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McKenna: First Half of Season Form Shouldn't Be Overlooked
Friday, 28th Apr 2023 16:35

Kieran McKenna says his side’s performances in the first half of the season shouldn’t be overshadowed by the remarkable recent run which has put his side on the cusp of promotion back to the Championship.

The Blues’ current streak of 12 wins from 13 games scoring 37 times while conceding only two has inevitably grabbed headlines, but McKenna says the form in the early part of the season gave the campaign a strong platform upon which to build.

The Town boss was asked whether the run of form since mid-February has been beyond what he imagined might have been possible.

“Not really,” he reflected. “I think we've performed well all season. And we've really focused on those performances all season and I think we've hit a really consistently high level, and we always said that would be our focus.

“Not necessarily on points or position but on performing as well as we can. And I think the performances have been really consistent.

“If you talk about points, I think in the first 23 games of the season, we had 48 points. We're just above that target at the moment, but that's not drastically different to what we did in the first half of the season.

“So we've performed well all season, we've been consistent all season, we've kept to our beliefs and built on how we play as a team and that's put us in this position, and that's what we need to keep focusing on until the very last day.”

He added: “I think the boys who came in in January have done terrific, there’s no doubt about it and we’re on a really good run.

“I think the time to reflect on these things is the end of the season. I will say that to underplay our first half of the season would do a disservice to the group.

“The first half of the season, in the first 23 games we had 48 points and that’s with what you could probably describe as an injury crisis and working with a really small first-team squad. And if you double 48 points, then you’ve got 96 points.

“I think to only focus on our recent run would be an unfair reflection on the whole group and the impact of the whole squad across the season and the points that we’ve picked up consistently across the season, and even at the back end of last season, to be honest, we picked up a lot of points.

“Of course, we’re happy with the recent run, of course we’re in good form and, of course, the players who have come in in January have given the squad a good boost, but I think we we’re in a good position because of the consistency of our performance across the whole season.

“I recognise that and certainly if we are successful at the end of the season, it will be important to recognise the efforts of everyone in the squad in getting us to that position.”

Regarding Massimo Luongo, one of the four signings in what must go down as the club’s best ever January transfer window along with Nathan Broadhead, Harry Clarke and on-loan Leicester striker George Hirst, McKenna said: “He’s been excellent, no doubt about it. He’s been a big bonus in the second half of the season.

“To come in when he did having not played much in the first half of the season, I don’t think he’d played a competitive game since May when he arrived, to come in and hit the performance level and the consistency that he has done in the last few months of the season is a big credit to him. He’s been a big bonus to the squad and has been an excellent performer for us.”

The Blues boss had praise for the role of his coaching staff, as well as senior players such as Richard Keogh and Sone Aluko, who may not have played much but have contributed by adding their experience to the squad.

“Very much so,” McKenna continued. “I think I've got a fantastic coaching staff. I've said from the start, I've really enjoyed working with them.

“The effort, the detail, the attention that they give to the players every day and the improvements that they've helped instigate in the players individually and collectively on and off the ball and on our set plays is there for all to see. So that's a massive credit to them.

“I think the end of the season is the time to give out the plaudits. For now, the coaching staff are the same as myself in terms of very much preparing for Exeter. We're respecting that opponent and making sure that we do everything we can to prepare the players to go and deliver a performance.

“But there's no doubt that, as well as all the other staff, there's been a big impact there with the development of the team through the excellent work of the coaching staff.”

The manner in which the Blues performed in the two FA Cup ties against Championship title winners Burnley and the impressive recent away victories over four clubs fighting for the play-offs has fans - and journalists and ex-players - speculating that Town could compete very well in the second tier next season should they complete their promotion.

“I understand it and we want to give fans that sort of hope and we want to allow them to dream about these things,” McKenna smiled.

“But we can’t afford to think about that at this stage. There’s certainly no time to spend energy at the moment thinking about what would happen if we were in a certain league.

“We’re in the league that we’re in, we’re in a really important stage of the season and we need to focus on the next game and, to be honest, I’ve shut out any noise or any outside thoughts apart from that.

“The time to look at next season and think about what we want to achieve next will be at the end of the season.”

But he must be itching to test himself at a higher level? “My main itch is to represent this club really well and I’m proud to be the Ipswich manager. I think we’re developing the team really well, we’re developing the club.

“Everyone is developing the club and inputting to improving this club and that’s where my focus is and one element of that is that we want to progress this club to the next division, but it’s not the only one.

“We want to improve all aspects of the club, we want to improve and develop the team and as [CEO] Mark [Ashton] has said, we want to develop the community, the owners are massive in developing the whole area and helping people in the community and there are a lot of different aspects to that.

“My passion at the moment is trying to develop this team as well as we possibly can and after that we’ll take what comes.”

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Radlett_blue added 16:41 - Apr 28
"small first team squad"?
Really, all the other clubs in this league would die for the depth of our squad.

bucket99 added 16:55 - Apr 28
You have to admire the consistency of his tone in these interviews. Never too high, never too low. He clearly takes that approach in the dressing room before, during and after games as well, which must give the players huge quantities of self-belief.

Vancouver_Blue added 17:08 - Apr 28
What a breath of fresh air compared to the dross of Big Mick and The Pauls

Nutkins_Return added 17:43 - Apr 28
Radlett did you just not bother reading the context of that comment. He's referring to the period when we had a massive raft of injuries. We had Morsy and Humphreys as the only fit midfielders if you remember for a spell.

Cadiar added 17:45 - Apr 28
Radlett pseudo blue, you obviously don't really follow ITFC, before Christmas when we were drawing games we were down to 15 fit players at one point, injuries & illness the cause & 2 of them at least were goalkeepers. Since the new players came in in January and since the draw at bristol Rovers more players have been available resulting in the incredible run we have been on.

IpswichT62OldBoy added 18:31 - Apr 28
Humphries came in because we ran out of midfield players.

Essexipswichboy added 19:10 - Apr 28
Sorry I don't agree with the boss on that one .

The January signings in my opinion are probably the best signings in a January that I have ever seen anywhere.
Once they settled in's history

Lightningboy added 19:45 - Apr 28
Been a Season in 3 parts (imho).

August - December 8/10
December - February 6/10
February - May 10/10

The 4 January signings made a good team into a near perfect team.

Let's hope we can get the job done tomorrow 💙

Suffolkboy added 20:04 - Apr 28
KM knows exactly what he wants,what he wants to say, what impressions he wants and needs to leave AND what he wants for ITFC – at the end of this season and going forward .
A singular clarity of purpose, intent and delivery we've not seen for a lifetime ( for most of us)but it's wonderfully complemented by a natural honesty , modesty and total integrity and a humility which together make him a great Manager of men .

BeattiesBackPocket added 21:39 - Apr 28
Radlettblues had yet another nightmare comment 🙄

Karlosfandangal added 23:13 - Apr 28
I can see him here for the next 10 years and hopefully as manager of a Premiership Ipswich

oldbri added 00:39 - Apr 29

BontyBlue added 06:00 - Apr 29
Vancouver_Blue, “Big Mick and The Pauls”, nicely put! Do they have a greatest hits compilation?! Maybe nothing on record. I'll be listening to KMcK and the Sunshine Kids later today at Portman Road. One more time and it's a Saturday - oh yeah..

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