Keane faces his biggest challenge this season

IPSWICH TOWN: A downbeat Roy Keane goes into the new season facing the biggest challenge of his managerial career.

He knows if he doesn’t make an impression at the top of the Championship his chances of extending – or even reaching – his current Portman Road contract that ends on June 30 2011 are slim.

And it’s looking as though he’s going to have to get far more out of players who struggled last season if his long term managerial dream is to be confirmed.

The Blues boss has to convince a growing band of disillusioned Town supporters that better times are ahead, and he made a big point of stressing after finishing 15th last term that he needed to bring in three or four quality new players.

But his squad has reported back for pre-season training with no additions – and no indication of any signings in the pipeline.

Keane is receiving support from chief executive Simon Clegg in his quest, but both men are restricted by the financial guidelines put in place by owner Marcus Evans that effectively mean that players have to leave before others can come in.

“It is a situation I have to accept and deal with,” said Keane, who may show a realistic and honest public reaction to the situation but must be feeling disappointed and frustrated deep down.

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Evans freely financed previous manager Jim Magilton, and he also provided Keane with the wherewithal to spend freely last summer.

But understandably he is now being more prudent after his previous outlay failed to bring success.

Potential deals with players of the calibre that Keane so badly wants are stalling because of current restrictions on wage demands etc.

And any thoughts of bringing in a Michael Chopra – at �4million plus �20,000 a week wages – are completely pie in the sky while the club is paying the wages of the likes of fellow strikers Tamas Priskin, Jon Stead, Kevin Lisbie, Pablo Counago, Lee Martin and Jon Walters.

Three were loaned out by Keane last season while Counago and Martin were used mainly as fringe players.

Keane needs to lesser his current wage bill before he can bring others in although hot property Connor Wickham will not be sacrificed with the player and his connections all at one in agreeing that at least one more year playing first team football with Ipswich will benefit the 17-year-old.

Today sees the end of the football year with players’ contracts running out and the likes of David and Richard Wright will be officially off the Ipswich pay roll from midnight.

This will help, and it may liven up a quiet close season with clubs from tomorrow more in a position to look closely at bringing in players.

“I am under pressure from the owner to sell,” confirmed Clegg, who will be hoping that some interest is shown in the players Ipswich have available.

And so will Keane, who may be forced into a position where players like Owen Garvan, Pablo Counago and Alex Bruce will be given a second chance after looking as though they may have been surplus to requirements.

And Keane will be looking at Priskin and Martin to step up a few gears after investing heavily in their ability last summer.

“I’ll be looking for those to step up this season who did not hit the ground running with us,” said Keane, who could well look at the loan market as the best way of bringing in quality players.

Town fans should not be too pessimistic however as it was just before the end of the transfer deadline that Keane signed Grant Leadbitter, Carlos Edwards and Liam Rosenior last year.

Former Leicester City midfielder Robbie Burns, 19, is currently one young player on trial with the Blues hoping to follow the example of Shane O’Connor and Arran Lee-Barrett and earn a Town contract.

Town’s away game at Norwich City on Sunday, November 28 will be shown by the BBC instead of Sky Sports TV.

The match will now kick-off at 1.15pm and not 11.30am as previously scheduled.

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