Town could face a price war over McAuley

IPSWICH Town face a price war with Queens Park Rangers over the signing of Blues manager Jim Magilton's top defensive target Gareth McAuley.

Elvin King

IPSWICH Town face a price war with Queens Park Rangers over the signing of Blues manager Jim Magilton's top defensive target Gareth McAuley.

The 28-year-old Northern Ireland international, who was relegated from the Coca-Cola Championship with Leicester City last season, is seen by Magilton as a replacement for former skipper Jason De Vos.

Magilton made two bids for the player last January but the then Leicester manager Ian Holloway would not sell, and McAuley signed a new contract in February that ties him to the Walkers Stadium-based club until 2011.

The Ipswich manager, who is not expected back at his desk at Portman Road until next week, rates the ability of McAuley even though Town fans might have other thoughts after he failed to help keep the Foxes from dropping down to League One.

Dowie, one of Magilton's best friends in football, shares the same high opinion and has put McAuley high on his shopping list.

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Dowie has been away from work after taking over at Loftus Road last month because of a family bereavement, but he is poised to use some of the millions in the QPR coffers to tempt McAuley to London.

Magilton said: “The players I am looking to sign have not deviated from my targets in January and we have to construct a new spine to our side from goalkeeper through central defence to striker.

“I've known Gareth for a very long time and I thought he was excellent here last year and he has played very well in games I've seen him play for Northern Ireland.”

Ipswich are believed to have made a bid of £1million in January for ten-cap McAuley and this still stands. It remains to be seen whether Magilton ups this in his determination to get his man.

Leicester owner Milan Mandaric says that he hopes to appoint a new manager by the end of next week, but Magilton will be seeing if there is any way he can complete a deal by then. McAuley will be keener to leave now than he was five months ago following Leicester's relegation.

Magilton must expect serious opposition mainly from QPR even though virtually every club in the Premier and Football Leagues are effectively currently on hold because of holidays.

Magilton has been linked with 22-year-old Dagenham's Scott Griffiths and young 6'4” Dutchman Pim Balkestein, but McAuley remains his main defensive option.

Griffiths would be a player for the future at best while Balkestein played just one first team game for Heerenveen in the Dutch League last season.

Magilton has to decide his plans regarding loan players Stephen Bywater and Shefki Kuqi, plus the future of keeper Nick Colgan, who sat on the bench at the end of last season after severing his ties with Barnsley.

Talks must take place with Dean Bowditch over a possible new contract and with Owen Garvan about signing an extension to his Portman Road contract.

No concrete interest has yet been received for players told they can leave by Magilton - Gavin Williams, Gary Roberts, Billy Clarke, Dan Harding and Matt Richards.

Jaime Peters, who still has two years left on his contract, played for the last ten minutes as Canada were beaten by Brazil in Seattle, USA. It was the 21-year-old's 14th cap.