Dont panic, says Royle

Don't panic!That is the message to Ipswich Town fans as the player exodus continues from Portman Road.Manager Joe Royle is pursuing targets and the first two could arrive over the weekend.

By Dave Vincent

Don't panic!

That is the message to Ipswich Town fans as the player exodus continues from Portman Road.

Manager Joe Royle is pursuing targets and the first two could arrive over the weekend. Now he has six spaces, at least, to fill in his first-team squad.


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Tommy Miller and Shefki Kuqi have refused the new two-year contracts on offer and walked out.

But Royle won't be hurried. He told the club website: “We are talking to a number of players but it is not a race.

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“There is still plenty of time to get the squad I want in place before the start of the season - a squad that will challenge for the Premiership.

“It's been a waiting game for us to see what decisions the out-of-contract players made but we have had plans in place for a while and will now step them up to bring in new recruits.”

Darren Bent and Kelvin Davis have been sold to Charlton Athletic and Sunderland for initial fees of £2.5million and £1.25million. Miller and Kuqi would probably have been worth a total of £3million in today's transfer market, but will leave for nothing. So four of Town's top performers from last season have departed.

And there have been two other departures - defender Drissa Diallo, whose season was decimated by injury and who was released, and Spanish striker Pablo Counago, who was not offered a new deal.

Miller's father, Tommy senior, said: “Tommy gets back from honeymoon on Tuesday and he will drive up to Sunderland on Wednesday to have his medical and sign.

“He had plenty of options but, if he was going to stay in the Championship, he would have stayed with Ipswich.

“I think Sunderland is the only club he would have left Ipswich for, because he has had a great time down there and played under two very good managers.”

Relegated Crystal Palace are the latest club interested in 20-goal Kuqi, though Blackburn still seem favourites to get him.

Royle revealed the bad news yesterday.

“I can confirm that both Tommy and Shefki have chosen to look elsewhere for their football next season,” he said.

“We made excellent offers to both players, as good as we could at Championship level, but the lure of the Premiership has proven too great.”

The departures leave a massive hole in Town's squad, taking out vital first-team experience as well as goal-scoring threat.

Between them Bent, Kuqi and Miller hit 54 goals as Town narrowly missed out on automatic promotion and failed in the play-offs.

Even skipper Jim Magilton could depart on July 1, while midfielder Jimmy Juan was on a season-long loan from Monaco and might not return.

Magilton says he is undecided about his future, though Dutch defender Fabian Wilnis has indicated he would like to remain another season.

Miller was being courted by a host of clubs, including promoted Wigan Athletic and Leeds United but going home to the North-East was always more likely.

Paul Jewell, the Latics boss, bemoans the fact that some players won't even talk to him about going to the JJB Stadium and he has a £25 million purse to spend. He is considerably richer than Royle, who has less than £1 million available. It will have to stretch a long way and he will have to look at free transfers.

There is one bright spot on the horizon in the crop of talent coming through from Town's FA Youth Cup-winning side.

Players like Billy Clarke, Aidan Collins, Chris Casement, Michael Synnott and Owen Garvan put in impressive performances as the season progressed.

They will form the basis of Steve McCall's reserve side next season and some could earn rapid promotion into the first-team squad.

david.vincent@eadt.co.uk

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