Jim's: Let's give fans an early present

PROUD skipper Jim Magilton has urged his Ipswich Town team-mates to make their fans' Christmas by beating fierce rivals Norwich City on Sunday.

PROUD skipper Jim Magilton has urged his Ipswich Town team-mates to make their fans' Christmas by beating fierce rivals Norwich City on Sunday, writes Derek Davis.

Magilton will be leading the Blues out as captain for the first time in an East Anglian derby and while his heart will swell with pride, he knows how easily the festive period could be ruined for thousands.

The Irishman, who yesterday took part in one of a series of visits to hospitals in East Anglia, admitted his sixth derby match was going to be extra special.

He said: "It is a fantastic feeling and I'm really looking forward to it. I will feel so proud to lead the team out in the derby for my first time as skipper.

"It is always an important game anyway but given our respective league positions it is even more crucial.

"We know we can make and break people's Christmases, that is how much it means.

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"Derby games are about the supporters. The players have 90 minutes of playing, they have the hype and the build-up with the media attention focusing so hugely on East Anglia and this game, but for the fans it goes beyond that right up until the next derby match."

Three of Joe Royle's new signings are almost certain to start their first East Anglian derby match with Kelvin Davis, Shefki Kuqi and Chris Bart-Williams in the line-up, while Drissa Diallo is ruled out with a knee injury and on-loan Alan Mahon yesterday reported he had a relapse of the flu. Magilton said: "If the new lads don't know what it means then they will find out big time on Sunday.

"They are realising the importance as the week builds up and that is good as they have the nerves and realisation.

"But come Sunday, believe me, all the lads will be fired up in that dressing room just as they are every week.

"It is about playing our neighbours but it is also about us getting back on a winning track after the draw at Millwall."

Magilton is expecting a tough time in midfield as he faces Irish counterpart Phil Mulryne in the City side.

He said: "It is always pretty fiesty in midfield. I know their lads quite well by now and they are all good players.

"I'm sure Norwich will be looking to make additions whereas the competition for places in our side is red hot.

"Training is really competitive, players are hungry to get in the side and that is great – being in the starting XI is what it is all about."

Magilton, who as a concerned parent is used to visiting the children's wards at Ipswich, returned there yesterday along with Shefki Kuqi and Georges Santos, to hand out presents and cards, an experience all three found humbling.

One of the youngsters the trio met was 12-year-old Gary Oates from Needham Market who has recently won a Little Star award from Cancer Research for his outstanding bravery.

Gary was diagnosed with a brain tumour and only given a 30% survival chance. But the huge David Beckham fan fought back to fitness and was in hospital yesterday for blood tests after making a terrific recovery.

Magilton said: "I have spent a lot of time in these wards over the past couple of years so it was nice to come back and see so many familiar faces.

"When you are here they are so reassuring, the nurses and the doctors are so friendly.

"Coming back is a reminder of how difficult it was so it is good to be able to spread a little joy.

"These kids don't want to be here so if we can break up their day then that is great.

"The age spectrum watching Ipswich Town is phenomenal, from 80-year-old grannies to toddlers, so it is our duty as players to do these things and it is a responsibility we take on gladly."

n IPSWICH Town can look forward to a triple live television showing in the new year which will give them a £600,000 boost.

Dates against West Bromwich Albion and Watford have been added to the Wigan action in front of the live television cameras at Portman Road.

Blues take on Wigan in a 5.35pm kick-off on Saturday, February 7, followed by Watford on March 20 with a noon kick-off and then the Baggies on April 3, again at 5.35pm.

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