Town enter Land of the Giants
SHEFKI Kuqi returns for Ipswich tonight and Joe Royle says his presence will be important as they enter the Land Of Giants, that is Stoke City.Potters manager Tony Pulis is an old adversary of the Blues boss after being in charge of the losing Gillingham side in the Division Two play-off final in 1999.
SHEFKI Kuqi returns for Ipswich tonight and Joe Royle says his presence will be important as they enter the Land Of Giants, that is Stoke City.
Potters manager Tony Pulis is an old adversary of the Blues boss after being in charge of the losing Gillingham side in the Division Two play-off final in 1999.
Royle smiles at the memory of that thrilling extra-time victory when Manchester City stormed back from a 2-0 deficit with just four minutes remaining to end up winners on penalties and move into Division One.
"We struck up a friendship after that and he handled an impossible situation with great dignity. They were four minutes from Division One but we beat them, so I was delighted when they went up the following year."
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Friends they may be but Royle knows exactly how tough it will be to get one over on his old mate again.
He said: "Anyone who knows Tony Pulis knows his sides are never easy to play against, always big. Stoke must be about the biggest side in the country, even bigger than West Brom.
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"Tony has done very well there and put together a useful side who are big and honest.
"There are no slackers in his team and they are strong, physical and will be hard to beat.
"They only have about two players under 6'2'', so it really is Land of the Giants."
But Town have physical characters in their side who will not buckle easily and Royle knows they will have to win the battle before they have the right to play.
He said: "With Shefki back, especially, and with Georges Santos, John McGreal and Fabian Wilnis we are not small either.
"We can take a lot of confidence from the win over Preston. We were solid and efficient and our fitness levels for the game were way up compared to other games this season.
"The whole team's attitude towards defending was better."
As attractive as it is to watch Ipswich, Royle appreciates more clean sheets would help the cause.
The Blues have not had back to back goalless draws all season, but they did keep Stoke out last October when Matt Richards hit the only goal of the game, so this may represent a great opportunity. Royle said: "We are leading goalscorers without a leading goal scorer in the league.
"If we are going to be cavalier and pass the ball and go for goals then we are going to be caught out, so perhaps we need to be less cavalier at times."
Kuqi will replace Pablo Counago in the attack and line up alongside Darren Bent. The only other change to Saturday's winning squad is the omission of Chris Bart-Williams, who will have an x-ray to ascertain the extent of his back injury.
Meanwhile, Chris Makin will play for Town reserves against Coventry City tomorrow at Nuneaton.