How prepared are Ipswich Town for Premier League football?

04.06.2024 15:35:06 Adam England
Portman Road Stadium. Home of Ipswich Town FC
  • After finishing second in the Championship, Ipswich Town are back in the Premier League for the first time in 22 years.
  • They became the first team for achieve back-to-back promotions to the top flight since Southampton in 2012.
  • Manager Kieran McKenna has signed a new four-year contract.



Not too many teams have managed back-to-back promotions to the Premier League. In fact, Ipswich Town this year were the first team since Southampton in 2012 and Norwich City in 2011 to manage it.

Teams like Wolverhampton Wanderers, Brentford, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth, and Luton Town all spent at least a couple of seasons in the Championship before reaching the top flight, which highlights just what an achievement it has been for Ipswich to reach the Premier League at the first time of asking.

Kieran McKenna has been at Ipswich since December 2021, when he was just 35. Remarkably, it was the former Tottenham Hotspur youth player’s first senior managerial role, after spending time managing the under-18s at Spurs and then Manchester United. A return to Man United was speculated this summer following rumours that the club would sack manager Erik ten Hag, while it was also suggested that he could take over from Mauricio Pochettino at Chelsea.

However, McKenna has signed a new four-year contract with Ipswich, so it looks as though he’ll be seeing them into the new season and beyond.

 


Back in the big time.


After first taking over the Tractor Boys, McKenna led them to an 11th-place finish in League One, which included an 11-game unbeaten run. The following season, however, Ipswich finished second, resulting in automatic promotion back to the Championship after four years away.

The team had the best attack in the division, scoring 101, and only lost four games all season. However, they were able to go one better the following year by finishing second in the Championship, ready for their first Premier League campaign in 22 years.

They’ve already been preparing for Premier League football by planning adjustments to their stadium, Portman Road, to make it ready for the top flight, but that’s not the only thing the club will need to make sure is up to scratch as they bid to avoid relegation next term.

Last season’s promoted teams, Burnley, Sheffield United, and Luton all had a rough time of it in the top flight this season, none of them managing to stay up, and Ipswich will be hoping to avoid the same fate.

A number of teams will be wary of Financial Fair Play restrictions, and the possibility of points deductions for rule breaches, and this might go in Ipswich’s favour, but staying up could be a tall ask.

However, it’s definitely possible. If you’re finishing second in the Championship, ahead of teams like Southampton and Leeds United, and pushing winners Leicester City close, the omens for a serious attempt at staying up are good.

 


A good team – but with little Premier League experience.


While Ipswich have plenty of good players, they’re a team probably greater than the sum of their parts.

What was particularly remarkable about Ipswich this season is that their top scorers, Conor Chaplin and Nathan Broadhead, only managed 13 goals apiece in the league. Southampton had Adam Armstrong and Che Adams getting 23 and 16 goals respectively, while Leeds had Crysencio Summerville with 20 and Leicester had the evergreen Jamie Vardy with 18.

Neither is a prolific goalscorer, and it will be fascinating to see how they fare in the top tier. Chaplin, now 27, has never played higher than the Championship, while Broadhead, 26, made one senior Premier League appearance for Everton before joining the Tractor Boys a year ago.

Put simply, the squad lacks Premier League experience. This isn’t the case across the board. Kieffer Moore has played in the top flight for Bournemouth while Axel Tuanzebe has turned out for both Man United and Aston Villa, for instance, but this is a squad mostly comprising young players and Football League stalwarts. And Leif Davis, who managed 18 assists from left-back this season, is somewhere in between the two. 24 years old, he began his senior career with Leeds, including a loan spell at Bournemouth, before joining Ipswich in 2022.

 


Relegation: Not a disaster nor a foregone conclusion.

A little like Luton last season, not many people expected Ipswich to go up this time around, and certainly not automatically. It wouldn’t be a disaster if they went straight back down, and they’d be well-placed to go back up a year later. However, after 22 years away, everyone associated with the club will be hoping for a longer spell in the top division.

It’s not out of the realms of possibility. A few new signings will be needed to add a dash of Premier League quality, but it’s not as though Ipswich need an entirely new squad. This group of players got them promoted and did so with almost a century of points, so why not see how they fare in the top tier?

McKenna remaining for the time being, with the four-year contract freshly signed, is fantastic for the club. While he might yet move on to another club in a year or two, potentially as a replacement for Erik ten Hag at Man United, he’s well-liked and respected at Ipswich.

But for the time being, he can kick on with a team he’s been allowed to curate. Ipswich might not have been in the Premier League for a long time, but it’s entirely possible that they could be sticking around for more than a year.

 

 

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