Royle: I'll fly home to make signings

BLUES boss Joe Royle is ready to return from his annual holiday at a moment's notice to make the signings he needs to strengthen promotion-chasing Ipswich Town.

BLUES boss Joe Royle is ready to return from his annual holiday at a moment's notice to make the signings he needs to strengthen promotion-chasing Ipswich Town, writes Derek Davis.

The Town manager jets to Majorca for a month's break on Friday but anticipates he will need to be back at Portman Road once he captures his first new player.

Before he can bring someone in though Ipswich need to lighten the wage bill which has already been slashed from £24m to around £10m but needs to be further reduced by half.

Ipswich have not had any firm enquiries about players and Royle does not expect any movement for a couple of weeks yet.

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He said: “We can't bring anyone in until we have shipped a couple out. I don't anticipate anything happening until the middle of June.

“I will be away but the good thing about Majorca is I can be back in England in two-and-a-half hours so I can come back for the odd day as and when necessary.”

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Birmingham City keeper Ian Bennett is most probably going to be Royle's first signing. Although nothing official has been agreed I understand Bennett is close to agreeing a three-year deal with Town after being given the promise of first-team football at Portman Road.

City boss Steve Bruce has turned his attentions to Leeds United keeper Nigel Martyn after considering Manchester United's £3m price tag for Roy Carroll too hefty.

Royle has another keeper in mind if Bennett decides not to come, while Paul Gerrard remains an outside hope for the Blues boss.

Royle's next target would be a centre-half and he has a list drawn up already. But two on the long list look to be non-starters with Henning Berg in talks regarding a move back to Norway after being released by Blackburn Rovers.

Meanwhile, Burnley's Drissa Diallo is due to hold talks with Clarets' boss Stan Ternent today.

His agent Eric Black believes Diallo will stay at Turf Moor and added: “There is nothing concrete yet, although Burnley have first option and he is keen to stay.

“Drissa loves all the lads here and feels settled. We are just waiting for Burnley's initial offer but I'm happy to meet with Stan and begin negotiations.”

Hopes that Coventry City would make a move for transfer-listed striker Alun Armstrong were dashed yesterday with news that Graham Barrett, who played against Town while on loan at Brighton, is close to agreeing a three-year deal.

Brighton had hoped to sign him permanently, while Preston made a bid to capture the Irishman, who spent a loan spell at Colchester United last year, from the Gunners.

n IPSWICH Town reserves have confirmed five pre-season friendlies, starting with a trip to Framlingham on Wednesday, July 16. They meet Woodbridge on Monday, July 21 and Hadleigh on July 24. Steve McCall will take a strong Blues side to Bury for Trevor Collins' testimonial on Saturday, August 2 and three days later they visit AFC Sudbury.

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