Ipswich Town: Kieran McKenna reflects on Innsbruck Cup win
Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna believes that his side’s performance in the Innsbruck Cup will help them make the step up to the Championship this season.
The Blues lifted the trophy after beating RB Leipzig 1-0 and drawing 1-1 against Werder Bremen, leaving them top of the table with four points.
They competed well throughout both games with the two Bundesliga sides, setting them up to travel to Sunderland on August 6th for their Championship opener.
McKenna admitted that Town wanted to take part in the tournament to test themselves against top-level opponents, explaining that the games will help them adapt to the second tier of football much quicker.
“It was a really good day for us, a really good exercise,” he said.
“It was exactly what we wanted, really. We wanted a tactical challenge of two ball-playing teams who were really going to test us, especially on our out-of-possession game but on our own possession game as well.
“From a mental point of view, we were going to have to show resilience and character because the games weren’t always going to go our way. We wanted to get 60 minutes into the squad and we were going to have to manage the games in a different way to what we always have to do.
“It was a great experience for all of those things, a great experience for the players and a good day.
“Preston and Luton were two very tough games, but they were games where I would’ve thought we had the lion’s share of possession. That won’t be the case in every game this year, so we’ll need to add different strings to our bow, be adaptable, be able to work to different game plans and be good in all moments of the game.
“Today gave us a good chance to practice that. Big credit to the players, because we didn’t really have any preparation time after Tuesday night [v Luton]. We just did some video meetings and we had a game plan that was different for both games.
“It was a great testament to their ability to go and execute gameplans against really good teams. We’re going to need that this season.”
Despite the clear positives from the afternoon, McKenna is keen to stay grounded before the start of the new campaign.
“We won’t get too carried away,” he stressed.
“Maidenhead played well against us in pre-season. It’s pre-season, you don’t get too far ahead of yourselves.
“What I do see is that, as the challenges get harder, the players are up for it. They feel like they want to take that next step as a team, and the tougher the opponent, the more excited they are to go and challenge themselves.
“That hopefully bodes well for the season ahead because we’re going to have to step up, but I think the players are really looking forward to that challenge.”
The tournament draws Ipswich’s pre-season preparations to a close, having won five, drawn three and lost just two of their 10 games.
McKenna agrees that it has been hard work for everyone associated with the club, but argues that they’ll be better for the experience ahead of the start of the competitive campaign.
“It’s been good, it’s been hard work for the staff and players. Credit to everyone involved.
“We wanted to stretch the players and I think we’ve done that with the training block in the first few weeks and with the games programme, especially in the last 10 days.
“We stretched the staff as well in terms of how hard everyone had to work, but I think that sets us up really well for the season. A good pre-season doesn’t guarantee anything during the season, but it’s much better than having a bad pre-season.
“The players have worked well and we’ve had a lot of competitive minutes. We’re continuing to develop as a team, so I think it gives us the best chance to hopefully start the season.”
The first-team squad will travel back to England on Saturday afternoon, but they will be given time off before returning to training.
McKenna confirmed that the players will return on Monday ahead of their Championship opener against Sunderland, although he’s aware that he’ll have to manage their training sessions to make sure they don’t burn out.
“We’ll travel tomorrow [Saturday], so I don’t know whether you could say that the players will have a weekend off, but they won’t be training.
“Then we build into it next week. We get a good training block next week to build up to the game. It’ll be a long week with the game on the Sunday, so we’ll manage the load appropriately, but the excitement will build for next Sunday and the season ahead.”
The manager is optimistic that he can welcome back three injured players into the group, with Cameron Humphreys due to be involved from Monday after suffering a concussion.
Nathan Broadhead [quad] and Massimo Luongo [adductor] will be assessed in the coming days, while Christian Walton is also a concern after injuring his foot.
“We’ll get updates on them when we get back because they stayed at basecamp.
“Cameron should be back on Monday because he had a concussion. Massimo and Nathan, we’ll see how they got on in the last few days.
“Christian has a little problem in his plantar fasciitis, so we’ll have to see how he is next week.”