Ipswich Town chief executive issues a fascinating update about Kieran McKenna…

Ipswich Town: Mark Ashton on keeping hold of Kieran McKenna…

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton already has a Kieran McKenna succession plan, but is confident his highly-rated manager will be with the club ‘for a long time to come’.

Since taking charge of the Blues in December 2021, McKenna has taken the club from mid-table in League One to their current position of second in the Championship table with a hugely impressive 99-game record of W58 D27 L14.

What the former Manchester United assistant boss has achieved in his first senior management role has certainly caught the eye of the football world, with the 37-year-old having been linked to the likes of Brighton, Celtic and Leicester over the last 12 months.

The Northern Irishman signed a new four-year contract at Portman Road back in the summer though and has repeatedly insisted that the club’s grand ambitions under wealthy US owners match his own personal plans to return to very top levels of the game.

Asked how confident he was that the club could see off any interest in McKenna going forwards, Ashton replied: “Kieran is vitally important to us. He’s done extremely well and we were delighted to get him on that new contract. He’s helped us set the DNA of the football department for many, many years to come. I genuinely believe he will be with us for a long time to come.

“What we’ve also done, around Kieran, is appointed Premier League standard staff right across the board – both at the training ground and at the Portman Road site – and given them an environment to flourish.

“That’s the coaching staff of Martyn Pert, Lee Grant, Charlie (Turnbull), Rene Gilmartin etc. That’s Andy Rolls and the performance team, whose work sometimes goes quietly unnoticed. That’s the back office staff here at Portman Road too. Look at the team behind the team now – we’ve got depth everywhere.


“Whilst I can understand you asking about the manager, it’s a natural thing to do, right now I’m fending off challenges from Premier League clubs for my other staff across the board. They’re sought after.

“The good thing for me is I hear those staff members say ‘I’m part of this rocket ship at Ipswich, I’m part of something very special, I’m going nowhere’. That’s heart-warming.”

Whilst there is every reason to believe McKenna is here to stay, is it also prudent that the club has a managerial succession plan in place? Does Ashton’s ‘data dashboard’, which highlights emerging player talent in the game, also keep tabs on the who the next Kieran McKenna could be too?


“My job is to plan for everything,” replied the Blues chief. “I have to try and be ahead of the curve in all areas of the football club – that’s what I’m expected to do.


“I’m looking right across the world at best practices and the next people in all positions.

“But as I said to you, I think Kieran is an absolute key member of our staff. He’s growing, he’s learning and developing with us. The great thing at the moment is that we’re all moving together at one pace.”

On working with a US-based ownership group, the club’s funding coming from the Arizona Public Safety Personnel Retirement System pension pot, Ashton added: “They’re supportive as ever. I go over there fairly regularly and they also come here. We talk about the plan and where we’re tracking against the plan, both on and off the pitch.


“Where they are so fantastic is they give myself and the management team the oxygen and the breathing space just to get on with our jobs. They don’t tinker on a day-to-day basis.


“They’re not the type of ownership group who are wild with their decision-making. In an industry where you play three games a week and you can have wild emotional swings from a win to a defeat they’re very calm.


“Stability, tenacity and calmness are our superpowers. Those are the things that gives us an edge on most. As owners go you’re going to struggle to get better. They are first class.”

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