McKenna: It’s Pleasing That They’ve Met My Standards So Far
Tuesday, 28th Dec 2021 16:03
New Blues boss Kieran McKenna says the quality, intensity and application of the Town squad in training has been what he hoped it would be and that there is a good spirit among the players, who he believes are a united group.
“It’s been pleasing,” he said reflecting on his first week’s work at Playford Road. “It’s been what I hoped it would be looking in from the outside,”
“Obviously, it’s a big squad, so you’re wondering how the morale would be, and a lot of players probably haven’t played as much as they would have wanted to play, but what I’ve seen so far is a united group.
“Everyone has been on board, there’s been nobody who has been going against the ethic of the group, which is important.
“The spirit seems good. Obviously, the players are disappointed with how the season has been going up until this point, but they are still ambitious, they still think they can win some games and climb the table, so the spirit has been good.
“In terms of the quality of the group, that has been where I expected it as we have a strong squad and we have players who have played at a higher level and other players who want to play at a higher level.
“The quality of the training and the intensity and application that they put into training has been pleasing.
“But I came in here with high expectations and high standards, and that’s what I’m going to demand of the group every day that I’m here. And it’s been pleasing that they’ve been able to meet those standards around the training ground so far.”
Regarding his first team selection for the visit of Wycombe Wanderers, he said: “It will be around my decisions. For sure, I’ve got staff around me here and they will have their input as well, but I’ll ultimately make the decision.
“Obviously, I got to see the Sunderland game live up close, which was beneficial and I’ve watched the large majority of the games this season already on video, so I feel that I’ve got a good feel of what’s been going on on the pitch and I’ve also got a look now at the players in training albeit only over five or six sessions so far.
“I’ll take all that into account - the last game, the games I’ve seen so far and my initial impressions in training, and then we’ll prepare the game for Wycombe, look at their strengths and where we can try and expose them, and we’ll pick the team from there.”
Is one of the toughest aspects of management telling players that they’re not playing or longer term that they’re not in your plans? “For me, it’s about communication and dealing and managing with people, which I’ve done for a long career in coaching now already.
“I like to communicate a lot with players, be very honest and open with the relationship when those conversations are happening, whether it’s about team selection or whether it’s about decisions around their future at the club.
“It shouldn’t come as a surprise and it should be part of a constant dialogue and making sure players know where they are at, making sure they have goals and targets and things that they want to achieve, and they are very clear on what we expect of them.
“So it’s something that I don’t find overly concerning, obviously my job is to make decisions around selection and also around how we want the team to move forward, and I’m more than confident that having a good relationship, good communication with players and being honest and up front even when it’s difficult news.
“In general players respect that and they know that I’ve got the team and the club’s best intentions at heart and they will respect my decisions and we’ll move forward together.”
While it’s inevitable it will take a while for his ideas to be wholly inculcated into the squad, McKenna hopes some elements will be evident from the start.
“I’d hope so, for sure,” he said. “That’s the target. There are things that we’ve been working on that we want the players to implement and the players will be clear on those messages.
“So we will certainly be hoping to see little things that might not always be evident to everyone on the outside, but as coaches and managers we know the little details that we want from the team that accumulatively over time will end up making a difference in games.
“We’re looking to see an improvement on some of those little details and obviously we want to impose ourselves on the game.
“But there are two teams coming to play at Portman Road and Wycombe want to make it the type of game they want and they’ll want to impose themselves on the game, and they are on a good run, so that will be a battle.
“We’ll try and make it as we want it to be and what we’ve worked on in training, and they’ll try and make it what they want it to be and what they’ve worked on in training, so that’s the battle of a football match, and we’ll do everything we can to come out on top.”
Former boss Paul Cook and interim manager John McGreal have both said that the intensity and enjoyment of training has been good but that that hasn’t always translated into games.
“That’s obviously the challenge,” McKenna continued. “Training is training and what goes on behind closed doors isn’t what we get judged on.
“We get judged on what goes on on matchdays in the stadium, so we know that we want it to be good here behind the scenes, and it certainly has been, and I think the players have responded really well, but it’s how we get that across in the match.
“The challenges with that are numerous. Obviously, there’s an opposition that want to come and disrupt everything that we want to do, so they are certainly not going to make it easy.
“There’s the mental pressure at times of being a footballer and going out there on a stage, and that’s what we have to try and help the players with.
“We’re privileged to be at a big club, we’re privileged to be at a club with a big fanbase who want the team to do well, and we have to use that as energy, that can’t every be a burden.
“We have to find a way to help the players where they don’t feel pressured by that. It’s a privilege and we want them to take that support we have at home and use that to give us energy and positivity and help us put that into our game.
“That’s the challenge of being a football coach and a football manager. You can prepare and plan as much as you want and then you come to the game and there’s emotion, there are human beings involved and there’s another team and another manager on the other side of the pitch who have the same intent as us.
‘So that’s our challenge, but we’re positive over time that doing the right things at the training ground will become apparent in games and we’ll develop our style of play.
“As it’s already been said, it won’t happen overnight, but I’m very confident if we do the rights things then people will see a style of football that they can get behind and they’ll see improvement in the team and in the players, and we can pick up results going forward.”
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