Premier clubs ready for a bargain hunt

VUNERABLE Ipswich Town are preparing themselves for some unwanted attention in the next few days from a variety of Premiership clubs looking to take advantage of bargain buys at Portman Road.

VUNERABLE Ipswich Town are preparing themselves for some unwanted attention in the next few days from a variety of Premiership clubs looking to take advantage of bargain buys at Portman Road, writes Derek Davis.

As much as the Blues would like to keep the squad intact for the Division One run-in and the faint hope of reaching the play-offs they know the administrators would be willing to accept any half-decent offer for their star players.

Fulham have had a last-minute change of heart about taking Marcus Bent but their interest has prompted a number of other clubs into considering taking the plunge now rather than wait for the summer.

As a 'club in distress' Ipswich could sell to a Premiership club who would be allowed to play their new signing, subject to approval by the Premier League board, a rubber-stamp seen as a formality.

I understand Charlton, who are looking to secure a UEFA Cup qualifying place, are considering making a move for Matt Holland and Martijn Reuser and may even try to take Hermann Hreidarsson even before he fully recovers from a nasty gash above the knee.

Everton are looking to pip Newcastle United and Arsenal to Darren Ambrose's signature and serious bids for the 19-year-old could well be tabled again early next week.

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Blues boss Joe Royle is trying to focus his battered team on their crucial game at Sheffield Wednesday tomorrow and while no bids have yet come in he knows he faces a fight to hold on to some of his squad.

He said: "There was an interest but Fulham won't be taking it any further. It is not down to Marcus's ability, it is more to do with the uncertainty there than anything else and they won't be taking anyone until the summer when they see what is happening with Jean Tigana.

"There has been interest in a couple of players but no bids for anyone yet.

"That may not be good news for the administrator but it suits BFJ."

Chris Makin is the latest worry as he struggles with injury but it wouldn't be the first time he has played through pain. Matt Richards was taking it easy yesterday with a sore calf but is determined to be involved.

Thomas Gaardsoe has missed training since the draw at Selhurst Park with a sore back but the doughty Dane is expected to take his place.

Fabian Wilnis has nasty stud-marks down the back of his calf to go with his ankle and knee knocks; he will once again need painkillers to play but refuses to bow out.

Richard Naylor went a long way into making a centre-half spot his own with a star performance at Crystal Palace although John McGreal is back in full training and will look to get back in the senior side by the end of the month, while Mark Venus is also making steady progress.

Hermann Hreidarsson is still laid up but is already eager to step up his physiotherapy.

Tommy Miller is rated extremely doubtful with a tender hamstring, while Darren Ambrose is a definite non-starter.

Matt Holland is likely to stay in midfield alongside Jermaine Wright and the influential Jim Magilton.

Town also have Martijn Reuser to call upon and his crossing and set-plays have been looking particularly dangerous of late. Nabil Abidallah and Ian Westlake, who both scored in the reserves' win over Wimbledon on Wednesday, are also on stand-by to travel.

Royle has more choices up front with Marcus Bent likely to start alongside Pablo Counago, allowing Darren Bent a much-needed rest and the option to come off the bench and destroy a flagging Wednesday with his blistering pace and precision finishing, while Dean Bowditch will also be in the squad.

Blues assistant manager Willie Donachie started the season at Sheffield Wednesday as coach to Terry Yorath before taking up Joe Royle's offer of a reunion.

Royle said: "Wednesday have done very well recently with a big 5-1 win over Coventry and a draw with Leicester City last week, but it is up to us. We need an inspired run now to get us back in the frame and a bit of luck would not go amiss.

"We have not given up, we still have 10 games, which is not far short of a quarter of the season left, so we will keep believing."

Sixth-placed Wolves, who are eight points ahead of Ipswich in seventh, play Portsmouth tomorrow and if both games go to form – with Pompey and Ipswich both winning – the gap will be reduced to five points with nine games to play, but Dave Jones' side would still need to lose at least two more matches and Town win all theirs.

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