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Magilton: I Saw Greatness in McKenna
Thursday, 9th May 2024 14:28

Blues legend Jim Magilton is a great admirer of current Town boss Kieran McKenna and says he saw “greatness” in him long before his time at Portman Road.

Magilton, a key man in George Burley’s side in the late 1990s and early 2000s and later a manager of the club for three years, got to know McKenna during his time as the Irish FA’s elite performance director.

The Belfast-born former midfielder, who turned 55 on Monday, interviewed McKenna for a role with the Northern Irish U21s, which in the end didn’t happen due to the young coach’s commitments with Tottenham’s academy.

Magilton is currently the manager of Cliftonville in his home city of Belfast and had a double celebration on Saturday.

“We were playing in a cup final, the Irish Cup final, which Cliftonville haven’t won in 45 years,” he explained on this week’s Life’s a Pitch TV.

“We were playing against Linfield, a top side, managed by an ex-Ipswich Town player in David Healy, and we managed to win the game 3-1 after extra-time.

“A huge day for the club, a huge day for the players, huge day for the supporters. Fantastic.

“If Carlsberg were going to do weekends, which actually they did, Ipswich getting promotion and a birthday which we won’t talk too much about, what a weekend it was!”

Even while celebrating Saturday’s triumph at Windsor Park, Magilton’s thoughts weren’t too far away from his old club.

“It was the first thing I asked when I was interviewed after the game, ‘How did they get on?’ and obviously just the emotion, I’ve experienced it, I know what it feels like, I know how much it means to the fans.

“It was just unbelievable. This boy can do no wrong, he’s starting to bug me now, he really is starting to bug me!

“Even his pre-game analysis and post-game analysis, nobody can disagree with him and he says it in this lovely Fermanagh accent, you’re just waiting for him to burst into song whilst he’s doing it.

“And he’s probably a brilliant singer, but even if he’s not a brilliant singer, he has Ed Sheeran on speed dial, so ‘Ed, can you just sing this for me?’. He’s just boring the living daylights out of me now!”

Following the celebrations in the park on Monday, McKenna, 37, was spotted helping out contractors clearing up the rubbish left behind.

“I saw that, he’s just a… he’s a geek!” Magilton laughed. “No, he’s an incredible man. What a job he’s done, back-to-back promotions, it’s quite incredible.”

The 52-times-capped Northern Ireland international was hugely impressed by McKenna when he tried to bring him into the U21s set-up and remains a big fan.

“I am, I’m a great admirer. I saw greatness, if you like. And you don’t use that term loosely in the modern game,” he said.

“When I was around him, not only did he have great knowledge, and he’s still a young man and that was 10 years ago, but it was his meticulous planning.

“It was the way that he spoke about the game and more importantly it’s how he delivered it to the players for them to understand it, which at times can be quite difficult - we players aren’t the brightest, well, I’ve played with a few that aren’t the brightest.

“He has this wonderful way with people, with players and he takes that responsibility so well. He conducts himself so well on top of everything else.

“It’s his composure as well, which is quite striking. He doesn’t overreact, he doesn’t get too carried away. There’s a level keel, he doesn’t get over-emotional. We know the Championship provides a roller-coaster.

“It’s his level of composure and the quality that he provides. Just his assessments of his team. I’ve listened a lot to what he has to say and you’re in total agreement, you’re actually nodding your head at the TV.

“That is developed. Obviously, he’s worked with great managers too, but to come from an academy background and be pushed into a first-team environment, especially the club he was at [Manchester United], he has to learn very quickly.

“I’m sure there was criticism being pushed, there was some criticism being pushed at him and [Michael] Carrick and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer when they took over, but he has learnt a great deal and stepped into this role.”

Magilton says he thought McKenna was an ideal fit for Town when he was appointed in December 2021.

“There is a standard at the football club, there always has been,” he reflected. “It is one of the most traditional football clubs in the country if you think of the managers, the great managers that have been at the helm.

“Think about two England managers, Sir Alf [Ramsey], Sir Bobby [Robson], you think even in my era with George [Burley] and Joe [Royle], they conducted themselves so well, fantastic people.

“They all had wonderful qualities. I didn’t know Sir Alf but I knew Sir Bobby briefly, worked under Joe and George, two fantastic people.

“When he got the job, he just fitted the profile of the football club, I knew he’d be a big success, I’m not sitting here after the fact. I just knew it was a great fit and that given time he would establish himself as a top manager.”

Photo: LAPTV

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FarnboroBlue added 15:14 - May 9
Got to love Jimmy Mags! One of the club's saddest days when he left, terribly handled by you know who. Glad that he's still got an affinity with the club, great comments re: KMcK, I wonder how he would have handled JM in his pomp?

terryf added 16:00 - May 9
Awful treatment for a great club servant. He'd just beaten Norwich too! Then Keane arrived and the next 20 years were awful, so to witness some wonderful football under Kieran during the past two years has been just wonderful for both young and old fans.

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 17:29 - May 9
Great player and no mean manager for us. Good on ya, Jim. You're holding my flag.

Steve_ITFC_Sweden added 17:31 - May 9
PS: You looked a bit surprised when the team bus picked a few of us up on the way to the ground that day in Belgium, but you took it all in good spirit.

SouperJim added 17:33 - May 9
G'wan Jim!

Bert added 18:43 - May 9
Will never forget Magilton’s goals in the Bolton play off semi. He was like a man possessed fighting for his club. He will always be welcome at PR.

Linkboy13 added 19:10 - May 9
A great servant to Ipswich who wouldn't look out of place in any Ipswich team. Jimmy was so passionate about the game and it sometimes got the better of him. I remember at a certain press conference Jim completely lost it. He was also having personal problems off the pitch. It got to the point where the club had no alternative but to part company with him. But dispite all this Jim still loves the club.

SussexTractor added 20:49 - May 9
A fantastic captain of Ipswich and a decent manager. Jim deserves to be respected.

Karlosfandangal added 22:18 - May 9
That hat trick goal in the Bolton Play Off. fought the roof off…..I had to go and have a coffee and a KFC to calm the nerves before driving home

What a game

NITFC added 23:03 - May 9

Saxonblue74 added 06:18 - May 10
Still loves the club that treated him with such disrespect. Very much the mark of the man.

OohArrPaulGoddard added 08:53 - May 10
Great to hear Jim on good form. My favourite memory of Jim was him absolutely losing it with a young Scott Baron when Scott did not make a simple pass to it. Always wanted to get on the ball no matter what the score. A proper football enthusiast.

Vexorg added 16:21 - May 11
I’ll never forgive that tw*t with the bed sheet

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