Buidling Dreams Together


EFL Managers Who Could One Day Manage In The Premier League: Kieran McKenna

Being a manager, who would want to do it? Well, with names like Roy Hodgson, Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce soon to be dropping out of the game, there’s 72 managers in the Football League who are all vying to reach the top. In this series I am going to be discussing five managers who have the potential to fill some big boots.

Kieran McKenna

In no particular order, and no surprise it’s one of the first names of this short series, it is Kieran McKenna. His managerial career has been nothing short of a success so far. Approaching the end of his third year at Ipswich, his win ratio stands at 58%, a feat many managers struggle to find at a club. Let alone on your first try. However, his success stems much further back than the last two-and-a-half seasons, so let’s delve in.

The Northern Irishman’s career started successfully at Tottenham Hotspur, after gaining a full-time contract at 16, his playing career looked bright. Captaining his club’s youth team, he went on to make seven appearances for his countries under 21 side, the midfielder was highly respected.

LURGAN, IRELAND – SEPTEMBER 07: Jan Rosenthal of Germany challenges Kieran McKenna of Northern Ireland during the U21 Euro 2008 qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Germany at the Mourneview Park on September 07, 2007 in Lurgan, Ireland. (Photo by Paul McErlane/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Training amongst names like Jamie O’Hara and Jake Livermore in his youth days, McKenna’s days were unfortunately cut short due to a chronic hip injury. After two years of rehabilitation, which featured two operations, he’d had enough.

Searching for a new role in football, he decided to study for his coaching badges whilst undergoing a degree in sports science at Loughborough University. Gaining his experience, McKenna endured lengthy spells at Nottingham Forest, Leicester City and even Vancouver Whitecaps, where he was technical assistant. All before eventually residing back at Spurs as the head of academy performance analysis.

This role led him through the ranks at Spurs where he eventually became under 18’s manager. His work was impressive, and he managed to guide his young team to the semi-finals of the renowned FA Youth Cup; Kyle Walker-Peters and Marcus Edwards names amongst the side.

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 02: Kieran McKenna, Under 18s Coach of Tottenham Hotspur (c) talks to his players prior to the FA Youth Cup match between Tottenham Hotspur and Rotherham United at The Lamex Stadium on December 2, 2015 in Stevenage, England. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

In 2016, he left to pursue a role at Manchester United, his boyhood club. The role of under 18’s manager was a major stepping stone for what was about to come.

Taking over from Paul McGuinness, his time with the under 18’s attracted attention from the hierarchy at the club. Winning the Premier Division North title in just his second season in charge.

Prior to the 2018-19 season Jose Mourinho appointed McKenna as his new assistant manager. Jose’s long-standing friend and assistant manager of 17 years Rui Faria decided it was time for a change as he head to the middle east to become manager of Al Suhail. Kieran joined ex-Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick in the dugout.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 06: Coach Kieran McKenna, Coach Michael Carrick and Manager Jose Mourinho of Manchester United in action during a first team training session at Aon Training Complex on November 6, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Manchester United via Getty Images)

After Mourinho’s departure came club legend Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the county Fermanagh man kept his job and came under plenty of praise from his peers. Nicky Butt, head of first team development at the time stated that “Kieran was a breath of fresh air (when he arrived at the club), a very good coach. He’s on it.”

On December 16th, 2021, Ipswich announced Kieran Mckenna as their new manager, a huge gamble for both parties. Having only managed academy sides prior to this, the former Spurs coach had taken a huge leap; joining a club with major history, which has been massively underachieving for some time now.

His first season was a positive one; he took Ipswich on an unbeaten run spanning through February and March, going 11 games unbeaten.

However, this wasn’t enough for Ipswich that season, the work from previous manager Paul Cook meant that Ipswich could only reach 11th place come the end of the season.

With the building blocks already in place for the 2022-23 season, Ipswich gained automatic promotion back to the Championship. Finishing second, achieving promotion on the 29th of April following a 19-game-unbeaten run. A major accomplishment for both the side and the manager. Mckenna, rightly so, was rewarded with a new four-year contract.

Approaching almost 121 games in charge of Ipswich (as per this post), the former university student has the Tractor Boys sitting second in their first season back in the Championship. Massively overachieving, it is fair to say that he has took to management like a duck to water and regardless of how this season ends he has put Ipswich back on the map as key players in the Championship.

He has achieved high praise from former Ipswich player and Manager Jim Magilton, currently the Irish FA’s Elite Performance Director, has “He adjusts the session to how the players are and gets what he wants out of the session. Everything is linked and game related. Nothing is for show – it has to be about the game.”

Whilst the Championship season remains very much up in the air and whether or not Ipswich gain promotion, McKenna has done an elite job. His name is set to be at the top of every director of football’s list this summer to fill a manager’s vacancy, with no doubt he will reach the Premier League soon, with the Tractor Boys or not.

LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 14: Kieran McKenna, Manager of Ipswich Town claps the away fans after the Sky Bet Championship match between Millwall and Ipswich Town at The Den on February 14, 2024 in London, England. (Photo by Dylan Hepworth/MB Media/Getty Images)

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