June 19, 2024

Ipswich Town: Ashton says stability provides Championship advantage

Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton says tying down manager Kieran McKenna to a new four-year contract will prove vital in attracting new players to the club this summer.




Former Manchester United assistant manager McKenna recently led the Blues to automatic promotion in League One with an impressive 98 points and 101 goals.

Such an impressive first full season in senior management saw the 37-year-old linked with vacant positions at Celtic and Leicester earlier this month.

That speculation was put to bed, however, when the Northern Irishman extended his Portman Road deal until 2027.

“Let’s be clear, when you are re-contracting players or trying to bring a player into the football club they are going to want to know who the manager is,” said Ashton.

“This is an important part in transfers now because the players we are talking to have the knowledge that McKenna is going to be our manager for the foreseeable future.”

Ashton continued: “As a board we talked about this whilst the season was ongoing. We felt we’d let the season finish and, whatever way in which the season had finished, it was something that we wanted to do.

“On the Sunday morning after the season finished we sat down. I said ‘the board want to reward you with a new contract’, and Kieran straight away said ‘I want to be here’.

“We then had several discussions making sure our alignment was right. We wanted to make sure that what we saw as the trajectory for the club matched Kieran’s and that Kieran’s thought processes matched ours. We both looked at each other and said ‘you can’t get water between our thought processes’.


Ipswich Town chief executive Mark Ashton on why John McGreal was appointed  interim manager and why the 'season is not dead'


“From that point it was about sorting the detail. Sometimes that takes time, but Kieran shook my hand and, to me, his word was his bond. To finally get his name on the dotted line is good.”

On what’s made McKenna such a good fit for the football club, Ashton said: “His values. I’ve said this from day one time and time again. In fact Kieran and I laughed about it that Sunday morning after we’d been promoted.

“I didn’t interview Kieran on his technical and tactical ability. We’d done our homework as a club. We knew what he could do. It was more about values. The integrity, the work ethic, how he wanted to build. The minute you have alignment you have something quite special.

“Personality is key. The last thing you want to do is come in to work every day not enjoying working with somebody who is in one of the key seats.

“Kieran is someone we respect and really enjoy working with. His integrity, his hard work, his honesty – the way he approaches work every single day matches the values of mine, the ownership group and the leadership group at this football club. That’s key.”


Ex Manchester United coach Kieran McKenna pens new four-year deal at  Ipswich | PlanetSport


A total of 14 different Championship clubs changed their manager at least once during the 2022/23 campaign.

“I think our stability is a differentiator,” said Ashton.

“Look at the volatility in the market and the number of clubs who changed manager last season – some twice or even more – in the Premier League and Championship last season.

“Stability is an advantage to us. I’m so fortunate to have the ownership group that I do. Mark Steed at PSPRS, Ed Schwartz at ORG and (chairman) Mike O’Leary really give me that stability.

“I give Kieran the oxygen to do his job. I’m not at the training ground every day. We talk about strategy, we talk about operations and I go and support him when I need to. But I need to leave him to run the football side of the football club.

“The board do the same with me. They leave me, they don’t interfere, they let me get on with it. That is so important to give us the runway to build the football club.

“I just think stability is going to be a key advantage.”

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