Keane warns of tough times ahead

IPSWICH Town may have fallen well short of their goal this season, but manager Roy Keane admits that it will be an even bigger challenge next term.

Town have now been stuck in the Championship for the last eight campaigns, and their ninth year at this level will see the odds stacked against them even more.

Predictably, Keane is not a fan of the Premier League’s recent proposal to increase the parachute payments, for those clubs suffering relegation out of the top flight, to a potential �48m spread over four years, rather than the current �32m over two seasons.

The Championship has never been a particularly level playing field, but now the gradient is getting stepper.

Established Championship clubs like Town, Coventry and Preston will again be the poorer cousins. Newcastle and West Brom have bounced straight back into the Premier League after just one season in the lower division, and clubs like Hull, Burnley and West Ham will also fancy their chances of an immediate return, if they were to succumb to relegation this campaign.

“It’s going to be very, very difficult,” admitted Keane.

“I’d like to know what clubs voted for that. The bottom three must have definitely voted for it, so it’s going to be extra hard I have to say.

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“You look at the teams that have gone up this year. Obviously West Brom came down, and Newcastle, so they’ll always be strong anyway, but now they are given these extra few years and the extra money, so the longer you are out of the Premiership, its just going to get tougher and tougher.

“It’s not just Ipswich, but it applies to all the other clubs who have been in the Championship for a long time.

“But that’s why we do it, because it’s the challenge - can we do it?”

added Keane.

The planned new parachute payments have to be agreed by the Football League, and a final decision will be made in June at the Premier League Clubs’ AGM..

Furthermore, competition also looks like being even fiercer next season, because of the quality of the clubs coming up from League One.

There does not appear to be the equivalent of this year’s Peterborough United, who have already been relegated after just one year in the Championship.

Norwich City are already up, and clubs like Leeds and Charlton already have the pedigree to be a force in the second tier, if they can also secure promotion over the last few weeks of the season.

Keane confirmed: “The teams coming down will be very strong, no doubt, and the teams coming up, like the Norwichs and maybe the Leeds, I think they are very good Championship clubs.

“Its going to get harder and harder, so the quicker you get out of it the better.

“It took Burnley a hell of a long time to get out of it, and they are obviously struggling to stay in it, so it’s very, very difficult.

“But that’s the aim. That’s why when we do invest in players, we need to try and get the right players. You can’t afford to make too many mistakes in the transfer market.

“You look at the teams in the top six at the moment. Forest, I think, have invested pretty well, and Cardiff have been there or thereabouts for a few years, but then you get the Leicesters and Swanseas, so there is a chance that you get in that top six.

“And then after that, who knows?

“You have to have that belief that you can do it, and I still think we’re not far away from being a half-decent team.

“But we’re far enough away, which is why we’ ll be looking at bringing in four or five players this summer,” concluded Keane.

One of Keane’s targets could be Scunthorpe United striker Gary Hooper, who has plundered 17 goals for the Iron this season. Town are believed to have had scouts plotting his progress, although his value has soared to around the �1m mark following two successful seasons at Glanford Park.

Other clubs are also interested in the ex-Grays and Southend United front-runner, including Leeds, Derby and QPR.

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