Royle hails skipper Magilton

WITH the season approaching the halfway stage Joe Royle believes Ipswich are superbly positioned to gain promotion, thanks in no small measure to his very own Martin Johnson, writes Derek Davis.

WITH the season approaching the halfway stage Joe Royle believes Ipswich are superbly positioned to gain promotion, thanks in no small measure to his very own Martin Johnson, writes Derek Davis.

Just as the Leicester lock leads England so superbly Ipswich skipper Jim Magilton has been hailed by the Blues boss for forging an outstanding team spirit at Portman Road.

Shefki Kuqi, Town's man of the match against Sheffield United on Saturday, praised his new side's closeness and willingness to work so hard for each other, a factor Royle, along with coaches Willie Donachie and Tony Mowbray has worked hard to engender.

He said: "When I first got here the squad was a little splintered. You had players coming down from the Premier League and youngsters coming through trying to prove themselves and it was a little fractured.


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"That is not to say anything against George Burley or Matt Holland as there were a lot of things going on at the time which were disruptive.

"But there is definitely a togetherness here now and that is in no small part down to Jim Magilton.

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"I don't know if Jim would appreciate the similarly to Martin Johnson but he has shown the same terrific leadership on and off the pitch.

"He has an opinion about things and is not afraid to let you know. I work closely with Jim and discuss a lot of team matters with him and he puts his point of view across.

"He has helped ensure that the connection between players and the community has been strengthened again."

Although Ipswich could slip to ninth place tonight if results go against them, while Norwich City could go top, Royle is happy that things are looking bright for the Blues.

Moves have started to try to capture all three loan singings – Kuqi, Alan Mahon and Chris Bart-Williams – on a permanent basis.

The injury list has shortened with Pablo Counago, Alun Armstrong and Mahon all expected to train this week. Mahon, who will re-register as an Ipswich player this week, is pencilled in for the reserve game against Chelsea on Wednesday at Portman Road, but will not figure in the first team on Saturday at old club Cardiff.

Although Chris Makin and Drissa Diallo are still missed, Royle believes the squad is in good shape for the forthcoming festive challenge. He said: "We are in a relatively strong position. We have lost twice in 14 games and if we go another 14 with a similar set of results then we will be right up there.

"There is a lot to be positive about and a lot to feel good about ourselves for, but there is also still much to do and we are working on that."

With John McGreal and Martijn Reuser back in the squad, along with the likes of Dean Bowditch, Tommy Miller, Counago and Armstrong, Royle has adequate cover for injury and suspensions.

Georges Santos will miss the home game with Derby on December 6 after picking up his fifth booking of the season against his old club Sheffield United.

n There are still almost 1,000 tickets available for general sale for the derby game against Norwich City on Sunday, December 21, 12 noon kick-off. They are available at Planet Blue or by calling 01473 400555.

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