Leadbitter rejects first contract offer

IPSWICH Town skipper Grant Leadbitter has rejected a new contract offer.

The central midfielder’s current deal expires next summer and, as a result, he would be free to begin negotiating a Bosman free transfer away from the club in January.

Town turned down a bid from Portsmouth for the 25-year-old prior to the summer transfer window closing, with manager Paul Jewell admitting that the speculation had probably played a part in the former Sunderland man’s below-par performances around that time.

The Blues boss says he is ‘comfortable’ with the situation though, hoping that his captain – who has returned to form during the team’s recent impressive run of results – will be sufficiently motivated to earn the terms he is after.

“Grant and his advisors sat down with the owner (Marcus Evans) to discuss a new deal and it wasn’t quite what he was looking for,” revealed Jewell.

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“I’ve spoken to Grant and he seems cool with the situation. I’m comfortable with it too.

“I’ve said to all the players that if they play well for us then we might have to pay them more than someone else.

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“If we get players that are striving to get a deal then it benefits the team.

“Grant’s playing as well as he has for us since I’ve been here at the moment so it can work positively for both parties sometimes.”

With former Blues boss Roy Keane leaving a lot of contract negotiations until late last season, Jewell was left powerless to prevent key duo Gareth McAuley and David Norris joining West Brom and Portsmouth respectively on free transfers soon after he took over.

The Liverpudlian – who has at least 16 players in the final year of their contracts – has always stressed that he wanted to get new deals sorted quickly this season in order to prevent a repeat scenario.

Full-back Carlos Edwards and striker Jason Scotland are two more key players also in the final year of their current contracts.

The former rejected an extension at the end of last season, while Town tried to cash in on the latter when they accepted a deadline day bid from Blackpool.

The aforementioned duo have joined Leadbitter in hitting top form during Ipswich’s recent run of form though after Jewell told them to earn the terms they are after.

“We’re now entering a murky area because players know they can speak to clubs in January if they’re out of contract next summer,” said the Blues boss.

“I’ve spoken to one or two lads who are in that situation and they seem cool with it. I think at the moment they are just enjoying their football.

“I’m comfortable with the situation. No-one’s knocked on my door and asked to sit down and discuss contracts, but I’m sure that will happen if we continue to play as well as we have done.

“It’s not just the lads in the final year of their contracts that we will talk to, we might also look to extend deals for the likes of young Aaron Cresswell who’s done very well.

“Things will hopefully be a lot clearer in a couple of months time.”

The following players are out-of-contract at the end of next June unless stated otherwise:

DEFENDERS: Carlos Edwards, Ibrahima Sonko, Ivar Ingimarsson, Mark Kennedy, Tommy Smith, Jack Ainsley (Dec 2011), Shane O’Connor.

MIDFIELDERS: Grant Leadbitter, Lee Bowyer (option of a second year), Josh Carson, Luke Hyam, Colin Healy, Jamie Griffiths (Dec 2011).

STRIKERS: Jason Scotland, Tamas Priskin, Ronan Murray.

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