Ashton rallies: "United, Great Chance for Town's Promotion Push!"
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Ashton rallies: “United, Great Chance for Town’s Promotion Push!”

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Mark Ashton claims he sensed he had discovered a man who could ‘carry the weight’ of managing Ipswich Town after meeting Kieran McKenna for the first time.

McKenna, a career coach, quit his position as Manchester United’s assistant manager in December 2021 to replace Paul Cook in the Portman Road dugout, his first senior managerial position.

Since then, he has transformed the Blues from a mid-table League One team to a table-topping Championship outfit just three games away from the Premier League, due to an incredible league record of P112 W65 D33 L14.

After the 37-year-old was unsurprisingly crowned Championship Manager of the Year, chief executive Mark Ashton told the EADT and Ipswich Star: “I told Kieran tonight that it seems like a long time ago that we met and first discussed him joining this football club.” He has been great from the start. I’m really proud of him.

“Dedicating the prize to everyone of his staff and family is typical Kieran, but ultimately he’s the boss of that football department; he’s the one who sets the tempo, the one who sets the standards, the one who drives it forward, and the one who comes in first and leaves last every day.

“Whatever happens at the end of the season, this is a fantastic achievement for him and the football club.” “I’m so happy for him.”

When asked what his first impression of McKenna was in that aforementioned first interview, which took place days before an awful FA Cup loss at League Two club Barrow, Ashton replied: “My sense was pretty strong on his beliefs. I’d done my homework on his football background – the technical, tactical aspects – so there was practically no discussion about it since his pedigree was obvious.

“I just wanted to see Kieran McKenna the man. What are his values? What about his work ethic? How did he communicate? Could he lead? Could he carry the weight of Ipswich Town Football Club? Could he handle the weight of two former England managers, 30,000 potential League One fans, and a former players’ association brimming with international players? Every day, I believe he makes this football team proud.

“I’m happy for every single person in this football club who works tirelessly every single day. As I’ve said to you before, we don’t get it right all the time. But we have a way of working, we’re passionate and we care about what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to rebuild this football club for its local community and its supporters. I think on Saturday, again, you saw a fanbase that was just incredible.”

Ipswich, a freshly promoted team, now leads the Championship table with less than three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The Blues might fall as low as fourth by the time their next game begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, April 27. The fact is, however, that if McKenna’s side wins their next three games – Hull (a), Coventry (a), and Huddersfield (h), they will be guaranteed Premier League qualification.

When asked about keeping his emotions in check, Ashton stated, “It’s not easy, but if it was, everyone could do it.

“I think what makes it more difficult for me is that I genuinely care so much. I think anyone who sees me or is around me on matchday will know that I’m naturally anxious. I’m not anxious for Kieran or the team, I’m anxious for everyone connected with the football club because we want to do them proud, we want to do this right and we want to do it well.”

The Blues chief added: “We’ve given ourselves a great opportunity. And one thing everyone knows is that Kieran will have that squad, that staff, ready to compete and we will take it to the limit.

“As I’ve said before, with the size and specialness of this football club, with its history, with the uniqueness of this fanbase, I can’t do this on my own. Kieran can’t do it on his own. We have to do it as one. The fans are going to play a huge part in this, again, in the last three games.

“I said to you recently, every time we’ve asked this fanbase to step up they’ve stepped up. Well, we are going to have to step up again as one because this is going to take one mighty effort to get across the line. Together as one we’ve got a great chance.”

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