Town may be priced out

IPSWICH boss Jim Magilton has made it a priority to solve his right-back problem position.But he admitted last night that he could be priced out of a move for his main target, 22-year-old Scotland B international Steven Whittaker.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Jim Magilton has made it a priority to solve his right-back problem position.

But he admitted last night that he could be priced out of a move for his main target, 22-year-old Scotland B international Steven Whittaker.

Magilton made no attempt to conceal his admiration for a player he has seen in action himself and whom he has sent chief scout Steve McCall to watch on other occasions.


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Whittaker, 22, is one of a crop of Hibs players to progress during ex-Town captain and coach Tony Mowbray's two years in charge at Easter Road, with former Ipswich defender Mark Venus assisting him.

Magilton said: “We have watched Whittaker quite a few times and I like him a lot. I have also spoken to both Mogga and Veno about him and they only have good things to say about him.

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“But John Collins, the new Hibs manager, has said that none of his players are for sale in January, so we will just have to wait and see.

“Whittaker is a very good player and I would most certainly welcome him at my football club, but for the time being it is just speculation.

“He would cost us a lot of money and it's not as if we are the only club who like him, while Hibs are perfectly within their rights not to sell.”

Edinburgh-born Whittaker, who made it into the Scotland senior squad for the game against Ukraine in October, is so highly rated by Hibs that he is under contract until 2011.

Although he is expected to command a fee in the region of £1 million, which is considered more than hard-up Ipswich could afford, they have banked more than that from this season's sales of Ian Westlake, Sam Parkin and Nicky Forster.

Could it be that Magilton is keeping the cash in reserve, in the hope of securing Whittaker, or has it been seriously depleted to fund the recruitment of the various players he has brought in on loan?

Magilton's declared intention to sign a right-back does not augur well for long-serving stalwart Fabian Wilnis or Spanish import Sito, both of whom have dropped down the pecking order at Portman Road this season.

Despite being 100% fit after a hamstring strain, Wilnis was unable to gain even a place on the bench against Burnley at the weekend.

Magilton's pursuit of a right-back also confirms that stand-in Alex Bruce is not seen as a long-term solution to the problem.

Bruce is seen primarily as a central defender, which is where he would still be playing had on-loan Middlesbrough youngster Matthew Bates not suffered a knee ligament injury in only his second Ipswich appearance.

Magilton added: “We thought we had found an answer - and a cost effective one - in Matthew but his injury has forced us to start looking all over again.”

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