Stead eyeing payback ahead of ‘special game’

JON Stead has tipped Ipswich Town to challenge for the Championship this season – but promised to do all he can to ensure they don’t get off to a flyer on Saturday.

The former Blues striker will be hoping to help Bristol City knock some of the pre-season optimism out of Paul Jewell’s men.

And as a double incentive, Stead also has revenge in his sights after the Blues beat his current club home and away last season.

The striker said: “It is a special game for me obviously but the opening game always is. We want to get back into it as soon as possible and not start like we did last season.

“They have lost a few key players but they have also brought some in. They will be strong opponents but it is all about how we start the season.”

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A forward who divided the Town faithful, Stead scored 20 goals in 42 games before he was sold just two weeks after the start of last season.

His first match for his new club ironically saw him return to Portman Road where he tasted a 2-0 defeat, thanks in part to a howler by City keeper David James.

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Bristol City’s number nine recalled: “It was my debut and we were in the game. It was just a couple of mistakes on our part that cost us. It will be a tough Championship game but we are going to get plenty of them this season.”

And when asked about whether Paul Jewell has assembled a side capable of challenging for the top, Stead added: “I think so. With the exception of teams that have come up, I think everyone is looking to push and get into the play-off position.

“It is going to be tight like it has for the last few years – and this year even more so.

While clearly a special game for Stead, there is some debate whether he will even start in Saturday’s season opener. Nicky Maynard remains the side’s biggest threat and Stead will be vying with Brett Pitman to see who starts alongside the main man.

While Keith Millen has some good attacking options, the manager has openly admitted needing more defensively. He yesterday went some way to improving this situation by re-signing top summer target Jordan Spence, the right back joining on a season-long loan from Championship rivals West Ham.

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