Town's half-term report: Can do better

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night delivered a half-term report on his high-flying squad with a 'can do better' summary.With 23 of the 46 league games played Ipswich are sitting in fourth place but Royle won't be satisfied until his class are the at the top of the school.

BLUES boss Joe Royle last night delivered a half-term report on his high-flying squad with a 'can do better' summary, writes Derek Davis.

With 23 of the 46 league games played Ipswich are sitting in fourth place but Royle won't be satisfied until his class are the at the top of the school.

"We had a slow start as people took time to concentrate in lessons and certainly new members coming into the class took time to settle," he said.

"But even after making up for lost time we are still not where we should be. But then again I won't be happy until we are top."

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With just two defeats in 17 games Ipswich have made up the ground lost at the beginning of the season when they went half-a-dozen games without a win.

"The signs are good. The new players are blending in well both on the pitch and in the dressing room and we are getting stronger," added Royle.

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"Getting John McGreal back is like having a new player, Drissa Diallo is almost fit and we have Chris Makin to come back. When we have everyone fit I feel there is no better squad in the league than ours."

Once Norwich have been played on Sunday, Town will have played everyone in Division One and Royle believes no team is head and shoulders above anyone else, even league leaders West Bromwich Albion.

He said: "There is nothing to fear in this division. West Brom probably don't have too much to go wrong with their game. Gary Megson has stuck to a formula which suits his players. He won't like me for saying so but they are a very powerful and direct side – I'm not saying they are route one – and I certainly think they will be one of the two promoted automatically.

"I said at the beginning of the season that we would be up there too and I have seen nothing to make me change my mind.

"We are in a decent run and there is no reason why we can't carry on.

"Those two defeats were by a single goal and both were games we could have won."

Royle secured the services of Kelvin Davis, Drissa Diallo and Georges Santos in the summer and all three have gone down well with the Blues crowd.

After initial loan spells Shefki Kuqi and Chris Bart-Williams are permanent signings with livewire Alan Mahon the next to be tied down.

Royle has been delighted with how all the new faces have fitted in.

He said: "I believe all five can be classed as successes. We also want to sign Alan Mahon and it is only finances which stop us at the moment.

"Alan brings us something different with his special ability to go past someone and get quality deliveries into the box.

"He has made himself very important to us but he was always going to be the hardest one of the three to secure.

"We are slowly clawing our way back to financial stability but there is still much to be done.

"Having Marcus Bent and Andy Marshall out on loan helps us finance the wages of those we have brought in, but we are still far from flush.

"We are still spinning plates but if the run continues and the crowds stay high and fund-raising efforts are successful then I would love to bring Alan in.

"It is down to finance and just because we have brought two players in recently doesn't mean to say we are all of a sudden out of trouble financially. It does mean the board are backing us but they still realise that promotion is the only real way out of the problems."

While the older hands have done their bit, the younger students are a source of great pride for the club.

Royle was quick to praise Bryan Klug, Ian Smith, Ken Goody and all those involved in the recruitment and development of so many great prospects.

He said: "The Academy is having more than a purple patch. It is easy to forget that Darren Bent, Matt Richards and Ian Westlake are from the Academy because they have been involved so much. Then there is the promise of Dean Bowditch, Aiden Collins, Scott Mitchell and Gerard Nash. Reserve team watchers will know there are Adem Atay and Scott Barron also coming through."

n Town will today continue their hunt for a back-up keeper after a finger injury to Lewis Price ruled him out of action for at least six weeks.

Royle has the option of selecting Scott Peat, but is also considering going without a keeper on the bench for the game against Norwich on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Price has expressed his disappointment at missing out on his first taste of a derby game. He said: "I am absolutely gutted as I would have loved to sit on the bench for the derby game. I have watched derby games in the stands before and I know the atmosphere will be amazing."

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