Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna relishing visit to West Brom and provides positive Wes Burns and Brandon Williams updates
Ipswich Town boss Kieran McKenna has described the Blues’ trip to West Brom on Saturday as ‘exactly the type of challenge’ his side wants.
The Tractor Boys return from the international break looking to extend their unbeaten run in the league to 14 games at the Hawthorns (5.30pm) where even a point could be enough for McKenna’s men to claim top spot in the Championship table come Saturday night.
The seventh-placed Baggies are keenly hunting down the play-off places having won three of their last four matches.
“It’s a big challenge but it’s exactly the type of challenge that we want. This league and this month ahead is full of challenges and tough opponents but that’s one of the reasons we want to be in this division,” said McKenna.
“It’s (West Brom) a really difficult proposition but we know that we’re a difficult proposition as well and they’ll have to respect our strengths. It should be a really good game.
“They’re a really strong team. Outside of those who came down from the Premier League, they’re as strong as anyone in terms of the experience, physicality and quality in their squad.
“They have lots of players who were there in the Premier League campaign and added some top-end Championship quality to that.”
McKenna sees Saturday’s trip to the Midlands as the start of a 10-game ‘block’ which runs until Town’s visit to Stoke City on New Year’s Day (3pm).
The packed fixture schedule includes games against current second-placed Leicester City, third-placed Leeds United as well as the first East Anglian Derby of the campaign.
Despite the intensity of the next few months, McKenna stated it is a period him and his group will ‘embrace’.
“We’ve got 10 games in pretty quick succession. No doubt about it when you look at the fixture list at the start of the season, you look and think ‘that’s a really busy period and we’re going to be playing a lot of teams who you would have expected to be up at the top end of the table’,” said the Town boss.
“We’ve tried to use the time as well as possible so we trained well the early part of last week and we’ve trained really hard this week. We’ve not had the whole group here but we’ve tried to use the period to speak and work on things that are going to be relevant to not just for West Brom coming up, but the next block of games.
“We came off the back of a period of six games in 18 days so we did use the early part of the week to train hard. Then, it’s the first time in the season we’ve been able to have a little bit more of an extended period of days off.
“Some (players) have seen family, some have gone away and everyone’s comeback really fresh and in a really good place. The energy around the training ground this week has been really good and everyone’s excited to get started again.”
A positive for Town is that no fresh injuries were picked up over the international break, with defender Elkan Baggott the only player yet to return to training after he was away on duty with Indonesia.
Winger Wes Burns returned from his shoulder injury in the Tractor Boys’ last game before the break when he came off the bench to play 26 minutes in the Blues’ 3-2 victory at home to Swansea City and McKenna said: “He felt good when he came on and he’s trained well now for the last two weeks as well so he gives us another really good option for Saturday and beyond.”
On Lee Evans (medial collateral ligament injury) the Town boss said: “He’s progressing well. He’s working hard in the gym and on the bike and stuff like that. He’s out of his knee brace and they’re happy with how he’s progressing. He’s still got a fair way to go but he’s moving in the right direction.”
McKenna stated that Brandon Williams, who missed the visit of Swansea through illness, has ‘trained well’ the last two weeks which gives the Tractor Boys more depth ahead of the weekend.