Kieran McKenna has a ‘wonderful opportunity’ to take Ipswich Town back to the top of English football.
And the potential when they get there is exciting former Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton.
With the backing of American owners and a fanbase that is balancing patience and realism, as well as holding a degree of desperation to return to the Premier League after a 20-year hiatus, Hamilton believes that McKenna has arrived at Portman Road at a perfect time.
The club raised eyebrows when they installed the 35-year-old Fermanagh native, who was on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s coaching staff at Manchester United, as their new manager last week.
Hamilton, who still has a close association with the club he signed for 50 years ago, was as surprised as anyone else, yet he is also captivated by the thinking behind the appointment and intrigued by what can be achieved, believing that ‘somebody is going to get it right’ at the former UEFA Cup winners.
“I have met the chief executive and the people who have bought the club and that they want something special to happen,” said Hamilton, who along with his former club and international colleague Allan Hunter is a regular at Portman Road in a match-day ambassadorial role as well as being prominent in the ex-players association.
“It’s an investment from them and they want better days and better things from their investment.
“There is a reasonable and sensible level of expectation, although they are expecting to do things and become a bigger club - they will be patient, but they want to see a continual development.
“Kieran has been very well received, it’s not a bad time to come in, you don’t normally get a team that is top of the league, you normally get a team that is bottom of the league. This team aren’t bottom of the league and I think they have enough quality about them to get into the top six.
“If he’d been appointed in three months’ time it would have been very difficult for him.
“I think there is potential for the team to take off. It is a great opportunity for him for they are a very good club with great tradition and a history that has been sitting for too many years now in not a good place with the new owners, there is a vibrancy about what they are trying to do.”
Ipswich were last promoted to the Premier League in 2000 and had an amazing first season, finishing fifth and qualifying for Europe.
A year later, however, they were relegated and then slipped to the third tier in 2019.
A return to the elite level may seem a long way off, but Hamilton knows enough about the structure at the Tractor Boys and has seen other examples of teams rising through the levels to give him the belief that McKenna will have the tools available to make an impact.
“The club has gone through such a long period of time where it hasn’t been right and what I believe is that somebody is going to fall lucky,” said Hamilton, who will celebrate his 75th birthday on New Year’s Eve.
“They are going to get a very good club with a very good history and a group of players who can do better.
“I think they could do what Leeds United and Sheffield United have done over the last few seasons.
“There are a lot of clubs of that ilk who have gone through indifferent periods.
“I think the expectations at this moment in time are they want to get into the Championship and in a roundabout way that is smart talking because if the expectations are to win the Champions League then that is going to be very long-term.
“Kieran will get time and he will get the opportunity to show what he can do and what he can develop and I hope it works for him. It will be amazing and brilliant for him if it works.”