Wilnis set to sign new deal

SHEFKI Kuqi is expected to have a medical at Blackburn Rovers today but at least one Ipswich Town star will sign a new contract this summer, writes Derek Davis.

SHEFKI Kuqi is expected to have a medical at Blackburn Rovers today but at least one Ipswich Town star will sign a new contract this summer, writes Derek Davis.

Fabian Wilnis will put pen to paper within the next 48 hours on a new one-year deal, despite seeing the heart of the team leave.

While the Dutchman has been enjoying his summer break in America and in his homeland of Holland, Tommy Miller, Darren Bent, Kelvin Davis and Kuqi have all departed.

Kuqi joins the other three who are now with Premiership clubs by signing for Blackburn after last night agreeing personal terms.

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The 28-year-old, who finished as Town's top striker last season with 20 goals, is due to have a medical at Ewood Park today and is likely to sign on Wednesday or Thursday, the day his Ipswich contract expires.

The EADT revealed in May that Rovers were keen on signing the Finland international and will snap him up on a Bosman free transfer.

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Although he may not be seen as an obvious starter for Rovers, Kuqi gets his chance in the Premiership and Blackburn will recoup his wages by selling him if it doesn't work out.

Manager Mark Hughes is still keen to sign Porto striker Benni McCarthy, who has turned down moves to CSKA Moscow and Nantes, as he is determined to play in England.

A fifth Town star could join the exodus of key players exiting Portman Road within the next 48 hours.

Skipper Jim Magilton is hesitating over a new offer and, while manager Joe Royle is confident he will sign, rumours persist that the Irishman will turn down the offer and return to the north-west for family reasons, possibly in a player/coach role with Tranmere Rovers, who are tipped as favourites to land the 35-year-old.

Wilnis admits promotion next season will be even more difficult to attain without the four who have all stepped up a division.

He said: “When you lose the players who have scored more than 50 goals for you, and the best keeper in the division, then, of course, it is going to be harder.

“But, then again, we showed last season that we can perform when key players leave and I was as surprised as anyone at how well we did by reaching the play-offs.

“The two new signing sound good. I know of Nicky Forster, of course, and Sam Parkin sounds a good player. So, we can only wait and see what happens. I'm really looking forward to starting the season with Ipswich and getting back to seeing the other lads on Friday.

“I will pop in and see the manager before then and, while nothing is ever definite in football until it is sealed, I have always said I want to stay here for at least another season.”

Magilton is due to see Royle tomorrow to give his decision and the Town boss has made it clear he is desperate for his captain to stay.

The Irishman was among a clutch of players who returned to training early yesterday, along with Jason De Vos, Richard Naylor and Darren Currie.

The squad officially starts pre-season training on July 4 but reconvenes on Friday, when they will be weighed in and checked.

Royle is hoping to sign a left-back by then to follow the two strikers brought in to replace Kuqi and Bent.

He has admitted that Crystal Palace full-back Danny Granville's wage demands would be too expensive for Town and has denied making a move for the defender he managed at Manchester City.

Royle said: “I know Danny well and he's a very good player, but the simple fact is that he is out of our price range. It is as straightforward as that.

“People have put two and two together and decided he is coming here but we have had no contact whatsoever with Palace.”

Mo Camara, the Burnley defender Royle coveted, chose a move to Celtic so the search continues.

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