Shumi feels like one of the family

MACEDONIAN international Velice Sumulikoski has hailed the professionalism and friendliness of his Ipswich Town team-mates.Sumulikoski claims the Blues squad is the best he has played with in his nine years as professional footballer that has seen him play for clubs in Russia and Turkey.

Derek Davis

MACEDONIAN international Velice Sumulikoski has hailed the professionalism and friendliness of his Ipswich Town team-mates.

Sumulikoski claims the Blues squad is the best he has played with in his nine years as professional footballer that has seen him play for clubs in Russia and Turkey.

Sumulikoski has been particularly impressed at the selflessness of his team-mates and their eagerness to accept him into the area.

He said: “In Turkey if the coach says to a player he is on the bench he doesn't want to go. He gets upset and sulks but here everyone is playing for the team and just accepts that is what they have to do.

“It is much more professional and more team-orientated. Abroad people want to look after themselves.”

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He has also fund a huge difference in attitudes off the pitch.

The midfielder, whose girlfriend and family have visited often, has inevitably had some lonely nights while settling into Suffolk life but has not been left to stew.

Sumulikoski said: “In my nine years of playing in different countries Ipswich has by far the best team spirit, everyone works together and they are not selfish.

“After training in Turkey or Russia everyone just goes their own separate ways. They go home or whatever and no one goes out together or calls each other.

“Here the phone is ringing 'hey Shumi you need anything? Do you want to come out to dinner or for a coffee?'

“It is very nice to have that, to feel part of the team and to be made to feel welcome here.”

He has yet to adapt completely to the English culture but admits he may be tempted to take up one of the English footballers favourite past times.

He said: “I'm not into bingo, or any gambling. I would rather give my money to charity, to children.

“I have been very busy getting a car and a house and settling in. But now I'm here a while I will maybe learn to play golf to help me relax.”

Sumulikoski will have added support this afternoon when QPR come to Portman Road.

He said: “I have friends coming up from London to watch game. Don't worry they are not QPR fans, they are all Ipswich fans now.”

It is expected they will be among a 24,000 crowd watching what is hoped will be a thriller with two attack-minded teams going for a top six finish.

After always playing at the top level abroad this is Sumulikoski's first promotion race but likens it to a title challenge and relishes the challenge.

He said: “I have never played in second level before so have not experienced promotion. I have been involved in a title race with Zenit and I know the pressures that brings.

“Everyone wants to beat you because you are the best team and they all play at their very best.

“Every age is difficult for us now because we need to win. We have won two in a row and I hope that continues for the next seven matches.

“I like the pressure. I have played in every game and I love it.”

Although Town failed to add to the five players they brought in during January and loanees Shefki Kuqi and Danny Simpson, Sumulikoski believes the current crop are blending together nicely and at the right time.

He added: “Every week we improve as we all get to know each other. I feel I'm improving and I will continue to give everything for the team.”

He also feels the Town central midfield is looking balanced and well organised as he builds an understanding with Owen Garvan and Tommy Miller.

He said: “Owen and Tommy are both good players and it doesn't matter which one is on because they are both very good and they work hard to cover and win the ball and take it on.

“It is good to have a strong bench and we can all cover for each other. “

Despite a midweek jaunt to the Balkans for an international friendly Sumulikoski is feeling fit and ready for today's challenge.

He added: “I'm very proud to have won my 50th cap. It was a funny game in many ways and it was difficult against a very good team. The 2-2 scoreline was fine and I was happy with that.”

Ipswich Town squad: Bywater, Colgan, Simpson, Wright, Sito, Harding, Bruce, De Vos, Trotter, Sumulikoski, Miller, Garvan, Williams, Roberts, Quinn, Haynes, Rhodes, Lee, Kuqi.

QPR squad: Camp, Pickens, Connolly, Hall, Delaney, Lehman, Mancienne, Balanta, Mahon, Buzasky, Ephraim, Ainsworth, Rowlands, Leigertwood, Agyemang, Blackstock, Vine.