McAuley: 'Ignore Foxes' relegation'

GARETH McAuley last night told Ipswich Town fans to ignore the fact that his former club Leicester City were relegated from the Coca-Cola Championship last season.

Elvin King

GARETH McAuley last night told Ipswich Town fans to ignore the fact that his former club Leicester City were relegated from the Coca-Cola Championship last season.

The 28-year-old Northern Ireland international defender completed his transfer from the Foxes yesterday lunchtime for a fee believed to be £1.1million.

Leicester will play in League One in 2008/09, but McAuley says that it was not defensive shortcomings that let them down.

Leicester conceded just 45 goals, but scored only a paltry 42 in 2007/08.

Only Ipswich (14) conceded less goals at home than Leicester (19) while only Crystal Palace (19) and Wolves (23) let in less than the Foxes (26) on their travels.

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“We kept 18 clean sheets last season,” said McAuley. “When you suffer relegation you do ask yourself questions, but it was a failure to put the ball into the net that was our problem.”

Town manager Jim Magilton pursued McAuley in the January transfer window and had three bids turned down by the Foxes management.

And McAuley expressed his delight that 'Ipswich's interest did not fade away.'

McAuley signed an extension to his Leicester contract in February tying him to the Walkers Stadium until the summer of 2011.

But with Leicester being relegated from the Championship, McAuley was keen to pursue his career both at club and international level having started Northern Ireland's last six matches.

“Leicester put their cards on the table and there was no way I was going to leave in January,” said McAuley, who has signed a three-year deal at Portman Road.

“My hands were tied and I signed an extended contract thinking that with new players coming in Leicester would progress.

“But it did not happen and I am grateful that Ipswich kept their interest - it did not fade away.

“I want to be involved at the other end of the table next season and from what I have seen of the manager and the club I am confident that I will.”

McAuley has been impressed with the Ipswich set-up, and he said that he expected to be after quizzing former Town defender Jamie Clapham, a former team mate at the Walkers Stadium.

“There is so much history at this club and Jamie only had good things to say about Portman Road,” added McAuley, who is looking ahead to Town's two pre-season trips.

“It will be a case of going home - twice,” said the Larne-born player.

“A week in Belfast will take me back to my roots and family and five days in Loughborough will take me back to where I am currently living.”

Magilton is pleased to finally land his man. He said: “Gareth has what it takes to play at a higher level.

“He attacks both boxes, defending his 18-yard box and scoring his quota of goals at the other end.

“To come through from non-league football he has shown a desire that I like and I have seen him play well at right back for Northern Ireland.

“I am delighted to have him and someone who can help us replace the likes of Jason De Vos, Fabian Wilnis and Sylvain Legwinski.

“Building a strong spine in the team is vital and there could be another signing this week.”

Leicester chairman Milan Mandaric gave his reasons for letting McAuley leave.

He said: “Gareth came to see me last week and told me of his desire to leave the club. We would have liked him to assist us in our quest for promotion next season but his wish was to play elsewhere.”

McAuley moved to England with Lincoln in 2004 and scored eight goals in 72 league appearances for the Imps before earning a move to the Championship with Leicester in 2006.

McAuley then scored five goals in 74 league appearances for the Foxes including two in one game against Ipswich in 2006/07.