Blues will continue Chopra chase

The Blues might be prepared to increase their bid for Michael Chopra, but the onus is still on manager Roy Keane to shed players.

THE Blues might be prepared to increase their bid for Michael Chopra, but the onus is still on manager Roy Keane to shed players.

And the Irishman won’t find it easy, as exemplified by Hartlepool United’s decision to pull out of a possible move for Town midfielder Colin Healy yesterday.

Town’s failure to convert scoring chances cost them dear during last season’s disappointing Championship campaign.

Connor Wickham, a few months older and with the benefit of a successful European Championship campaign behind him for England Under-17s, should be a force in the second tier next term.

And there is no doubt that Keane would love to partner 17-year-old Wickham, who scored the winner for England Under-17s in the final against Spain, with an experienced goal poacher like Chopra next season.

That’s why Town look like pursing Chopra throughout this summer.

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The Cardiff City striker plundered 21 goals last season, and he could be prised away from the Welsh club for �4m – a price that the Portman Road club might be prepared to pay.

But players will have to leave. Owner Marcus Evans has made that known, and Keane himself has insisted that he wants to work with a smaller squad next campaign.

Colin Healy is one of those almost certain to leave, although Hartlepool, who had been leading the chase to sign the ex-Sunderland midfielder, have dropped out of the race.

Pools director of sport, Chris Turner, had tried on two previous occasions to sign Healy.

He was pipped at the post by Ipswich a year ago, and again failed to snap him up on loan last January, when the Irishman moved to Falkirk in a temporary move instead.

Healy’s high wages seem to be a stumbling block this time around, although the 30-year-old has also been attracting interest from clubs in Scotland. Aberdeen are believed to be in the mix.

Meanwhile, former Town striker Marcus Stewart has had a change of heart about retiring this summer.

Front-runner Stewart, currently at Exeter City, put back the original date for his retirement last season, following the Grecians’ promotion.

And now the 37-year-old is planning to extend his playing career for another year, as well as carrying on in his role as a coach under manager Paul Tisdale.

Stewart spent two-and-a-half years at Portman Road from early 2000, helping Town to win promotion to the Premier League via the play-offs that year.

He scored 37 goals in 93 first team outings before moving onto Sunderland for �3.25m in the summer of 2002.

Since then, he has been based back in his native south-west at Bristol City, Yeovil and Exeter.

Stewart said: “Paul (Tisdale) wants me to carry on as a player, so it’s an easy decision for me. I said I’m willing to stay on and play. But next season is my last as a player, most definitely, 100 per cent.”

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