Town face losing �millions on players soon to be out of contract

DAVID Norris’ future will be decided when Ipswich Town manager Paul Jewell sits down to talk to his skipper before the weekend.

Jimmy Bullard is set to complete his loan signing from Hull City today, creating more speculation that 29-year-old Norris might be on his way to Portsmouth before the transfer window closes on Monday.

It is a delicate situation for Jewell with Ipswich potentially set to lose out financially on one of the stars from the titanic Carling Cup semi-final with Arsenal earlier this month.

By Ipswich failing to extend Norris’ current contract that runs out in June, the player will be able to leave on a free from next Tuesday having cost them �2 million in a January 31 deal three years ago from Plymouth.

Ipswich are unable to match Portsmouth’s wage packet, a deal Pompey are able to offer Norris having tabled a paltry �250,000 bid that reflects a player on the last legs of his contract.

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Pompey boss Steve Cotterill is anticipating the prospect of taking Norris on a free in the summer if he cannot complete a deal before Monday night.

Jewell is also aware of this saying: “David is an excellent professional and if he is here until the end of the season I would expect him to give his best and I’m sure he will.

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“I’ve got to sit down with David and Gareth McAuley and sort out the situation. It’s a problem I’ve inherited and I’m in no rush to get David or Gareth out.”

Both players have expressed a preference to remain with Ipswich, but both have turned down new contract deals and the ball is in Ipswich’s court.

While Grant Leadbitter has 17 months left on his contract he is reported to be the subject of interest from Premier League clubs, and having been signed by Roy Keane and always considered to be a ‘Keane man’ he might come into the equation for a move out over the next five days.

Leadbitter has shown no interest in leaving Portman Road, but if Ipswich owner Marcus Evans is reluctant to release any more cash there might have to be some wheeling and dealing from Jewell to finance the arrival of Bullard and a couple of other players he is showing interest in.

All of Town’s 22 players out of contract on June 30 can agree free transfers to leave Ipswich either verbally or by signing pre-contract agreements with new clubs from February 1.

Of this large number it is Norris, McAuley, Brian Murphy, Colin Healy, Luke Hyam, Damien Delaney, Carlos Edwards, Arran Lee-Barrett, Alan Quinn and Ronan Murray who are the most critical.

If nothing is agreed by Monday they can still be offered – and agree – Ipswich contract extensions right up to the end of their current deals.

With a fight on their hands to move away from the relegation zone of the Championship, Jewell will want all the commitment he can find over the final 20 games of the season.

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