Kuqi wants to fight for place

SHEFKI Kuqi will dig his heels in to stay at Ipswich Town after turning down a move to Bundesliga side Hansa Rostock, writes Derek Davis.The Finland international insists any deal would have to be extremely good for him to leave Portman Road as more clubs start showing an interest in him.

SHEFKI Kuqi will dig his heels in to stay at Ipswich Town after turning down a move to Bundesliga side Hansa Rostock, writes Derek Davis.

The Finland international insists any deal would have to be extremely good for him to leave Portman Road as more clubs start showing an interest in him.

Sunderland boss Mick McCarthy is believed to be ready to make a move for the 31-year-old striker who is available on a free transfer.

That would be more appealing to Kuqi than a move abroad but they would still have to offer tempting personal terms as he has recently bought a house in Suffolk and is settled at Ipswich Town.


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Kuqi last night told the EADT: "I would prefer to play in England and preferably with Ipswich Town.

"I'm happy here in Ipswich and it would have to be something a lot better for me to move on.

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"Hansa wanted me to go over on trial but I said no to that. I have heard about a few clubs wanting me which shows I must be doing something right.

"It is difficult for footballers to keep moving around, starting all over again with another club, another set of players and if you go abroad, a new culture."

Kuqi has one more year left on his contract, although he has an automatic option of a two-year extension should the Blues win Premiership promotion.

He was signed by Blues boss Joe Royle, initially on loan from Sheffield Wednesday and then a free transfer, although promotion would trigger a £150,000 payment to the Owls.

Sunderland are set to try their luck in signing Kuqi as McCarthy renews his interest in the burly forward.

The Black Cats' boss was keen to sign Kuqi last summer but a deal never materialised. He is desperately searching for a big striker with Kevin Kyle out injured. The Wearsiders missed out when Nathan Blake chose Leicester City despite being offered a contract after spending a week on trial at the Stadium of Light.

With Tommy Smith and Darren Byfield both leaving in the summer Sunderland only have Marcus Stewart fit of their senior strikers.

Royle is looking to move out Pablo Counago and has given a trial to former PSG, Besiktas and Strasbourg forward Pascal Nouma who played 30 minutes in Town's low-key friendly against Osasuna on Monday.

But he has had a change of heart about shipping Kuqi out. Royle said: "The timing of the German club's approach is not the best. I'm glad Shefki wants to stay here and I want him to stay and fight for his place in the team.

"I want him to carry on the good form he is showing of late and play as he did against Newcastle."

Town have now allowed two clubs to make a move for Kuqi after a Korean club was given permission to talk to him last month – an offer the Kosovan-born striker also declined.

Kuqi hit a dozen goals last season for Town, coupled with five goals for the Hillsborough club, and refuses to let the fact that he is available on a free transfer get to him.

He said: "I'm not going to get upset by it. All the time I'm here I stay concentrated on being a professional and training hard, trying to convince the manager to play me.

"We have a few strikers here and we know no one player is going to play every game, so it is a case of working hard and being ready to play.

"I felt I did okay last season but I know I can do better and I intend to score even more goals this season."

Kuqi will be named in the squad to face Gillingham on Saturday in the season opener with 20,000 tickets already sold for the match.

Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos are both recovering well after picking up knocks in the friendly on Monday while Matt Richards and Jim Magilton are also likely to be fit.

n Blues keeper Lewis Price has been called up for the Wales under-21 squad to face Latvia in Riga on August 18. The 20-year-old has played at under-19 level for the Welsh.

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