Town pledge to fight off Connor advances

THE message coming out of Portman Road today for worried Ipswich Town supporters is that the Championship club will be working overtime to hang on to highly-rated youngster Connor Wickham.

Elvin King

THE message coming out of Portman Road today for worried Ipswich Town supporters is that the Championship club will be working overtime to hang on to highly-rated youngster Connor Wickham.

The 16-year-old striker is set to start on the bench in tomorrow's league game against Sheffield Wednesday at Portman Road (kick-off 5.20pm), and be called on if his elders fail to do the business against the Owls. Until he is 17 next spring, the Colchester-based youngster cannot sign a full Ipswich Town contract.

Premier League clubs are keeping an eye on the situation, but Town are keen to play this down and let Wickham get on with his footballing education at Playford Road.

Ipswich would be due a 'compensation' fee if Wickham was to be lured away to enjoy the riches of a top club, but this would be nothing like the �3million or so they could receive if Wickham proved himself a 20-goa-a-season man in a couple of years' time.

The Blues have confirmed that they will be doing all they can to keep Wickham, who can be placed in the same category as John Bostock, who Tottenham signed from Crystal Palace for �700,000 in July 2008.

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Now 17, Bostock has this month been loaned out to Brentford, and he scored both goals on his Bees debut at the weekend - a 2-2 draw with Millwall in League One.

Liverpool this week paid an undisclosed 'compensation' fee for Luton Town 14-year-old Dave Moli, who will now move with his family to Merseyside, where he will continue his schooling and train at the Reds' academy.

There is the possibility that Wickham could be 'sold' before his 17th birthday and then 'loaned' back to Town, but Ipswich will be doing all they can to retain the signature of the England Under-17 international.

While Wickham is very much in manager Roy Keane's long-term plans, midfielder Owen Garvan and left-back Ben Thatcher appear to be not.

A number of clubs are closing in on Garvan before the closing of the loan signing window next Thursday, while Southampton are reported to be interested in Thatcher, who will be 34 later this month.

Welsh international Thatcher has played in just one pre-season friendly since Keane's arrival and has been suffering from a long-standing knee problem.

Still based in Surrey, Thatcher has been track-suited again at the Blues training ground this week and a move down the M3 from his home could possibly suit his requirements.

Thatcher, who has a Town contract to June next year, was signed by Saints manager Alan Pardew at Charlton.

If he did move on, Thatcher would have to displace former Town defender Dan Harding, who has been earning good reports at left-back for the League One side.