Town line up Bent replacement

HIBS striker Derek Riordan is being lined up as a possible replacement for Darren Bent, who has slapped in a transfer request at Ipswich Town.Scotland Manager of the Year Tony Mowbray is ready to cash in on 22-year-old Riordan, who has one year left on his Easter Road contract and recently rejected the offer of a new deal.

By Derek Davis

HIBS striker Derek Riordan is being lined up as a possible replacement for Darren Bent, who has slapped in a transfer request at Ipswich Town.

Scotland Manager of the Year Tony Mowbray is ready to cash in on 22-year-old Riordan, who has one year left on his Easter Road contract and recently rejected the offer of a new deal.

The Scottish international striker, who banged in 23 goals to help Hibs to third place in the SPL and a UEFA Cup qualification, would be available for around £500,000, which has already attracted interest from Sunderland and Derby County.


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Mowbray would still like to keep the Edinburgh-born striker and, although Hibs have not received any concrete offers, he knows the interest will be great and a move to England would be tempting for the youngster.

Mowbray, former Ipswich defender and first-team coach, said: “At the moment there is nothing concrete or definite. We are not sticking any figures or prices on Derek.

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“I've told him we'd love the situation to be resolved with him staying here, where we believe he can continue his football education.

“He still has a lot of developing to do, especially if he wants to play on the bigger stage down south.”

The only way Town could afford to pay a fee for anyone is if they recoup money from selling a player, with Bent and ace keeper Kelvin Davis the most likely to fetch good money.

Bent's agent Jonathan Barnett has officially told the club that his client wants to leave for a Premiership side this summer.

The England Under-21 striker revealed to the EADT a month ago that he would look to leave Ipswich if they did not get promoted.

His 19 goals helped the Blues to third place in the Championship and the EADT/Powergen Player of the Year award for the second successive season.

Town will look to get around £3m for their Academy graduate, with most of that going into Joe Royle's playing budget.

Other targets already linked to Town include Reading's Steve Sidwell, Tranmere Rovers' Iain Hume, Luton forward Chris Coyne, who would all cost money, while Mo Camara is now a free agent after leaving Burnley.

With free agents Tommy Miller and Shefki Kuqi linked with moves away from Portman Road, Royle will need to find replacements during the summer to supplement the talent coming through the youth ranks.

Miller has indicated he would like to stay with Ipswich, and will hold talks with Royle today, but the lure of a Premiership club, especially Sunderland, could prove too much.

The midfielder is marrying a Mackem lass next month and his Ipswich house is up for sale.

The Town boss last night said he expected to have a clearer picture of who would be accepting contracts and who wouldn't by the time he meets with the board on Tuesday.

Drissa Diallo, Fabian Wilnis, Jim Magilton, Miller and Kuqi will have all held talks with Royle by then, with Pablo Counago already back in Spain.

The last thing Royle wants this year is the situation he faced last summer, when John McGreal and Chris Makin left unexpectedly, along with Jermaine Wright, whose departure was always on the cards.

Magilton, Wilnis and Richard Naylor all waited until late to sign new deals after some misgivings.

Royle said: “We can't wait around all summer to find out. We are not talking about giving players ultimatums but certainly I will say to players 'please let me know as soon as possible' what they intend to do.

“The worst thing that can happen to a manager is wait until the end of the summer before losing a player, or not getting them and then finding their replacement has gone. We need early action.”

Meanwhile, attendances at Portman Road this season rose by six per cent compared to the 2003/2004 campaign.

An average home gate of 25,651 for the 23 Championship games beat the previous' season's record of 24,202 and, with more than 18,000 season tickets sold already for next season, that could rise in the next promotion challenge.

Overall gates in the Championship rose by 10%, at an average of 17,410.

derek.davis@eadt.co.uk

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