Kieran and Marcelo,” the left-back continues.

“They both have very high demands in training in the way they both want you to work hard, learn every day and keep improving.”

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Kieran McKenna chatted to Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam back in April about his promotion hopes with Ipswich, the future of the club and the form of Leif Davis and Omari Hutchinson

McKenna on Davis:

“Leif arrived last summer and he hadn’t played a full season in men’s football,” the Ipswich boss told Sky Sports in March. “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.”

‘We have 100 per cent trust in everything he says’

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Ipswich midfielder Wes Burns told Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam back in January about his Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month winning trivela

“The boss always says as long as we give 100 per cent, stick to our principles and execute the game plan that he gives us, then he’s more than happy with that,” Ipswich winger Wes Burns told Sky Sports in January.

“He’s such a brilliant coach that we have 100 per cent trust in everything he says. That trust has been taken onto the pitch and we’re executing it brilliantly for him. I think that’s why we are where we are.

“We’re such a hard-working team, and I think hard work goes a long way in this league.”

Burns has played in every division from the National League upwards, and also the Scottish top-flight.

Previously a striker, he has been adapted into a high-pressing right winger by McKenna.

From stints at Bristol City, Forest Green, Oxford United, Cheltenham, Fleetwood and Aberdeen, he is now on the cusp of the Premier League at the age of 29.

Wes Burns celebrates scoring their side's second goal

“From the first day he came in, there’s been so much information to take on board,” Burns added.

“But you can see from the outside the improvements that we’ve made as a squad and as individuals. He’s taken us all to the next level, which is a sign of an incredible coach.

“For me personally, he’s just kind of simplified my game right down, and for so many players just doing that can get so much more out of them.

“I have key things that I bring to the team that he wants from me every single week. Set roles within the system, and as long as I execute them on a match day, it’s effective.”

“I went to Fleetwood (in 2015) as a No 9, and I’m definitely not a No 9. So finding my position has definitely help me progress.

“And then obviously coming here and the boss coming in, he’s tweaked my position again ever so slightly. And that’s really where I’m starting to reap the best rewards from it.”

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As the race for promotion heats up, watch some of Ipswich Town’s best goals from the 2023/24 Sky Bet Championship season

McKenna on Burns:

Burns, who won Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month and then EFL Goal of the Season for his stunning trivela against Coventry in December, was praised by his manager.

“We’ve had a few jokes about it because it’s probably been about two years worth of Wes trying it!” McKenna said with a smile. “He’s even got a really good left foot which he doesn’t use very often. He often kept trying to use his right foot and I kept telling him to try it with his left.

“So maybe we can take a bit of pride in the build-up to the goal, but the quality and execution of the finish can go to Wes.”

‘He made it a no-brainer to come here’

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Omari Hutchinson chatted to Sky Sports EFL Editor Simeon Gholam back in March about Ipswich Town, making his debut against Man City and being praised by Pele

Omari Hutchinson joined Ipswich last summer on loan from Chelsea, and the young forward has grown dramatically in importance as the season has gone on.

So far he has played in 43 of Ipswich’s 45 Championship games, with nine goals and six assists to his name.

“I spoke to the manager and got a real good connection with him from seeing him for the first time,” Hutchinson told Sky Sports in March.

“And I thought, you know, this could be the best place for myself.

“He’s been in the academy, he knows how the young boys are. So I thought he made it a no-brainer to come here.”

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Omari Hutchinson scored two superb goals in Ipswich’s 3-3 draw at Hull City

Hutchinson was used mostly as an impact substitute in the first half of the season, but has been used far more regularly from the start since.

He credits McKenna with making it easy to adapt to either role and still feel like a vital component in the team.

“Sometimes when you come into the team as a sub the manager tells you we need a different dynamic. A skillful player that’s going to get at your man and who can go both ways.

“For me personally I enjoy that. I like to entertain the crowd, and the manager gives you that freedom.”

McKenna on Hutchinson:

“He’s given everything you’d want from a loan player and more,” said 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.”

Listen to the Championship Predictions podcast!

Sky Sports duo Simeon Gholam and David Prutton take a look ahead to the final day of the 2023/24 Championship season, predicting who will go up, go down and who will finish in the play-offs; listen to the podcast below or via any of your regular podcast providers.

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Can Ipswich seal promotion? Watch them take on Huddersfield live on Sky Sports Main Event from 11.30am on Saturday; kick-off 12.30pm.



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