Chairman backing Blues' spirit
IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks is backing the indomitable Blues spirit to see off the “money-bags” Premiership side Portsmouth.While Harry Redknapp has a plethora of international stars to call upon, Town manager Joe Royle - who is still the last Englishman to manage an FA Cup winning side - is hamstrung with injuries.
By Derek Davis
IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks is backing the indomitable Blues spirit to see off the “money-bags” Premiership side Portsmouth.
While Harry Redknapp has a plethora of international stars to call upon, Town manager Joe Royle - who is still the last Englishman to manage an FA Cup winning side - is hamstrung with injuries.
But Sheepshanks is bullish about Ipswich's chances after snatching four points from their last two Championship games.
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Sheepshanks said: “On paper Portsmouth must be runaway favourites but the FA Cup is a great leveller and I know this year everyone at the club would love a cup run for a number of reasons.
“Pompey have some great players and we may be short on numbers but the players have shown they have a great spirit, a wonderful togetherness and determination and I would back that against any team.”
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Financially a cup run is even more vital to Town than in previous years when clearly Premiership promotion was the priority.
While Championship success is still important, a cup run would engender a feel-good factor and bring in extra revenue. The winners of this round get £40,000 in prize money alone, and with Pompey likely to add almost 3,000 to the gate the Blues could see healthy receipts which are shared 40/40, with the other 20% going to the FA.
Sheepshanks said: “A cup run would be lovely for us and would carry on a good start to the year for us. I'm sure we can and will have a better second part of the season.
“Once we get through these injuries and we get one or two players to go with the new signings we have made this week we will go on from here.”
The horrendous casualty list that physio Dave Williams has had to contend with has given opportunities to youngsters, who have been played earlier than expected, or chances for players coming back from injury they might not otherwise have had.
Defender Scott Barron has endured a year out with two operations and needs to make a statement to secure a new deal with his current contract expiring in the summer.
Danny Haynes has excited the crowd with his no-fear approach, while Shane Supple has been excellent in goal while Lewis Price recovers from a groin injury.
A staunch advocate of the Academy, Sheepshanks is delighted to see so much home-grown talent continue to push through and even though he is working hard on securing a new player in time for today's midday FA Cup registration deadline, he relishes the likelihood of seeing the young talent pit their wits against Pompey.
He said: “I don't pick the side, that is down to the manager and a practice I fully endorse and feel should always remain, but as a fan I love to see our young lads flourish at first-team level.
“To see the likes of Danny Haynes last week and Scott Barron on Monday, come through is encouraging and exciting.
Who plays depends on who is fit and defender Sito Castro is on the mend from a sprained ankle but if he doesn't make it then Scott Barron will keep his place at left-back after impressing so deeply at Stoke on Monday.
Haynes, who will be 18 on Monday, is also looking to make his FA Cup debut as a full professional after signing a two-and-a-half year contract on Wednesday and is considered the only fit striker available. Nicky Forster is making good progress from a jarred knee but it is more likely that he will play next week against Sheffield United at Portman Road.
Dean Bowditch is another who may have to wait the extra week as he recovers from a hip strain and Adam Proudlock is also in the swimming pool rather than the training ground.
Dean McDonald is cup-tied after playing for Hartlepool during his loan spell with the League One side. Keeper Lewis Price is ready to reclaim his No. 1 spot from Shane Supple after a scan revealed no deep-rooted problem and he has returned to full training.
Portsmouth could have at least one more signing before today's midday FA Cup registration deadline to join Poland international Emmanuel Olisadebe, the Nigerian-born striker signed from Panathanikos.
Zimbabwe striker Benjani Mwaruwari could be moving to Fratton Park in a £4million deal from French club Auxerre, after manager Harry Redknapp missed out on signing Chris Sutton from Celtic. The former Norwich hitman is instead moving to Birmingham City.
Pompey consider the £7m being asked by Norwich for Dean Ashton as excessive and so will not be making a move for the Canaries' leading scorer.