Town no need to sell youngsters

AS is traditional a week before the new season kicks off, everyone is intrigued at how his or her own particular team will fare.There are some who unblinkingly believe that their club are certainties for promotion, or in some cases relegation.

By Derek Davis

AS is traditional a week before the new season kicks off, everyone is intrigued at how his or her own particular team will fare.

There are some who unblinkingly believe that their club are certainties for promotion, or in some cases relegation.

Some have good reason to think so but quite often fans will be gloomy about their own side's prospects - seeing the warts rather than the beauty spots.

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At Ipswich the euphoria of seeing Jim Magilton elevated to manager after serving with such distinction as player, and captain, has waned a little as the season draws nearer.

Without doubt the vast majority of Town fans wish him and Bryan Klug well, they hope the Irishman's infectious enthusiasm and dogged determination will catapult the side to a good start, and the team can find the form that will make them promotion candidates.

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But that feeling of goodwill towards the squad and its leaders is tempered by a concern that no new players have been brought in to strengthen a side that ended up 15th in the Championship last season under Joe Royle, the club's lowest finish in 40 years.

Of course the side will be better over the long haul if it doesn't get half the injuries and suspensions of last year and there is a belief that the youngsters are a year older and wiser, with more following them through the ranks.

But there is also a worry that the fundamental problem of not being able to defend well enough, and not score enough goals, bridged by a midfield that all too often looked ponderous, is not going to improve without quality reinforcements.

While Town have not yet brought in anyone new, they have at least not lost any key players and have snubbed approaches from four big clubs keen on raiding Portman Road once more.

Although chief executive Derek Bowden would not name names, I understand that both keepers Shane Supple and Lewis Price, along with Owen Garvan and Darren Currie, have attracted interest.

Bowden confirmed: “We have had four different offers for players but we have rejected them all.

“It is nice to have the ability to say no to these clubs. It is our choice whether we want to sell them for football reasons or not, we do not have to sell.

“The clubs concerned have been on something of a fishing trip but all the offers made were on the low side of realistic.

“They thought we were strapped for cash but now know that is not the case.”

Although it is still conceivable that an offer too tempting to turn down would see a player depart, that money would be made available to Magilton to further strengthen his squad, as would any extra funds not budgeted for.

The EADT understands that the recent share issue brought in around half of the £1.75m made available in new shares, although the club could still sell more shares at a later date.

Bowden said: “We could have issued £1.75m shares. We didn't raise that amount, although I'm still very satisfied with the amount of shares taken up.

“Other things we have budgeted for have been on target, and anything else now would be over and above that.

“We have the allocation of Sky games that we accounted for, one home and three away, and any more would be above our expectations.”

The club got the 10,000 crowd they had hoped for against Lazio, and as it was part of the deal that took Matteo Sereni to Italy, it didn't cost much to put on.

They have also been handed a prestigious England Under-21s match against Moldova on Tuesday, August 15, and while it won't bring in a huge amount, it is extra for Magilton.

Town are also hoping for a £200,000 cash windfall from Charlton if, and when, Darren Bent plays his first competitive game for England, and the same amount for a second.

Other added cash would come from a cup run, with the club only budgeting for one round in the League and FA Cups.

But even though Town have rescheduled their debt with the major lenders and have geared everything towards a concerted two-year push into the Premiership, they are still not able to compete financially with other promotion contenders.

Bowden said: “We have this two-year window of opportunity and the manager and his coaching staff will be given all the backing they need to achieve success.

“But we must also remember other clubs are striving for the same thing and are spending heavily. “Derby have found money from somewhere. Coventry City and Wolves are spending and of course the three relegated clubs (Sunderland, Birmingham and West Brom) have parachute money from the Premiership.”

Although the new season is now less than a week away Magilton has not added to the squad that finished 15th in the Championship last season and there are concerns that Town will struggle to challenge for the play-off places, never mind outright promotion.

Ipswich missed out on bringing in Republic of Ireland Under-21 international central defender Paul McShane from Manchester United when a fee, believed to be in the region of £250,000, was asked for. Town had thought the 20-year-old was available on loan, in a similar arrangement to the one United had with Brighton last season.

Bowden said: “McShane's name was on a register of names of players available for a year-long loan and that is the basis on which Jim enquired about him.

“But although the player was happy to come it then turned out Manchester United wanted a fee for him.

“Now it may be that he still joins us, but we are not going to just shell out £250,000 like that. He may still come on loan or it may be that we will take our time and look at other options.”

One of those options could be the return of Jamie Clapham, who is now out of contract with Birmingham. Although he is reportedly being chased by Wolves, he played a trial game for Sheffield United on Friday night, and it is understood he has also held talks with Ipswich.

Another former favourite of the Portman Road crowd who may return to the fold is Tommy Miller - although the arrival of Niall Quinn as consortium leader and manager of Miller's current club, Sunderland, has meant the Wearsider is not clear where his future lies just yet.

So the upshot is Magilton has money, and time to spend it, to bolster his squad.

The players and board are fully behind him and Bryan Klug, and they have two years to get the club promoted.

If they don't do it in that period then that really is the time to be concerned - very concerned.

Ipswich Town Reserves drew 4-4 at Cambridge United on Saturday.

Danny Carey-Bertram put the U's 2-0 up before Ipswich hit back with two goals from Danny Haynes and one each from Billy Clarke and Jai Reason.

After a Luke Webster own goal for Cambridge, United hit a late equaliser from Lloyd Blackman.

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