Lee Martin will not be sold in January – even if he doesn’t sign a new contract

MICK McCarthy has admitted he has no choice but to keep Lee Martin in his side – even if it ends with the player becoming the latest on the Ipswich Town conveyor belt to walk away for free.

The winger is in the last year of his contract and though he has always maintained that he wants to stay at Portman Road, talks have stalled due to the managerial uncertainty at the club, which was only resolved by McCarthy’s appointment last week.

Martin could walk away for nothing at the end of this season but McCarthy insists the loan situation he has inherited has forced his hand.

He explained: “Lee will be here until the end of the season, as far as I am concerned. I’ve got eight loan players so I’m not going to let him go – no chance, mate.”

Martin heads a list of nine first-team squad members who are in the final year of their contract – meaning fans face a third straight year of fearing players will leave the club for nothing.

Gareth McAuley, David Norris and Grant Leadbitter have all been signed for big money but left on free transfers in recent seasons.

But McCarthy has more pressing matters to contend with after Tuesday night’s 5-0 defeat at Crystal Palace pushed them further into the relegation mire with a dismal goal difference of minus 20 – comfortably the worst record in the Football League.

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With little choice but to count on the existing squad, McCarthy has told Martin that the grass is not necessarily greener.The manager said: “There are two ways of looking at it.

“Will they be committed to the place? Let me tell you, a little bit of insecurity makes you want to run around more.

“It doesn’t happen that everyone just gets a contract with better clubs and better wages with the Bosman. Some of them don’t get jobs.

“I would like to think anyone out of contact will be trying to prove to me they want to stay here and progress. I look at it as a positive rather than a negative.”

Jason Scotland, Carlos Edwards, Jack Ainsley, Andy Drury, Nathan Ellington, Arran Lee-Barrett, Joe Whight and Cormac Burke all have deals that are up at the end of the season.