Royle refuses to play blame game

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night refused to criticise his players despite failing to reach the play-off final, writes Derek Davis.Two goals from Bobby Zamora destroyed an Ipswich side who lost 2-0 – and 4-2 on aggregate – to a much better team on the night.

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night refused to criticise his players despite failing to reach the play-off final, writes Derek Davis.

Two goals from Bobby Zamora destroyed an Ipswich side who lost 2-0 – and 4-2 on aggregate – to a much better team on the night.

But Royle hailed his side, who he claims performed a 'football miracle'.

Royle said: "This is not the time for criticism or recriminations. These players have nearly worked a soccer miracle to finish third.


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"We are a collection of a couple of senior pros, some free signings and one buy, so to finish third they have done amazingly, so I won't criticise them.

"It would not be the time to point the finger, except to say that extra class up front from their two £2m strikers was the difference – but our two have done brilliantly for us this season."

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Town might have been awarded a spot kick in the second half when Darren Bent was clearly pushed, but it wasn't given and the Hammers went on to get a second.

Royle said: "I can't argue that West Ham had a bit more than us in all departments.

"We might have had a penalty but I would not blame the referee for us losing. We have not had a break or a decision go for us over the two legs, but that is not the reason we lost."

Royle and his staff will be letting players know who they want to keep in the next few days before planning for another Championship campaign next season, with a reduced budget. Then the holidays begin and it is time to reflect and try to get over the hurt.

Royle said: "It is not easy to take but they have a six-week break now and we will see what transpires in terms of who will be kept on and who will be going. We will then go from there, but it is hard to digest after being top for three months."

Hammers' boss Alan Pardew said: "After an initial start which was a bit hairy we grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and we were brilliant, it was a pleasure to watch.

"We came with the same tactical plan as New Year's Day when we also won 2-0 and it worked again because the players have performed at a high level."

But Pardew, who has lost two of the three finals he has been in as a manager, is refusing to get carried away with either Preston or Derby to meet at the end of May.

"After we won in the second leg last year we were jumping up and down but we are carrying some hurt so we know we have one more game to go," he added.

Goal hero Bobby Zamora may not even start in the final with Championship Player of the Year Teddy Sheringham likely to reclaim his place after missing the semi-finals with a hamstring tear.

Pardew said: "I was delighted with Bobby to get that special goal which gave us breathing space. He has had a lot of criticism, as I have, so I was pleased for him."

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