Kieran McKenna, manager of Ipswich Town, has stated that he intends to rotate his team throughout the upcoming busy period.
Since February, the Blues’ team has been fairly stable, with a drive to League One promotion followed by a strong start to life in the Championship.
Following a two-week international break, Town will play seven games in 22 days, beginning with away visits to Sheffield Wednesday (Saturday) and Southampton (Tuesday).
Is now the time to tinker with a winning recipe, with summer additions Brandon Williams, Axel Tuanzebe, Jack Taylor, Omari Hutchinson, and Dane Scarlett all awaiting full league debuts?
“It is, yeah – that’s fair to say,” McKenna remarked. “We finished the league season with a really settled team, which was natural given our form, and we started this season with one league game per week.” In general, the players have begun well, and we have remained quite constant with the team.
“We’re entering a period where there are a lot of midweek games.” It will be a period when we will aim to utilise our squad’s strength and depth, as well as the fact that we have players with varied traits who may suit different opponents.
“This isn’t the first time we’ve been in this predicament. It’s easy to forget about the first half of last season, when we were able to utilize our squad’s depth and rotate according to different game plans. I believe we gained 50 points in the first half of the season by doing so.” McKenna has a lot of alternatives when it comes to getting to Hillsborough.
Christian Walton (foot) and Janoi Donacien (groin) are still out, but Wes Burns and George Hirst are back.
Tuanzebe has healed from the back injury that plagued him last season, but McKenna says he won’t be featured ‘in the next few league games’ while he works on his health.
Burns, a Wales international, did not go to Latvia for a Euro 2024 qualifier on Monday due to a hamstring niggle sustained during a sub appearance in a home friendly against South Korea last Thursday.
“He’s not too bad,” McKenna added. “It was the correct decision to withdraw him, but we scanned him and there’s no major tear or anything like that.” He’s recovered nicely, and we’re hoping to get him back in the gym tomorrow (Friday).”
Nathan Broadhead (Wales), Sam Morsy (Egypt), Cameron Burgess (Australia) and Dane Scarlett have also been away with their countries over the last week.
“Sam was the last one of those back in today (Thursday),” said McKenna. “It’s been nice to see them add to their international honours and come back into a group that’s trained and prepared really well.”
Striker Hirst came off in the first half of the recent 3-2 home victory over Cardiff with a recurrence of the adductor injury that ruled him out of the previous 4-3 home loss to Leeds.
“He’s recovered pretty well,” said McKenna. “He trained yesterday (Wednesday) with the group and will hopefully train tomorrow with the group. If he gets through that fine, we’re hopeful he’ll have some involvement tomorrow.”
On right-back Donacien, who hasn’t featured since coming off in the first half of the 1-0 win at QPR last month, McKenna said: “He’s still got some ongoing issues with his adductors.
“He’s making some progress, but there are still some issues that need to be resolved, so he’s still working his way through rehabilitation.”
Better news is that goalkeeper Walton, who has been sidelined since preseason with a plantar fascia tear (foot), is nearing a return.
“Christian is doing well,” McKenna said. “It was great to see him this morning because he was outside on the grass in boots and gloves, diving around the goal and working hard with (goalkeeper coach) Rene (Gilmartin).”
“He’s approaching. He hasn’t yet been integrated into the complete group’s training; ideally, that will happen in the next week or so, and then we’ll start building him back up to be ready for games as soon as possible.