Big welcome for Burley

By Carl MarstonIPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle believes that his predecessor George Burley will receive a rapturous reception from the Portman Road faithful today.

By Carl Marston

IPSWICH Town manager Joe Royle believes that his predecessor George Burley will receive a rapturous reception from the Portman Road faithful today.

Burley, who is now masterminding Derby County's escape from the relegation mire, returns to Ipswich for the first time since being sacked as Town boss in October, 2002, with the exception of a low-key reserve fixture just over a month ago.

His Derby side held high-flying Town to a 2-2 draw at Pride Park last month, and he would be delighted to secure a similar result this afternoon.

Royle insisted: “I'm sure that the crowd will give George (Burley) a fantastic welcome.

“But they will then cheer us all the way to beat them!

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“George did very well while he was at Ipswich, so he'll get a good reception. He will have his Derby players fired up, because there's nothing he'd like better than to beat his old club.”

Burley (pictured right) remains adamant that his old club Ipswich will win promotion back to the top flight this season.

“Ipswich are certainties for promotion. I think that they and West Brom will be the teams to go up automatically,” said Burley.

“I was very impressed with Ipswich in the second half against us at Pride Park, but then that didn't surprise me.”

Town boss Royle is forced into at least one change, following the recent away trips to Cardiff (3-2 win) and Nottingham Forest (1-1).

Frenchman Georges Santos serves a one-match suspension, so John McGreal returns at the heart of defence. It will be McGreal's first senior appearance since February, due to a back injury and knee ligament damage.

Royle is also waiting on the fitness of right-back Fabian Wilnis, who has been ever-present in the league this season.

Wilnis hobbled off with a tight hamstring during the closing minutes of Wednedsay night's draw at the City Ground.

The 33-year-old Dutchman did not train yesterday, and will wait to see how the hamstring feels this morning.

If Wilnis fails his fitness test, then right-midfielder Jermaine Wright will move to right-back, with Tommy Miller enjoying a recall in midfield.

“If Fabian (Wilnis) is fit, then he will play. The alternative is to bring in Tommy Miller,” explained Royle.

“John McGreal has not played regularly for over 12 months, so it's a big day for him.”

Derby, although they are hovering just one place above the relegation zone, have not been beaten since the home draw with Town.

Their last four matches have yielded eight points, with wins over Burnley (2-0) and Wimbledon (3-1), and draws against Ipswich and Millwall (0-0).

Burley will make at least two changes to the side that beat Wimbledon last weekend. The first is enforced, with left-back Peter Kennedy returning to Wigan Athletic after his one-month loan spell.

Kennedy's only goal for Derby was the opener against Ipswich. Argentine defender Luciano Zavagno is set to fill the left-back role vacated by Kennedy.

Midfielder Tom Huddlestone, one of three 16-year-olds in the squad, is the other player to make way. He was replaced by Adam Bolder against the Dons, and former Hull City trainee Bolder should retain his place today. Huddlestone is in the squad, but is struggling with an ankle injury.

Burley confimed: “Adam (Bolder) will be given his chance again to show what he can do.

“Luciano (Zavagno) will also get his chance to claim a regular place in the team.”

Lee Bradbury and Marcus Tudgay formed a two-pronged attack last weekend. Tudgay celebrated his third senior start with his first-ever league goal.

Burley might consider playing just one out-and-out striker, and packing the midfield, although it is more likely that Bradbury and Tudgay will continue their partnership.

If County do line-up with a 4-5-1 formation, then Candido Costa and Lee Holmes will be expected to support the lone striker from wide positions.

Royle said of Bradbury's presence up front: “Lee Bradbury was a player that I sold while I was the manager of Manchester City.

“These sort of players always like to prove a point.”

Rams skipper Ian Taylor has overcome an Achilles tendon injury, but defender Michael Johnson and striker Lee Morris are both considered doubts with calf problems.

Derby have won just two games on their travels this season, at Bradford City and Walsall.

But Royle is expecting a tough test: “Derby have improved since we played them a month ago. They will have more confidence for this game, because they are on a good run and are inching their way up the table.”

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