Old pals’ act? Not a chance

Paul McKenna and manager Graham Alexander
Paul McKenna and manager Graham Alexander

FLEETWOOD Town manager Graham Alexander insists Paul McKenna’s arrival at Highbury is more about football than friendship.

The 35-year-old, who played alongside the Town boss for eight years at Preston, has joined on loan from Hull City and went straight into the Fleetwood side for Saturday’s 3-0 home victory over Oxford United.

But Alexander played down the pair’s longstanding friendship and stressed that midfielder McKenna has a job to do, like the rest of his squad,

He said: “I’ve brought him here for a reason, not just because I’ve played with him and he’s a mate.

“I’ve brought him here to do a professional job and Saturday was just the start of that. He brings experience, character, a winning mentality and a work ethic.

“Hopefully players around him will buy into that and see what kind of a career you can have if you put the work in and take everything as professionally as you can.

The Fleetwood boss knows his latest signing, who has 604 professional appearances under his belt, isn’t the kind to grab headlines – but he believes McKenna will bring a whole host of qualities to the club.

Alexander added: “What I knew from my time, playing with him for eight years, was that he was always unsung.

“The fans never raved about him. He never got the headlines in the papers, but every single team-mate he played with knew what a player he was and what a team-mate he was. Hopefully the players here will see that.”

For McKenna, it was a case of playing the waiting game until the deal went through.

He said: “I found out about the interest from Fleetwood probably about a week before I came over.

“I got in touch with the gaffer and we met up. From there we knew it was going to happen.

“It was just a case of sorting the formalities between the two clubs.

“I was hoping to get here a week earlier, but the main thing is it’s happened now and I just want to play as many games as possible.”

And McKenna is impressed with what he’s seen. “It’s great. There’s ambition here, there’s a lot of quality and at the weekend people have seen the team and the attitude they have shown.

“If they can show that from here to the end of the season, then I don’t think we’ll be that far off.

“There are a few familiar faces I’ve not seen for a while, which makes settling into the club a lot easier. It’s nice to get off to a start.”

And McKenna insisted victory over the Us made his return to the game a whole lot easier.

He said: “It’s been three months since I played a game but I was feeling OK.

“It was good because everybody around me was on top of the game and it felt good. The performance made it a lot easier.”

And there was high praise for his new midfield partner.

McKenna said: “Jamie McGuire has a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and he likes to get about people, as I do.

“Hopefully we can continue in that vein, put people under pressure and get the ball at the right end of the field.”

Town’s opener on Saturday was a lucky break for Alexander’s men, a clearance hitting Jamille Matt and rebounding into the net.

But McKenna believes the scoreline was a good reflection of Town’s efforts.

He added:”The first goal on Saturday was a bit fortuitous but there were one or two more that just didn’t fall for us on the goal- line, so it levels out.

“But if you ask any of the management or the staff they’ll say it was a fair result.

“It was a good performance all round. The strikers worked their tripe off, everyone did.

“The gaffer was over the moon with the attitude of everyone.

“If we can do that to a team coming here on such a good run (Oxford had won their last four in League Two and were unbeaten in eight), we can do it against anyone.”

And the midfielder was pleased to see Jon Parkin, another former Deepdale colleague, back in scoring form after nearly three months sidelined through injury.

It’s been a long time out for Jon,” he said. “It’s been frustrating for him and he just wants to put a run together.

“He’s got a lot of ability and I’m sure he can do a lot of damage in this league.”

But will McKenna, with his former team-mate at the helm, be tempted to stay at Highbury after his loan expires at the end of the season?

“I’ve only been here a few days,” he insisted. “I’m coming here to play as many games as possible and do my best for Fleetwood.

“After that, we’ll just have to see what happens in the summer.”