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Incredible Ipswich Town moved to the Premier League after back-to-back promotions under Kieran McKenna



Incredible Ipswich Town moved to the Premier League after back-to-back promotions under Kieran McKenna

Despite competing against three teams just a season removed from the Premier League, Kieran McKenna’s Ipswich Town have secured back-to-back promotions and finished second in the Championship behind Leicester city via a 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town. In doing so, the Tractor Boys have become only the fourth side to achieve promotion from League One to the Championship and then to the Premier League, after Southampton in 2012. Norwich city in 2011, and Watford in 2009.

While there are plenty of stories of teams steadily moving up the divisions, the rapid pace at which Ipswich have done so is unprecedented, with over 180 points in recent seasons. McKenna was only appointed in December 2021 and since then the team has done nothing but win, losing just eight of 52 games. Now Portman Road will see Premier League football for the first time since 2002.

Relegated despite reaching the second round of the UEFA Cup, that season would be the start of a dark period for the Tractor Boys. Ipswich would then suffer eleven seasons in the middle of the Championship before finally dropping back to League One in 2019 after finishing 24th in the Championship. Even in League One the club seemed to be stagnating until McKenna took charge and helped them to a club record 98 points and a place back in the Championship. Now he has gone one better by guiding them to the Premier League.

Underlying statistics see Ipswich as the third to fourth best team in the Championship with the fourth best expected goal difference of 25.7 going into the last weekend, but scoring the most goals in the league has helped avoid the inconsistency that the teams has plagued around them.

This is also without spending a lot of money, as Ipswich have secured budget signings, allowing McKenna’s 4-2-3-1 to get the best out of every player at his disposal. Taking the team effort to a new level, 19 players found the back of the net, eight of whom scored more than four goals. Six players have also contributed more than 10 goals.

Tactically, Ipswich make sure what they do without the ball stops their opponents’ transition and can also quickly turn defense into attack. With a flowing front four of Conor Chaplin, George Hirst, Nathan Broadhead and Wes Burns players can come at you from any direction to perform dangerous attacks.

Hirst in particular shows how effective McKenna’s tactics are. He had not scored a Championship goal before joining Ipswich and now has seven with six assists in limited action, a total that makes his move from Leicester City a permanent one.

Making smart signings and even injuries haven’t slowed down the Tractor Boys’ role. When Hirst picked up an injury on Boxing Day it was something that could have derailed the season, but Ipswich went and added Kieffer Moore on loan from Bournemouth and the Welshman has gone on to score seven goals, assisting another, while being just the impactful mid-season signing the doctor ordered.

Thanks to more than $130 million in investment from US-based private equity firm Bright Path Sports Partners, Ipswich may not only have to rely on budget signings in the Premier League, but it is also important that their good decision-making continues. Current CEO, Mark Ashton, will continue the day-to-day management of the club, which bodes well for taking success from the Championship to the Premier League.

Their fans will already be supporting the team as big games at Portman Road are quite an event. In 31 European home games, Ipswich have never lost and are the only British team never to have lost a home game in European competition. Although the last of those games came in 2002, prior to their relegation, if Ipswich can keep McKenna in the Premier League, all their home games will be must-sees. Watching a nice team score and increase the tempo at will is something that fans and many players who have been involved in this League One run, such as Conor Chaplin, who will still be a key member of the squad next season to be, to cheer up.

Due to their transfer strategy, a few loaned players will need to be replaced next season and some such as Jeremy Sarmiento may be loaned out again to see if they can handle the step up to Premier League football. . The key, however, is keeping McKenna. During a summer where jobs are fun Manchester United could open, Ipswich will focus on keeping one of the hottest names in Portman Road management.

With McKenna, this is a club that could have a very high ceiling, but if they also have to replace him while they adapt to life in the Premier League, then a quick return to the Championship could be on the cards. But for today that is not something to worry about, because for the first time in 22 years Ipswich Town is back in the Premier League.