Burns: New Boss Has Been a Breath of Fresh Air
Sunday, 9th Jan 2022 11:27
Wing-back Wes Burns says new manager Kieran McKenna has been a breath of fresh air since he came into the club just over three weeks ago, leading the Blues to victories in his first two matches including yesterday’s stunning 4-0 hammering of Gillingham at the Priestfield Stadium.
McKenna became the first Town boss since Roy Keane in 2009 to win his first two matches in charge at Portman Road, the Blues having comprehensively dismantled the Gills, who are third-bottom and without a win since October.
Burns, who scored Town’s second, says the game is up there with his favourite during his career.
“Very enjoyable,” he said. “I was saying after the game it was probably one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been a part of playing-wise.
“I think you could see from the performance how much all the lads enjoyed it - everyone wanting to get on the ball, everyone playing bravely, everyone playing forward and the quality of the goals was unbelievable.”
Asked how much of that has that come from the manager, the Welshman said: “All of it, to be honest. He’s been a breath of fresh air. Since the boss has come in, everything’s about playing forward, breaking lines, being brave on the ball. I think straight away you could see that today.”
Asked about the Northern Irishman’s pedigree as a coach having worked with the likes of Ronaldo at Manchester United, Burns said: “Obviously he’s been at United but you forget that he’s worked under [Mauricio] Pochettino [at Tottenham] as well, [Jose] Mourinho, arguably the best managers of our time.
“He’s obviously picked up a lot of little things along the way. When he talks to us in training, he gives us little bits of information, everyone stands up and takes notice straight away, everyone’s clued in.
“We don’t train for particularly long, an hour and a half maybe, it’s a lot of short and sharp stuff. It’s not massively long in the sense of a day.
“But for that hour and a half he does demand high intensity and everyone concentrating for that whole time and I think straight away, he’s been in two or three weeks now, and you can see the difference he’s made already.”
Is there one thing he’s said which you feel has made most difference? “I think the main thing he’s got us focused on is when we lose the ball everyone’s immediate reaction straight after losing it.
“I think you could see today when we lost it high up the pitch, everyone’s reaction - there were three, four, five players all trying to win the ball back straight away and I think that’s the main thing that he’s wanted us to work on.”
“He does that just through different drills, different possession drills. When you lose it you have to win it back within a certain amount of time or if you don’t win it back, you’ve got sprints to do, there are forfeits, there are different fun ways of teaching that.”
Town had previously won 4-0 at Portsmouth and 4-1 at Wycombe away from home as well as defeating Doncaster 6-0 at home, so the capability of winning by a large margin has always been there.
“I think there were times earlier on in the season, you look back at the Portsmouth game, the Wycombe game, the Doncaster game, where we come up and score a lot of goals and turn teams over pretty comfortably. It was just the consistency,” Burns reflected.
“Now you’re seeing back-to-back clean sheets, back-to-back wins, we’re scoring goals again, which is go. So it’s about just keeping that run going, keeping the momentum going as well.”
The former Fleetwood man believes the Blues can still get up into the division’s upper reaches with yesterday’s win moving them up a place to 10th, now eight points off the play-offs.
“Definitely,” he insisted. “I think before today we were 10 points off it but we go into each game with the objective of winning, the teams above us aren’t going to win every game between now and the end of the season, so it’s all to play for.”
Burns says Saturday’s display was one which other clubs will have noticed: “We said at half-time, we were 3-0 up after 25, 30 minutes and we had kind of a sloppy last 10 or 15 minutes of the half and so we can’t let teams see that we can be sloppy. We’ve got to make it a 90-minute performance.
“Bolton will look at us now ahead of next week and see that we will fight right to the end, we scored late on, I know it was a penalty, but we were still there creating chances towards the end.
“We can be better in and around the box at times but no doubt with another week’s training in us, we’ll create more chances and we’ll more away.”
Burns agreed that the second half display was every bit as important as the first: “I think we knew that the manager would get stuck right into them at half-time.
“They came out, they put an extra striker on, changed formation, which complimented us again, I think, because they tried to go man-to-man and obviously when you go man-to-man with a team that’s ultimately better and fitter, you’re going to lose. All in all, today was a great performance.”
Burns says he loves playing right wing-back: “I enjoy it, I get so much more of the ball facing the goal, one-v-one with the defender. For me it’s perfect. I don’t have to do too much defending because, as I’ve said before, JD [Janoi Donacien] does it all for me!
“I’m enjoying it, the formation suits me down to the ground and I’m pretty sure the lads would agree that it suits them as well.”
The system employed by McKenna with three centre-halves and also three forwards has suited the players.
“I think with the three at the back it gives us that little bit more solidity,” Burns reflected. “At times we go into a back five but that’s just defending their set plays and when we’re under the cosh a little bit but it’s not too often in the game when we’re a back five.
“I think you could see today that the likes of JD, Fridge [George Edmundson] and Woolfy [Luke Woolfenden] all stepping in through the line because there’s so much space to do so and we’ve worked on it all week, stepping in and creating pockets of play and things like that. And I think the patterns of play that we created today were evident.”
Regarding his goal, his fifth of the season, he added: “I’ll always be in the box to score goals! I get into that area quite a lot, I do practise it quite often in training.
“I don’t really get a chance to shoot from anywhere else so there’s no point in my practising from anywhere else, so as long as I keep getting in those positions, I’ll keep getting chances. It did take a little nick but it’s still my goal!”
Burns was involved in a chance which was created in the opening minute, which ultimately came to nothing but seemed to set the tone for the performance.
“I think we said before the game, we’ve got to start on the front foot,” he recalled. “We’ve got to be aggressive, we’ve got to impose our style of play on the game straight away.
“I know I fell over in the box, it’s not often I fall over in the box, but it kind of set the tone for the game. The away fans claimed a penalty, but I definitely just fell over!”
The 27-year-old said everyone was pleased for Macauley Bonne, who ended a 10-game goalless streak by netting his 12th of the season, and also for James Norwood, who has netted four goals in his last four league matches.
“All the lads are delighted, to be fair, even Nors coming back,” he continued. “I think everyone knows pretty much what went on with Nors, so for him to come back and have the effect that he has had on us and his four goals in four or five games now is perfect.
“Everyone’s happy, everyone’s scoring, glad to see Pens [Matt Penney] get an assist today, he’s had a rough spell as well for the last few weeks, so it was good to see him doing so well.”
Town had four goalscorers against the Gills with plenty of other players also looking to hit the target over the 90 minutes.
“Even the likes of Chappers [Conor Chaplin] and Pigs [Joe Pigott] when they come on as well, they’re hungry to score and impress and do well and do their bit for the team,” he said.
“Obviously Chappers came on today and put the penalty away, Pigs having won it. It’s going to be a team effort from now until the end of the season, especially with the Covid stuff. If a couple of lads are missing, we’ve got lads who can step in and play equally as well, if not better.
“We’ve got strength in depth, the likes of Bersant Celina, Kyle Edwards and Rekeem Harper will be coming back into the squad, there’s going to be competition for places, which is only going to make us better.”
He added: “I think you can see the enjoyment that everyone’s got when they’re playing now. Fridge [George Edmundson] trying to score from 30 yards, Samy [Morsy] shooting at every opportunity he gets. But they’re the little things, we’re creating so many more opportunities to shoot.
“I know a few weeks ago we were getting cheered when we were having one shot on goal in games, so to come back to the point where we’re scoring goals again, having multiple chances on goal, it’s good for us.”
Burns says that the Blues are currently targeting making up ground on the top six before they can set their sights any higher.
“I think for us at the moment trying to catch sixth as quickly as possible,” he said. “If we catch them, it could take us 10, 15 games to do so and then once we do that we then look to fifth, then to fourth, then to third. It goes that way.
“Until we catch sixth, we have to be realistic about every game. For us it’s about going into every game and just wanting to win. If we win every game then we’ll be alright.”
The one-time Bristol City trainee says he’s now looking forward to next week’s trip to 17th-placed Bolton Wanderers.
“When the games were being called off I just wanted to keep playing, keep playing, keep playing,” he said. “Roll on Bolton now.”
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