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McKenna: We Need to Enjoy Nights Like Tonight
Tuesday, 19th Sep 2023 23:15

Town boss Kieran McKenna says everyone connected with the club should enjoy nights like this evening’s 1-0 victory over Southampton at St Mary’s, the Saints having been a Premier League side last season while the Blues were in League One.

Omari Hutchinson’s first senior goal on his first league start was enough to see Town to the three points and back to second in the Championship table.

“We need to enjoy nights like tonight,” McKenna said. “As we keep saying, there’s such a long way to go in the season and the win in terms of the whole season doesn’t mean that much, but I think in isolation we have to enjoy nights like this.

“For us to come here as a newly-promoted team against a team coming down from the Premier League and perform how we did and show the quality that we did, show the resilience that we did and to get a result like that, we really need to really enjoy these moments as a whole club, supporters, players, everyone involved.”

Asked whether his plan was to prevent Southampton from playing out from the back, Hutchinson’s harrying of Shea Charles having led to his winning goal, McKenna said: “Of course it was, but that’s our game plan against everyone, that’s nothing very different.

“Southampton are a team who build up from the back, as many teams do, and one of our principles is to win the ball as high up the pitch as often as we can and look to create goals from it.

“A great goal for us. A great goal for Omari’s development, we’ve been joking with him down there, but from where he started a couple of months ago, for him to score his first professional goal from a sliding tackle, I don’t think he would have believed that that would have been part of his repertoire.

“So a great indicator for the progress that he’s making, a great indicator of the group that he’s developing in and the standards and the discipline that he’s learning here.

“And alongside the goal, his all-round defensive performance was excellent and, of course, he showed his quality and his bravery on the ball as well.”

McKenna was asked whether he had told the 19-year-old, who is on-loan from Chelsea for the season, that he needs to see more of that side of the game from him, McKenna smiled.

“Really clearly!” he said. “And I think he would attest to that. Part of the reason we spoke about that is because I think his capacity to do that is incredible.

“That probably surprised him but when I met him over the summer, we looked at some video and I told him I think he can be absolutely outstanding out of possession.

“He’s got the endurance to do it, he’s got the speed, he’s got the agility to move his feet and I think he can be top, top, top class out of possession.

“I said to him that if he doesn’t utilise that part of the game, if he doesn’t come here and develop that part of the game, it would be a waste of his talent because there are not many wingers who have the ability to do that side of the game as well as he does.

“It’s great that he’s developing on that front, but that probably reflects on the group and the culture that he’s coming into and the demands that the players put on each other, and he’s slotted into that well now and he’s developing nicely.”

Town kept their second away clean sheet in four days following the two games before the international break against Leeds and Cardiff in which they conceded four and two respectively.

McKenna was delighted with the back-to-back shutouts: “Definitely. It’s something we pride ourselves on, our organisation when we press but also organisation to be able to defend deep and counter-attack and be resilient and control the game without the ball at times as well.

“That’s important for us and to come away from home, Saturday-Tuesday, two away games, two long travels and two earn two clean sheets from front to back of the team, from starter to the last substitute, that’s a big thing for the squad.”

Quizzed on whether the players are pleased but tired in the dressing room, McKenna added: “I think the staff are more tired than them, their adrenaline’s pretty high in there. They’re happy and deservedly so.

“For the players, the supporters, the games are coming thick and fast, so we can’t rest on this, we need to prepare again.

“But certainly in the moment and tonight, we need to enjoy those feelings, enjoy the bonds that we’ve strengthened tonight as a team with players amongst themselves but also the players and the new players, with the supporters.

‘We need to enjoy those feelings, those connections and use that to strengthen us, to keep improving and get ready to go again on Saturday.”

McKenna admitted that he would have preferred to have scored a second goal with the Blues having come close on a number of occasions.

“Yes, it certainly would have been good to get the second goal, that would have been a big boost for us,” he said.

“Because you know when you’re not getting it, as much as we had momentum at that stage, we were the dominant team in the game, you know if you don’t get the second goal, then that’s going to flip and they’re going to bring on more quality, we’ll tire and you’re going to have to see the game out in a different way than we would ideally want to.

“I think frustrated is probably the wrong word because the efforts were there, we created some good chances, of course, Conor [Chaplin] hitting the underside of the bar would have been a great moment for us.

“But we did all the right things and as long as we’re doing the right things, then we know we need to still be more clinical and improve our turning of situations into goals.

“But we didn’t manage to do it, so if you don’t do that, then the next thing is that you need to see the game out like we did tonight. You need to show your organisation defensively, show your resilience, put every bit of physical effort in and see the game out at 1-0.

“The second goal would have been really big, it didn’t come, but a good thing for the squad to feel and see that if we get one goal, we know that we can trust our organisation and trust in our team to be able to defend the goal well.”

Asked what the key things he had taken from Southampton’s previous performances, their 5-0 loss at Sunderland and then Friday’s 4-1 reverse at home to Leicester, McKenna reflected: “I think every team has strengths and weaknesses. We knew the game was going to be really, really hard and it was just as hard as we expected.

“Of course, when a team’s coming off a game or a run of games where they’ve conceded goals and they’ve conceded a certain type of goal, it’s probably clear the areas that we were going to try and target tonight.

“But they’re a really good team and [manager] Russell [Martin] is building a playing style here, and that’s not easy. It’s easy for me to sit and say they’ve got fantastic players, they do have fantastic players, but integrating them into a team and into a style of play isn’t an easy process.

“I can’t comment too much on how that’s progressing but I know Russell’s a really good manager and I know they’ve got some really good players here, so I’m sure they’ll certainly improve and pick up results and get some momentum at some stage of the season.”

Photo: TWTD

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ArnieM added 23:53 - Sep 19
The thing I noticed about Hutchinson in tonight’s game was his unbelievable ability to dig the ball out from his opponent at an almost 90 degree angle to his opponent. He got the ball off them almost every time. Outstanding.

pennblue added 00:33 - Sep 20
This team is a privilege to watch and i have never seen the bond so strong between players and supporters. It is a joy to watch these players each week and they never give less than 110% which we have not seen a team do for ages.

The goal has to be to get back into Europe.

OliveR16 added 00:36 - Sep 20
Effectively Southampton had two extra days prep for that game - they played Friday not Saturday and as the home team in both no travel. Which just makes the performance more amazing as you would never have known that when watching the game.

arc added 01:43 - Sep 20
I don't mean to be gushy, but I love the account of McK's conversation with Omari. Can you imagine being a 19-year-old and having a serious professional sit you down and say "I've studied you, and here's what you good at, and here's what you can improve at." It must be unbelievable. I wish someone had done that for me!! :-)

Len_Brennan added 07:28 - Sep 20
@arc - I completely agree.
Anyone who has been watching Hutchinson over the last few games can totally see the change, and maturity, in his game. After his first couple of cameo appearances, I'll hold my hand up & say I thought he was only going to be an option off the bench for us, when we needed some piece of magic to unlock a tight defence & get us something out of a game.
I did not see him as a starter, this soon, away from home, against Southampton, keeping Nathan Broadhead on the bench, in a man of the match performance, regardless of whether he scored the only goal of the game. It's a great testament to the character of the lad, and also to the vision, coaching & man management of Kieran McKenna.
We'll never be able to afford him in order to sign him permanently; that game alone will have alerted scouts for other clubs as to just what he is capable of in first team senior football - the likes of a Dortmund even - and added to his transfer value.
But, one related benefit of his rapid development here will be how the club is viewed as a great place for top sides to send their best young players out on loan. Pochettino & his staff will be getting really positive feedback on him & the lad himself will undoubtedly be buzzing after games like that, and telling his mates what a great club this is to come to.
We want to be signing good young players on full time/permanent contracts, but given the huge disparity with the finances of the parachute clubs, we have to acknowledge the benefit & need of the loan market, for 2 or 3 well planned key signings, to help us compete at the business end of the table. Southampton still had numerous Premier League footballers, worth millions, in their squad last night, but everyone went home from St Marys, talking about Omari Hutchinson.

algarvefan added 08:05 - Sep 20
Well I enjoyed it!!!

MoscowBlueMule added 08:59 - Sep 20
The even bigger picture, Super McK is having those analytical session with the entire squad and I’d not be surprised if that’s happening all the way down to the Under 9s!

I read every single word of his interviews with an open mouth. I’ve been super McK football educated and believe now, I could be a football manger!

Bazza8564 added 09:02 - Sep 20
Let's face it, KM has totally delivered and we look the real deal, right across the park!
6 wins from 7 games, the new boys getting "Ipswich fit" and totally buying into the gaffers coaching methods, it's an unbelievable position and wonderful to see the club, as we've all said many times, in such great hands. I can't wait to see what Dane and Axel add when they get into their stride, it always seems to take a few games but as we saw with Brandon and Omari last night, and Nathan and George in January, when they find their feet then Lord help the opposition. So proud of them!

Bobby added 09:27 - Sep 20
I might start crying

midastouch added 09:41 - Sep 20
Great scenes at the end from the travelling support. It's so good to see so much unity at the club.

Lion added 11:57 - Sep 20
We are enjoying it Kieran, WE ARE 'KIN LOVING IT! Love you, the boys , the club, 4ever x

gosblue added 12:31 - Sep 20
Another thing I noticed was that by the time he was subbed on about 80 minutes, Hutchinson had nothing left. He had given absolutely everything he had. You only do that when you believe in what you’re doing and in what the boss is asking of you. Hirst wasn’t 100% fit but he was still a real handful and Scarlett was a yard off it but a start next Tuesday will do him the power of good. That game was perfect for Kayden Jackson to come on for 15 minutes, he was a big miss. A great effort throughout.

dirtydingusmagee added 12:52 - Sep 20
We need to cement Kieran's legs into Portman Rd , the man has real class,.

maninashed added 13:25 - Sep 20
Am I missing the apologies from those who said that the transfer window was underwhelming. Perhaps they now realize that McKenna and Ashton might know what they are doing.

TractorBeezer added 18:00 - Sep 20
Well done Kieran and the Boys. I too am really enjoying what is happening! Cant wait for Saturday at Portman Road!

MK1 added 05:34 - Sep 22
We certainly did. Great start and much better than most could have hoped for. Very promising start. Love the players attitudes. Really enjoying their football. Good to see.

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