Magilton to sign today

Joe Royle's plans for the new Championship season have received a big boost as captain Jim Magilton has agreed to put pen to paper on a new one-year deal, writes David Vincent.

Joe Royle's plans for the new Championship season have received a big boost as captain Jim Magilton has agreed to put pen to paper on a new one-year deal, writes David Vincent.

Magilton is set to sign his new contract today, making it four players who have committed to Ipswich Town in the last 24 hours.

The Irish midfielder will follow in the footsteps of former Arsenal striker Dean McDonald, French midfielder Jimmy Juan and Dutch defender Fabian Wilnis.

Magilton had been linked with a move elsewhere, with a player/coach role at Bristol Rovers an attractive option for him.

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Town boss Royle said of his skipper: "He's decided to concentrate on the playing side and we are delighted.

"He's a massive influence around the place. His enthusiasm comes through to all the players, and don't underestimate what a big player he is for us on the pitch either."

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Wilnis rarely missed a game last season while Juan and McDonald were regulars in the Town reserves and were knocking on the first team door by the end of the campaign.

Juan has another season-long loan from Monaco.

Magilton's arrival must go down as one of George Burley's best-ever signings.

The former Northern Ireland skipper originally arrived on loan from Sheffield Wednesday and then signed for a fee of almost £700,000 in May 1999.

He became a key member of Town's promotion-winning side and in the Premiership.

The midfield playmaker has proved one of the most popular players with the supporters and in the dressing room and he took over the captain's armband in 2003 when Matt Holland left Portman Road.

The veteran of 52 appearances for his country called time on his international career to concentrate on playing for Ipswich.

And he was almost ever-present last season with more than 40 appearances and three goals.

He signed a 12-month deal this time last year and spent that summer working towards his UEFA B coaching qualification with thoughts on his longer-term future in the game.

Royle is pleased to have him on board again to demonstrate his leadership skills in a squad which will include many youngsters coming through from the Town Academy.

Royle said: "We are all very pleased that Jim has agreed our offer of a new contract.

"In many ways it has been an unsettling summer for him, but he has decided to join us in our quest to gain promotion to the Premiership.

"He has proved himself to be a great skipper and proved himself a leader both on and off the field.

"It is great news to have him on board again.

"The players are settling down to pre-season training, and I still have one or two issues to deal with.

"Ideally a new defender would be ideal to complement our squad."

Training yesterday moved to the Royal Hospital School, Holbrook, and concentrated on aerobic endurance and strength sessions.

When it cooled in the evening the players returned to work with the football.

Ipswich Town's first-team squad will be much-changed next season whether or not there are more new arrivals, and there are likely to be plenty of changes in squad numbers.

A look back at the 2004/2005 official first-team squad photo reflects the number of changes.

The photograph includes 20 players and some of those had only a handful of appearances between them.

Of those 20 players seven have departed. Kelvin Davis, Darren Bent, Shefki Kuqi, Drissa Diallo, Antonio Murray, Tommy Miller and Pablo Counago have all gone.

Of course Darren Currie was signed during the season and settled in well.

Loanees Tony Dinning, David Unsworth, Danny Karbassiyoon and James Scowcroft were less successful.

This summer Royle has already brought in strikers Nicky Forster and Sam Parkin to replace Bent and Kuqi, and they will probably take over the vacant No. 8 and No. 9 shirts.

Royle's search for an experienced defender could bring another former international to Portman Road.

Republic of Ireland left-back or midfielder Steve Staunton did not return to Championship rivals Coventry City when they gathered for pre-season training.

He is a free agent though City manager Micky Adams has taken the unusual step of withdrawing his contract offer to the 36-year-old.

Former Liverpool and Villa star Staunton, who is the brother-in-law of Jim Magilton, was the only one of 10 out-of-contract players not to return to the Sky Blues.

Adams said: "We were disappointed Steve didn't come back to us but sometimes these things happen. He's a great professional and we wish him well for the future."

Coventry captain Stephen Hughes added: "We were hoping Stan would come back to us because he's a popular guy and a few of the lads left messages for him. I'll miss him because he's a fellow moaner."

Free agent Kuqi, who has signed for Blackburn Rovers, dropped in on Town yesterday to say farewell to his former team-mates.

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