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Championship: McKenna on course for Premier League chance

One of the stories of the EFL season so far has been the continuing rise of Ipswich Town under the leadership of the relatively unknown Kieran McKenna.

After leading the team to promotion from League One, the young manager has continued the success story and has Ipswich in the top two of the Championship. 

The East Anglian outfit have won eight of their opening nine league games and now have a Premier League return firmly in their sights.

Blues seek a return to the glory days

It is 21 years since Town last graced the Premier League under the stewardship of George Burley and with the two Marcus' - Bent and Stewart - leading the line.

In fact, a fifth-place finish in the 2000/01 campaign saw the Tractor Boys qualify for Europe, only to be relegated the following season.

Since then, there has been two decades of mainly struggle, with the club dropping into League One at the end of the 2018/19 campaign.

Four seasons in the third tier followed, before McKenna changed their fortunes and made the fans believe again.

The Northern Irishman took charge of Town in December 2021 and eventually led them to an 11th-placed finish, ending the campaign with 70 points from 46 games.

A nine-game unbeaten run at the start of the 2022/23 season saw Ipswich - 4/1 to win the Championship title - set out their stall and get amongst the promotion hopefuls.

They endured a sticky patch over Christmas and New Year, with just one win in six matches, but got back on track with a 4-0 thumping of Morecambe on 24th January.

The Tractor Boys remained unbeaten until the end of the season (19 games) and sealed the second automatic promotion spot in what was one of the strongest League Ones in years.

Town take to the Championship

Several pundits predicted a potential push for the Championship play-offs this term, but not many would have backed them for three straight wins at the start of the campaign.

A surprise 4-3 reverse against Leeds United at Portman Road was their first hiccup of the season, but Ipswich - 10/11 to be promoted this season - responded in fine fashion.

Since that loss to Daniel Farke's men, the Tractor Boys have won five and drawn one of their next six league games to leave them second in the table.

On top of that league run, Ipswich are also through to the fourth round of the EFL Cup thanks to a 3-2 win over Premier League outfit Wolves.

McKenna has eyes on the top flight

Northern Irishman McKenna was a youth team player at Tottenham before a hip injury put pay to his playing career and he was forced to retire at just 23.

After studying a degree in Sports Science, the former midfielder was then given the role of Spurs Under-18 coach, helping them reach the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.

Having been at Tottenham for just 12 months, McKenna then left for a similar position with Manchester United - 6/5 to secure a top six finish this term - and was then promoted to first-team coach under Jose Mourinho.

The 37-year-old, who also worked under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, left Old Trafford in 2021 to fill the vacant managerial hot seat at Portman Road.

Despite signing a new four-year contract with Ipswich in the summer 2023, McKenna has been linked with a number of Premier League clubs.

But the former Northern Ireland U21 international seems happy at Ipswich and will feel he can reach the promised land without having to change clubs.

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