Sheepshanks thanks fans for Kuqi deal

BLUES chairman David Sheepshanks has hailed the signing of Shefki Kuqi as a significant step in Ipswich Town's progress. Sheepshanks and manager Joe Royle secured the Finland striker on a free transfer from cash-strapped Sheffield Wednesday with the promise of a cash payment if Town win promotion to the Premiership and a sell-on clause.

BLUES chairman David Sheepshanks has hailed the signing of Shefki Kuqi as a significant step in Ipswich Town's progress, writes Derek Davis.

Sheepshanks and manager Joe Royle secured the Finland striker on a free transfer from cash-strapped Sheffield Wednesday with the promise of a cash payment if Town win promotion to the Premiership and a sell-on clause.

Sheepshanks said: “Being able to take Shefki on a long-term deal shows how far we have come since the dark days of last season.

“That is thanks to the perseverance of the players and staff at the club and most of all the wonderful support from the fans. They have played their part in being able to afford this move by attending our games in the sort of numbers they have.


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“The progress is indicative of a huge team effort on and off the field.

“We are very fortunate to have two such brilliant men in Joe Royle and Derek Bowden as leaders. Joe has that special quality in being able to inspire all those around him and that is exactly what he is doing.

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“Derek is also playing his part to the full in the day-to-day management of our business. It is a tremendous team effort but everyone knows there is lots more to be done. ”

Kuqi was the first of the three loan signings to be secured on a permanent basis but Sheepshanks warned that it did not necessarily follow taking Chris Bart-Williams and Alan Mahon was automatic and stressed the club will only invest in what it can afford.

He added: “The future in that respect depends on a number of factors including form on the pitch, attendance levels, cup draws and progress and existing outward loans being extended.”

Another factor for Ipswich must be the success of the share issue which was launched this week. The nearer the club gets to the initial maximum £5m the more Royle will eventually get for players. Although no target has been set, anything over £2.5m will be seen as a significant success.

The Town also put another feather into the cap of the Academy when Ian Westlake signed a two-year extension to his contract.

Sheepshanks said: “Ian is a totally dedicated and committed Ipswich Town player and it is great to see another Academy player beginning to establish himself in the first team.

“He knows he still has a long way to go but he has a huge heart and an incredible desire to succeed.

“It speaks volumes for the Academy that we have blooded 11 players in the first team in the past two years.

“It is testimony to Bryan Klug and his staff for what they do in terms of recruiting coaching and developing these young people.”

After the horror of administration and the need to sell cheaply in a depressed market during the past year, Ipswich are now looking to strengthen the squad rather than off-load key players. Although Alun Armstrong, Nabil Abidallah, Martijn Reuser, Matt Bloomfield and Chris Hogg are available on free transfers, Town insist they do not want to sell any other players in the January transfer window.

But even though the Blues are in a healthier financial state they, like any other club, would have to consider a major offer for any of their stars - but it is heartening to know they are in a strong enough position to hold out for top dollar.

Royle has already warned Division One rivals West Brom not to bother trying to get Pablo Counago.

But this is also the last season in Division One that Town receive a parachute payment so if they did not win promotion this time round they may again need to sell next summer.

Town's players trained at Bristol yesterday ahead of today's game. Georges Santos, who had been doubtful with a foot injury, joined in and it is hoped he will be fit for today's game.

* Ipswich Town's reserve game at Leicester City, which was due to take place on Tuesday, December 2, has been postponed due to Town's FA Youth Cup tie at Leeds United on Monday and first-team commitments. The re-arranged First Division game at Notthingham Forest is now taking place on Wednesday, December 3.

The reserve game at Leicester City has been moved to Tuesday, April 27.

* Tickets are now on sale for the re-arranged First Division match between Nottingham Forest and Ipswich Town, on Wednesday, December 3, kick-off 7.45pm. They are priced £22 for adults, £15 for over-60s and £10 for under-16s/students.

There are still a few tickets left for the local derby against Norwich City on Sunday, December 21, noon kick-off. They are priced £19 for adults, £13 concessions and £5 for under-16s.

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