Penney: Exciting Time to Be an Ipswich Player
Thursday, 13th Jan 2022 06:00
Matt Penney believes he is one of several Town players who have upped the level of their performances in the short time that new manager Kieran McKenna has been at the club.
It is less than a month since 35-year-old McKenna took charge of team affairs and the Blues have triumphed in both of the Northern Irishman’s first two games in charge, picking up three points and scoring five goals without conceding any.
Asked if he and his colleagues were now performing closer to their true potential, Penney replied: “Yes, I think when a new manager comes in it’s a fresh start and an opportunity for everybody to impress.
“The boys are enjoying it at the minute, the style of play and the manager’s philosophy, and I think it is showing with the performances getting better and better. I think this is just the beginning really and hopefully there is a lot more to come.”
Penney, who has played most of his football in a back four since arriving from Sheffield Wednesday, has switched under McKenna to operate as left wing-back in what was a 3-4-1-2 system at Gillingham last Saturday, although it was interim boss John McGreal, in the last of his four games in charge, the 1-1 home draw with Sunderland, that first cast him in the role.
The former Sheffield Wednesday player said: “I’ve been given a fresh opportunity and I just wanted to show everybody, and especially the manager, what I can do and how I can be an asset to him and the team. I just want to keep it going now, to keep playing and helping to build the momentum.
“What’s my favourite position? I do enjoy the wing-back role and I think it suits me a bit more than left-back, but wherever the gaffer wants to play me I’m happy to do so and I will always give 100 per cent.”
Penney provided an assist at Gillingham for the third goal in Town’s 4-0 win, the one that ended top scorer Macauley Bonne’s 10-game wait to add to the 11 he scored following his arrival on a season-long loan move from QPR, and his only goal came when he opened the scoring in the 2-1 defeat at Cheltenham in August last year.
On the right side of the pitch, Wes Burns appears to be revelling in the role of right wing-back. He netted the fifth goal of his Town career when he made it 2-0 at Gillingham – and Penney would love to emulate the Welshman’s tally.
He added: “I’m just the same as Wes and if I can help out with an assist or a goal I will do. My main target is to get a few more of both but while I’m also looking to get forward as much as possible I’m also looking to keep the back door shut as often as possible and carry on with the clean sheets we kept in our last two games.
“It’s very encouraging. You know the old saying – if you don’t give goals away it increases your chances of winning the game, or at least taking something from the game, especially if you can take your chances when they come along at the other end, which we have been doing lately.
“The clean sheets are massively important and we’re looking to keep that side of things going at Bolton on Saturday as we look to build on the two wins we’ve had under the new manager. We want to have a real go between now and the end of the season.”
Has Penney had any one-to-one conversations with the new boss? He said: “It’s a big squad but I think we’ve all had little chats with the new manager.
“The thing for every player when a new manager comes in is to try to prove themselves on the pitch and let their actions speak louder than anything else.
“I’ve spoken to him about bits and bobs but the main thing is to deliver when you’re in the team and that’s what I’ve tried to do.
“I’ve been looking to show what I have to offer and show what an asset I can be to him as a member of the starting line-up.
“The gaffer has come in with an outstanding pedigree because he has been working at the very highest level in the game and with some of the best players in the country at Manchester United.
“It’s an exciting time to be an Ipswich player and we’re not just picking his brains, we’re doing the same with the members of his staff who have come into the club as well.
“It’s great to be learning from them every day and I know the rest of the boys feel the same. At the end of the day they are going to make us better players and people.
“He has referred during training to some of the players he worked with at Old Trafford. I spoke to him and his assistant, Martyn Pert, about some of the players they worked alongside at United.
“I was trying to pick their brains about how things are run at Old Trafford and without giving too much away he told us bits and pieces about how the top players go about their business.
“There are things he has said that will allow me to take things from their games to try to improve myself as a player. He’s been really good with things like that.”
Penney also had praise for experienced teammate Sone Aluko, from whose defence-splitting pass he provided the assist for Bonne to score at Gillingham. “Sone’s great and I speak to him a lot,” he added. “I’ve also played against him a few times over the years and I have a good connection with him.
“He knows I love that type of inside to outside run and I think you can see how connections are getting built all over the pitch between the players now.
“Sone has bags of experience and knows the game and what it’s all about. He’s a really, really good professional and I haven’t got a bad word to say about him. Above all, he’s a great player and a great asset to the team – and it’s great to be playing alongside him.
“It’s the same with James Norwood too. He’s come back and scored in each of the last four games. Nors is great and that’s his normal self, bless him. He does what he’s always done and that’s score goals.
“The boys are really excited about what he’s doing right now and we all hope it continues. The more often he sticks the ball in the back of the net, the more it is going to help us to reach our target.”
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