Donacien: I've Never Seen Anything Like McKenna's Level of Preparation
Thursday, 18th Aug 2022 17:51
Town defender Janoi Donacien believes he and his colleagues go into every game they play better prepared than most sides thanks to the meticulous planning of boss Kieran McKenna, whose impressive statistics tend to support the theory.
The former Manchester United first-team coach has so far been in charge for 27 league games, only four of which ended in defeat, and while the Blues came up short in their quest to reach the play-offs last term, an unbeaten four-game run has seen them installed as early-season leaders this time around.
“I don’t think you’d believe it,” said Donacien when asked to provide an insight into the attention to detail provided by McKenna and his staff in the build-up to every fixture. “I’ve just come out of a team meeting and we’re extremely well prepared for every game, including video clips of the opposition in their recent games.
“In our training sessions he breaks it down so you can see the pictures of what he is after from us, as well as showing what we can expect from the opponents. He does it in a way that is completely new to me. I’ve never seen anything like it from any other coach or manager.
“It helps a lot and when matchday comes round it all seems natural because we’ve prepared so well. I know where the press is coming from, I know where the spare man is going to be, that sort of thing.”
Donacien is revelling in his role on the right side of a three-man backline, which gives him licence to move upfield whenever the opportunity arises and the way he combines down the flank with wing-back Wes Burns — typically summed up by Town’s opening goal in last week’s 3-0 home win over MK Dons — is one of the biggest success stories of McKenna’s still-brief tenure.
“I know where Wes is and he knows where I am,” said Donacien. “We have a great understanding and it seems to be getting better, the more was play alongside each other.
“Regardless of who we are playing, whether it’s a team at the top or one that might be struggling near the bottom, he is just as thorough with the details, finite details, he provides.
“It’s not complicated either. We have our team meetings and we have individual meetings too, and Martyn Pert [assistant manager] is also closely involved in providing info. If we turn in a good performance, it’s a team effort between us all, the players and the coaching staff.”
Asked to describe his role in his own words, Donacien continued: “Well, obviously, I’m first and foremost a defender. But the gaffer wants me up and down, supporting play but staying connected with the defence and at the same time staying connected with the likes of Wes and Lee [Evans].
“I wouldn’t say it’s a certain position, just the way the gaffer wants me to play. As long as we’re all flowing together it should always work for us.
“As long as we all cover each other, we’re moving up the pitch together and we’re going across the pitch, as long as we’re pressing down, the gaffer just wants us to keep on top of teams.
“We’ve been together for a year now as a unit and I know that if I’m being dragged over defensively, Wes is tucking is behind me so that if the ball goes beyond me, he is there and ready to deal with it. It’s all good.”
Was it something McKenna initiated immediately after his appointment. “I’m not really sure about that,” said Donacien. “We played with three at the back against Sunderland last year [the last of John McGreal’s four games as caretaker boss] and I’m assuming he thought it worked well and that he would stick with it.
“It has certainly worked out for us, both individually and as a team. We’ve looked a lot more solid; we’re attacking well at the same time and we’ve looked a lot more connected.
“It gives me a chance to play both sides of my game and I’m relishing the challenge. I want to do even more, both defensively and in an attacking sense, and the work I’m doing in training is hopefully going to bring about the improvement on match days.”
Donacien was quizzed about his part in the celebration after he set up Conor Chaplin for the third goal against MK Dons. He laughed: “You know what, when I saw it replayed it looked as if it was really organised — but it really wasn’t.
“Chappers was running away and pointing at me and Wes was there, you know, so we had the trio and we just rolled with it. But it definitely wasn’t as organised as it may have looked.”
The former Accrington player, who moved to Ipswich in the summer of 2018 as then manager Paul Hurst set about strengthening the squad he inherited from predecessor Mick McCarthy, caught the eye as he contributed two assists last week for Town’s first and third goals.
He showed some nifty footwork on the right before Chaplin drilled home from his pass to complete the scoring and he laughed: “I’d love to say I had been working on that all week in training but I just saw the opposing player darting in and I also caught sight of Chappers, so I thought I’d chop back inside and set Chappers up.
“I did something similar against Fleetwood last season and I want to be more of a presence in the opposition box. I want to be crossing balls and I’ve been working with Chas [Charlie Turnbull] on my delivery. I’m pushing myself to be better, the best I can be hopefully. It’s about working on it every day and striving to get better.”
After Town outplayed MK Dons and then, in an entirely different test at Burton in midweek, weathered an early storm before netting what proved to be the winner from Marcus Harness, what sort of game does Donacien envisage at Shrewsbury on Saturday?
He said: “Going on past games I think they try to play up to a point but I can see them loading up the box and defending. It’s more up to us to impose ourselves on them really. They will try to make it as difficult as possible for us so we know what to expect.”
Donacien believes the camaraderie between the players to be a huge factor in Town’s success and he added: “We’ve got boys from here, there and everywhere and as everybody knows Suffolk is quite, well, far away. We’ve got to be a tight-knit group and close with each other, both on the pitch and off it. It’s a very good group.
“Also, being humble and relaxed definitely helps to get the best out of each other. We are a very humble team, a team who work very hard for each other, whether it’s off the pitch, on the pitch or at the training ground. We’re all in it together, that’s for sure.
“We know we’re top of the league but no one is getting carried at this early stage of the season. We’re not focusing on anything else but the next game. One game at a time, that’s the plan and there’s no danger of us looking any further ahead than that. Try to pick up three points at Shrewsbury and only then will we think about the next one.”
Photo: Matchday Images
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