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Sunday, May 30


Racecourse Ground, Wrexham

Town's new signing Jason de Vos is in action for Canada today in their friendly with Wales at Wrexham's Racecourse ground. The game is being shown live on BBC Two Wales for those equipped with the appropriate dish/box.

BFJ couldn't careless about the result of the first division play-off final between West Ham and Palace. Speaking in yesterdays Evening Star he said: "It's not sour grapes but I really couldn't care less who wins - in fact I probably won't even watch the game on television." Right on! What was the score anyway?

Town's opposition for next season will be finalised today when Plymouth Argyle and QPR, both automatically promoted from Division Two will be joined by the winners of the Bristol City/Brighton play-off final. Joining from the opposite direction are Leicester, Wolves and of course, Leeds United. Town have had competitive fixtures against all of those sides in recent years with the exception of Plymouth who they have not played for over twelve years. Town's last visit to Home Park was back in December, 1991.


Saturday, May 29


Random Images of FPR

According to ticket office manager John Ford season ticket renewals are running at the same levels as last year with around 10,000 season tickets applications having been processed so far: "It all looks very encouraging and the staff are working as quickly as possible to process the applications" he said.

Want away midfielder Martijn Reuser would like to stay at Portman Road for the coming season and fight for his place in the team if the right offer does not come in from elsewhere. The Dutchman has a year left on his current contract but is not happy with the super-sub tag and has said he would consider moving on if he is not used more often. No official approach has yet been made for Reuser but Dutch First Division sides Willem II and Twente Enschede have both reportedly shown an interest.

Released forward Alun Armstrong has rejected an approach from Colchester United making it clear that he sees his immediate future in the First Division at least. George Burley, who signed Armstrong for Town in December, 2000 could make a move to take the 29-year-old to Derby County during the summer.


Friday, May 28


ChevBlue jnr pictured at Tampere United's ground in 2001

Shefki Kuqi has not been included in the 19-man squad for Finland's friendly with Sweden in Tampere today. Shefki won his 34th cap for Finland in their 2-1 victory in Malta on March 31st and had been included in the provisional squad for tonight's fixture.

Second choice 'keeper Lewis Price has put pen to paper on his new two year contract offer. Price made his first team debut at Gillingham in April and is the first of seven out of contract players to take up the new deal offered to them on Monday. He told the official site: "I spoke to the manager on Monday and didn't really need any time to think over the deal. I was happy with the terms and just asked the Club to get the paperwork sorted out as soon as possible and I'm delighted to have signed today."

Nabil Abidallah, who was released by Town earlier this year, looks set to sign for Dutch First Division side ADO Den Haag after a series of trials back in his native Holland, and released striker Alun Armstrong is receiving interest from a number of clubs including Stoke City who where pipped to the signature of Jason De Vos by Town earlier this week.


Thursday, May 27


BFJ signs JDV

The Blue's have completed the signing of Canadian defender Jason de Vos from Wigan Athletic in a three-year deal. "I'm delighted Jason decided to join us. He is a strong, outstanding centre-half who will keep our goals against to a minimum," Joe Royle told the official site "He's also a threat from set-pieces and it's a strong statement of intent from this club". The Canadian international had previously played for Montreal Impact, Darlington and Dundee United before joining Wigan for GBP500,000 in July 2001.

Former Town defender, and current coach of the Canadian national side, Frank Yallop played a big part in De Vos's decision to join Town: "I spoke to Frank Yallop and Alan Mahon and they both had nothing but positive things to say about the club. Frank really urged me to join Ipswich actually. He said the club was a great one to play for and that it would be the right move for me to make."

De Vos could make a further four international appearances before pulling on a Town shirt. Canada take on Wales in a friendly at the Racecourse, Wrexham this Sunday, followed by a game against Yallop's old club the San Jose Earthquakes in San Jose on June 5th, and a two-legged World Cup Qualifier against Belize in Kingston, Ontario on June 13th and June 16th.

Elsewhere, Dutchman Fabian Wilnis wants time to mull over his new contract offer but is keen that Town fans don't misinterpret the delay: "I'm not considering other offers, not at all," the defender told the Evening Star "I just like to take my time and not rush into things. I'm not the type of person who rushes things, but that's just me."


Wednesday, May 26


Jason De Vos

Town are making a move for out of contract Wigan Athletic defender and captain Jason De Vos. De Vos has been capped on over 40 occasions by his native Canada and, according to the official site, was at the ground yesterday for talks with manager Joe Royle. He moved from Montreal Impact to Darlington in 1996, and onto Dundee in 1998 before joining Wigan for GBP500,000 in August 2001.

Defender Chris Makin and number two 'keeper Lewis Price have both accepted the new contracts that were offered to them by the club on Monday. Makin was offered a two-month deal which will be extended for a further ten months if he can prove that he has recovered from the hip injury that forced him to miss a major part of last season. Price, who made his debut at Gillingham, is delighted with his deal: "I love it here and I'm learning so much, and I'm happy to be patient".

The testimonial game for the family of Dale Roberts, between Town and Newcastle United, has been confirmed by the club and will take place at Portman Road on Wednesday, July 28th. Town are also close to tying up a deal with unnamed European opposition for a home friendly on Saturday, July 31st. Lazio are possible contenders as the deal that saw Matteo Sereni transfered to the Rome club included two future friendly games.

Lastly, BFJ has backed Hibernian's decision to appoint Tony Mowbray as their new manager. "I say well done to the Hibs board on an appointment I am convinced they will not regret. Tony might be a bit of an unknown in managerial terms but he has servefod his apprenticeship with us and has been itching for this chance to come along. He has been working to obtain all his coaching badges. He has a nice manner and is honest. I'm sure people will remember him fondly after his time at Celtic and I wish him all the best. Tony was fantastic for me from day one."


Tuesday, May 25


Random Images of FPR

Steve McCall, who took charge of the reserve team following the death of Dale Roberts in February, 2003, has been promoted to first team coach following the departure of Tony Mowbray to Hibernian. "We will not be bringing in a new coach to replace Tony," Joe Royle told the official website "Steve will move up and work alongside Willie and me with the senior squad."

Seven of the nine out-of-contract Town players have been offered new deals by BFJ while Alun Armstrong and Chris Bart-Williams have both been released. The other seven, who's existing deals run through until the end of next month, are Jim Magilton, Jermaine Wright, Lewis Price, John McGreal, Chris Makin, Fabian Wilnis and Richard Naylor. "It's now a case of waiting to see what they decide. Their current deals run until the end of June so they have time to make a decision although obviously we need to know as soon as possible" BFJ told the official website.


Monday, May 24


Mowbray off to Easter Road

Tony Mowbray has been appointed manager of SPL side Hibernian. Mowbray, who made the switch from player to coach at Ipswich after the 2000 Wembley Play-Off Final, was unveiled as the new Hibs manager this morning by club chairman Ken Lewandowski: "We are sure this appointment will be a happy and successful one both for Tony and for the club. Everyone we have spoken to about Tony has given us glowing references on his abilities as a coach, about his philosophy on football, and about his character and integrity."

Ex-Town players John Kennedy, Neil Midgley and Neil Gregory where on the wrong end of a 3-2 score line in yesterday afternoon's Umbro FA Trophy as Canvey Island lost to Hednesford Town.

Former Town midfielder Kieron Dyer will be replaced in England's Euro 2004 squad by Jermain Defoe if the Newcastle United player's noted cockiness upsets anyone at a training camp in Sardinia next week, says Henry Winter, and suggests that Dyer's England career is on the line in his Saturday column in the Daily Telegraph.


Sunday, May 23


Losers medal

Former Blue's 'keeper Andy Marshall had to be content with a losers medal in yesterday's FA Cup Final as the Lions went down 3-0 to Manchester United. Marshall, who made a superb one-handed save in the first half to turn away a long range effort by Roy Keane, now bizarrely finds himself out of contract.

Striker Shefki Kuqi has been named in the provisional Finnish squad for a friendly with Sweden in Tampere on May 28th. The game is one of a number planned by the Swedes as they warm up for Euro 2004 in Portugal.

Ticket sales for the Elton John Concert on June 16th have topped the 23,000 mark - the event is expected to raise a six-figure sum for the club and its success could lead to similar events at FPR next summer - and around 8,000 season ticket applications for 2004/05 have so far been received by the club.


Saturday, May 22


Town legend

Former Ipswich legend Micky Stockwell has been appointed player manager of Woodbridge Town. Stockwell, who made over 600 appearances for the Blue's between 1982 and 2000, joined Woodbridge back in the Autumn after a brief spell as player coach at Heybridge Swifts.

Andy Marshall will complete a dramatic turn around in his career today as he lines up for Millwall in the FA Cup Final against Manchester United in Cardiff. Told he was no longer required at Town last summer the former Norwich City and England U-21 'keeper had a brief loan spell at Wolves before joining the East Londoners back in January, also on loan, before securing a permanent deal in late March.

And lastly, AFC Sudbury defeated Bury Town 4-0 at Portman Road last night to lift the Suffolk Premier Cup in front of 1,113 spectators. Two more local cup finals are to be played on the hallowed turf next week.


Friday, May 21


New deal for Mowbray

Assistant coach Tony Mowbray has been offered a new one-year contract on the understanding that he will be released by Town should a management role be offered to him elsewhere. "Tony is a manager in waiting and we know he will make his own way eventually but until then he can make a big contribution to Ipswich" said manager Joe Royle.

James Scowcroft talks of the nightmare he and his Leicester City team mates endured in Spain following the accusation by three women of sexual assault at the La Manga Resort during a late season training break. "I could not have been more innocent if I tried. It was just bizarre from start to finish" he tells the EADT. All charges have now been dropped but "Their lawyers might appeal, but I'm sure nothing more is going to happen. I'm going to put it behind me and get on with my life."

Loanee defender Matt Elliott, one of the Leicester players that had faced charges, has returned to the Midlands following Town's play-off KO. Elliott's loan spell if now over, and with Foxes boss Micky Adams insisting that he is "still the Leicester club captain", a return to Portman Road for the 2004/05 season looks unlikely.

Town's pack of out of contract players will be advised early next week as to whether they will be offered new deals at Portman Road and should prepare to report back for pre-season training on June 28th. The nine players affected are: Fabian Wilnis, Chris Makin, John McGreal, Jim Magilton, Alun Armstrong, Jermaine Wright, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price and Chris Bart-Williams.

Newcastle Town of the North West Counties League have appointed ex-Town midfielder Nigel Gleghorn as their new manager, while Joe Royle has dismissed reports in a Yorkshire paper linking him with the vacant Leeds United manager's seat: "It's all news to me. I don't know where these stories have come from." And in his weekly column in the EADT BFJ thanks the fans for their magnificent support this season and makes mention of the dignified reaction to Tuesday's defeat at Upton Park. Which is more than can be said to the reaction and behaviour of a sizeable minority of West Ham fans.

And finally, AFC Sudbury take on Bury Town at Portman Road tonight in the first Suffolk Premier Cup Final to held on the hallowed turf for 22 years. There are two further local finals at PR next week with Hadleigh taking on Long Melford in the Suffolk Senior Cup Final on Tuesday and Hadleigh Reserves mixing it with Heart of Oak for the Suffolk Junior Cup next Thursday.


Thursday, May 20


Town's play-off record under inspection

Don't ever ever ever get excited about qualfying for the play-off's ever ever ever again. We really are the biggest play-off failures since the end of season lottery was first dreamt up ...

Town have qualified for the Division One (old Division Two) Play-Offs on six occasions since their inception at the end of the 1986/87 season - twice more than any other side. Six clubs have qualified on four occassions - Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, Leicester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Six further clubs have qualified on three occasions - Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Sheffield United, Sunderland, Swindon Town and Tranmere Rovers.

Crystal Palace and Bolton Wanderers are the most successful of those sides having won through on two occasions each. Palace have the chance to make it three out of four on May 31st.

Ipswich are quite clearly pants at the whole thing with the most amount of failures - five, although Birmingham City, Blackburn Rovers, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Millwall, Sheffield United and Tranmere Rovers have all failed thrice.

Footnote: Leicester have also won the play-offs twice. They beat Derby 2-1 in the 94 Final and Palace by the same score two years later.


Wednesday, May 19


The East End last night

The slender one-goal advantage that Town took to the East End last night proved to be exactly that as they went down by two goals to nil at a highly charged Upton Park and bowed out of the play-offs 2-1 on aggregate.

The Blue's held up under an onslaught by the Hammer's until Matthew Etherington's long range effort levelled the aggregate scores five minutes into the second half and Christian Dailly scored what proved to be the winner on 71.

The Blue's almost forced extra time when Ian Westlake hit the woodwork at the end of normal time and could possibly have been awarded a penalty when Matt Elliott was pushed over in the box. But it wasn't to be and it will be West Ham that face Crystal Palace in the play-off final in just under two weeks time.

Joe Royle's post match reaction pretty much summed things up: "Half our team froze out there. Our heroes were the defenders. We didn't look anything like our best. Perhaps we could have scored a last-minute goal but it's all ifs and buts and it's irrelevenat now. West Ham had six one million-plus players and I couldn't argue with the result. We didn't play anything like we can. We were a shadow of our best. But we're a collection of raw lads. I don't know who's going to win the final and I couldn't care less."


Tuesday, May 18


Upton Park last December

Town captain Jim Magilton says that the side will be adopting a cautious approach to tonight's semi-final play-off second leg at Upton Park. In excess of 5,000 Blue's fans will be heading down the A12 tonight hoping that Town can build on Darren Bent's goal from the first leg at Portman Road that gave Ipswich a 1-0 win.

"We carried a threat and deserved a goal but we're cautious and we know what'll come at us on Tuesday," the Ulster man told the official website "It was a great result for us but it's only half time and we have a big job still to do at Upton Park."

Town have a single injury doubt in John McGreal who suffered a calf strain in Saturday's first leg. McGreal did not train yesterday and will face a late fitness test in London. Striker Alun Armstrong is a surprise addition to a 19-man travelling squad, given that he has not played for the first team since the 2-2 draw at Derby in November, which is as follows:

Alun Armstrong, Chris Bart Williams, Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch, Kelvin Davis, Drissa Diallo, Matt Elliott, Shefki Kuqi, Jim Magilton, John McGreal, Tommy Miller, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price, Martijn Reuser, Matt Richards, Georges Santos, Ian Westlake, Fabian Wilnis and Jermaine Wright.

The winners of tonight's second leg will face Crystal Palace in the play-off final. The Eagles beat Sunderland last night on sudden death penalties after their semi-final had ended all square after extra time.


The Football Factory. Opened May 14th.

Elsewhere, "The Football Factory" opened at cinemas last Friday to a whole range of reviews ranging from complimentary to risible. Based on John King's book of the same title, it is a study of middle England, football violence and male culture, with the story centring around a bored twenty something casual and his drug fuelled adventures in the world of football violence. The Daily Telegraph says Football Factory has CCTV realism while the Guardian call it irresponsible, ill-timed and risible. Make up your own mind and go watch it yourself unless you're a Millwall player in which case you may want to give it a miss. Well for the next five days at least.


Monday, May 17


Spiderman: Made a brief appearance at PR on Saturday in an anti-CSA protest

Despite receiving his tenth yellow card of the season, for a tackle on West Ham's Etherington on Saturday, Fabian Wilnis will not face an automatic ban. From the beginning of April the threshold for an automatic suspension rises to fifteen yellows so the Dutch defender will not miss the play-off final should the Town overcome the Hammers.

West Ham manager Alan Pardew says that Town will face a hostile crowd tomorrow night: "We came into a fantastic environment which the Ipswich fans created and it was a tough game for us" he continued "Our place will be jumping. Our fans will be absolutely essential. I know what the place will be like and it promises to be a cracking game".

AFC Sudbury lost their second consecutive FA Vase Final yesterday going down 2-0 to Winchester City at Birmingham City's St Andrews. Former Ipswich midfielder Lee Norfolk completed the full ninety minutes for Sudbury who are coached by another ex-Town man in Michael Cheetham. AFC Sudbury, who clinched the Ridgeons League Campionship several weeks ago, line-up at Portman Road this Friday as they take on Bury Town in the Suffolk Premier Cup Final.

Former Town keeper Andy Marshall and his Millwall team mates prepare this week for the Lion's first ever appearance in an FA Cup Final. They take on Manchester United this Saturday and barring any last minute catastrophe Marshall should be in the starting eleven. The one time England U-21 International has certainly seen a dramatic turn around in his fortunes since being told twelve months ago that he was no longer required at Portman Road.

And finally, Crystal Palace take a 3-2 lead to the Stadium of Light tonight as the Eagles and Sunderland battle for the right to face Town or West Ham at the Millennium Stadium in two weeks time.


Sunday, May 16


Bent hit winner in 57th minute

Town take a 1-0 lead to Upton Park for Tuesday's second leg of the Play-Off Semi-Final's thanks to Darren Bent's 16th goal of the season. Bent headed home after Richard Naylor's shot had hit a post and gives Town their first ever lead going into the second leg of a play-off contest. The goal was more than Town deserved from an excellent all round display.

Manager Joe Royle said afterwards: "We didn't have too many scares and it was nice to say we defended well. It was probably the crowd's best game of the season as well. Ten out of 10."


Saturday, May 15

Joe Royle: Victorious in the 1999 Play-Off Final

With around 4,500 West Ham fans expected in Town today police officers from three forces are mounting a combined operation to ensure that the day goes smoothly. "With a potential place in the Premiership ultimately at stake, the expectation and excitement of supporters will be high" Superintendent Mick Warden told the EADT "We will be working with British Transport Police together with the assistance of the mounted police from the Metropolitan Police to ensure we have a well planned and co-ordinated police presence."

To say that Town are old hands at the play-offs is an understatement with today's game making it play-off match number twelve for the Blue's since their inception in 1987 (full details below). By contrast this is West Ham's first.

Play-Off Record
1986/87 Division One/Two Play-Offs TOWN 0 Charlton Athletic 0 Charlton Athletic 2 Town 1 (Charlton win 2-1 on aggregate)
1996/97 Division One Play-Offs Sheffield United 1 TOWN 1 TOWN 2 Sheffield United 2 (after extra time) (Shefiield United win on away goals rule)
1997/98 Division One Play-Offs TOWN 0 Charlton Athletic 1 Charlton Athletic 1 TOWN 0 (Charlton Athletic win 2-0 on aggregate)
1998/99 Division One Play-Offs Bolton Wanderers 1 TOWN 0 TOWN 4 Bolton Wanderers 3 (after extra time) (Bolton Wanderers win on away goals rule)
1999/00 Division One Play-Offs Bolton Wanderers 2 TOWN 2 TOWN 5 Bolton Wanderers 3 (after extra time) (TOWN win 7-5 on aggregate)
Final TOWN 4 Barnsley 2

Hammer's manager Alan Pardew lost out twice in the play-offs, while he was manager at Reading, while Town manager Joe Royle has had mixed fortunes in the end of season lottery. His Manchester City beat Wigan 2-1 over two legs in the 1998-99 Division Two Play-off Semi's and went on to clinch a place back in Division One with a penalty shoot-out victory over Gillingham in the Wembley final. While manager at Boundary Park his Oldham side lost on away goals to Leeds United in the 1986-87 Division Two Play-offs.

BFJ admitted his surprise yesterday morning that the game hadn't sold out already with some 4,000 tickets still available: "I don't think we sent the fans away unhappy last week, perhaps some can't stand the pressure." However a steady stream of fan's at the ticket office over the past twenty-four hours has eaten away at those and a near full house is expected this afternoon.

Former Town defender Gavin Johnson, now with Colchester United, has won a six month contract extension. Johnson joined the Layer Road outfit from Dunfermline Athletic in November 1999 and has made more than 100 appearances for the U's despite taking fourteen months out with a broken leg.

And finally, Fabian Wilnis and other member's of the Town squad are featured in Football Diaries on BBC 2 tomorrow night while Crystal Palace beat Sunderland 3-2 in the first leg of the other Division One Play-Offs Semi-Final. Former Town striker Marcus Stewart netting a 51st minute penalty for the Black Cats.


Friday, May 14


Town take on Charlton in 1987 in the first ever play-off game at FPR

Town manager Joe Royle has confirmed that Darren Bent will not be dropped from the squad to face West Ham on Saturday. The England U-21 striker was arrested by police on Tuesday night following an incident with a BB gun: "I have no problems playing Darren. I will check how he is in the morning's training and then decide."

BFJ also scuppered reports suggesting that Marcus Bent, currently on loan at Leicester, would be recalled to the side for the play off games: "Marcus will not play in any of the play-offs. Dave Bassett [assistant City manager] said Marcus would be free to return to Ipswich on Monday but we have checked and he remains a Leicester player until May 31st and will not be available to play for us."

With Tommy Miller (bruised foot) on the mend BFJ has been able to name a virtually full strength squad for the first of the play-off semi-final matches:

Chris Bart-Williams, Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch, Kelvin Davis, Matt Elliott, Shefki Kuqi, Jim Magilton, John McGreal, Tommy Miller, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price, Martijn Reuser, Matt Richards, Georges Santos, Ian Westlake, Fabian Wilnis and Jermaine Wright.

In his weekly column in the EADT Joe Royle talks about his recommendation of Tony Mowbray for the vacant managers post at Blackpool: "Tony is a first-class coach and has a great way with people and he is admired and respected."

And finally, the other two-legged semi-final kick's off tonight at Selhurst Park where Crystal Palace take on Sunderland.


Thursday, May 13


Shooting

Town striker Darren Bent was arrested Tuesday night after a 12-year-old boy was shot in the back of the head with a BB gun. The incident happened at a playground in Kesgrave and was reported to the police by the boys mother. The boy emerged unharmed but Bent was arrested on suspicion of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause violence. He was released later on police bail until June 12th.

Captain Jim Magilton has admitted that his reaction to being substituted in the second half of Sunday's game with Cardiff was poor. Town's 34-year-old midfielder threw his captain's armband to the floor and stormed off to the dressing room.

"I'm the skipper of the team and should lead by example. That said, I have always worn my heart on my sleeve and tend to react without thinking. People who know me, know I can't change. I wish I had not done it but I did and I have to live with that and now I have to be big enough to face whatever retribution comes my way. That game is gone and now I'm looking forward to Saturday's game."

Elsewhere, a late goal by Darren Ambrose earned Newcastle a point at Southampton last night but Sir Bobby's side needed a win to keep alive hopes of playing in next season Champions League. Titus Bramble scored an own goal earlier in the game.


Wednesday, May 12


Bruised foot

Tommy Miller is Towns major injury worry ahead of Saturdays play-off game as he struggles with a bruised foot but "On the plus side Chris Bart-Williams is a lot fitter and he would be favourite to start if Tommy doesn't make it" says Joe Royle. "He is nowhere near match fit but technique wise he looked fine. We will cram as much training as we can into him and he has a chance of taking part if we were to get to the final."

The away goal rule no longer applies in the play-offs so thirty minutes of extra time will need to played if the aggregate scores are level after next Tuesdays second leg. Penalties would then be used to separate the two teams if the scores where still level (none of that golden or silver goal rubbish).

Finally, Town have sold their entire allocation of tickets (5,250) for that second leg. The last tickets where snapped up yesterday afternoon. West Ham had sold their allocation of 4,500 tickets for the first leg in just four hours on Monday.


Tuesday, May 11


Busy day at the office

West Ham sold out their ticket allocation of 4,000 for Saturday's play-off semi-final first leg yesterday. There was equally brisk trading on home and away leg tickets to personal callers at the ticket office on Constantine Road and the not entirely unexpected jams on the telephone booking lines despite extra staff being drafted in to cope with demand. Ticket sales continue today, Wednesday and Thursday.

Matt Elliott, one of a number of Leicester City players arrested in the Spanish resort of La Manga in early March, should hear today whether the case against him and fellows Foxes are to be dropped. The women at the centre of the sexual assault claims have recently been revealed as prostitutes. The on loan defender had had to report to the Spanish Consulate twice a month as a condition of his release from jail.

Meanwhile the future of Marcus Bent, on loan from Town to Leicester, is far from clear. Leicester are keen to keep hold of the striker, who bagged 9 league goals for the Foxes in 32 appearances, on a more permanent basis but may have to fight off competition from Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic.

Tommy Miller (bruised foot) is Town's main injury concern of Saturday's play-off first leg, in which Joe Royle expects Town to go for goals:

"It would be handy if we could do what I have done with another team against West Ham in a two-legged semi-final though I doubt if it will be 6-0 again. " (Royle's Oldham trounced the Hammers 6-0 in the first leg of Littlewoods Cup Semi-Finals in 1990) "It doesn't matter if it is 1-0 or 5-4 just as long as we go there with a lead and we come out on top again."


Monday, May 10


Millennium bound?

Manager Joe Royle on the 1-1 draw with Cardiff, the tense second half and the reaction of captain Jim Magilton and Shefki Kuqi to their second half substitutions:

"I was keeping a check on the scores in the other matches in the final 10 minutes because I had to decide whether to put on another forward. I knew Palace were losing at half-time and when I heard West Ham had equalised at Wigan the decision was made for me because a draw was going to be good enough. We never really got going and there were a lot of nerves out there.

"I had to change something because the ball was coming back at us all the time. Kuqi was disappointed to come off but I could just as easily have withdrawn Darren Bent. I kept Darren on because he is our leading scorer and we needed a goal. It was a difficult decision to withdraw Jim Magilton, who has been a massive influence for us this season - but we had little cohesion in midfield. I felt Martijn Reuser could give us a bit more width and he can also make goals from free-kicks and corners. Jim had a complete sense of humour failure when he came off but I'm not bothered. There is no stigma in being substituted for the right reasons.

"We have an outstandingly honest bunch of lads who have come a long way in the 12 months since we have been in administration. Matt Elliott, on loan from Leicester, has been terrific at the back. He has been a calming influence because he knows where to be and what to do. With Matt and John McGreal together at least we don't panic.

"It was always a tricky game and I suppose we staggered over the line into the play-offs. I never expected Cardiff to roll over so their performance didn't surprise me."

As usual SKY TV will cover the play-off games from all three divisions of the Nationwide League. The dates and times for the Division One games are as follows:

Friday May 14 Crystal Palace v Sunderland 8:00pm
Saturday May 15 TOWN v West Ham 12:15pm
Monday May 17 Sunderland v Crystal Palace 8:00pm
Tuesday May 18 West Ham v TOWN 7:45pm
Monday May 31 PLAY-OFF FINAL

Elsewhere over the weekend: Matt Holland opened the scoring at Elland Road with an 11th minute pile driver in Charlton's 3-3 draw with relegated Leeds United and James Scowcroft scored the third goal in Leicester's 3-1 home win against Portsmouth.


Sunday, May 9


Portman Road this afternoon

Town drew 1-1 at home with Cardiff City this afternoon, and with results going their way elsewhere within the division, finished the season in fifth place and qualified for the play-offs where they will face West Ham.

A tense and virtually full Portman Road saw Town go ahead through a long range strike by Shefki Kuqi after 26 minutes but the visitors levelled the score just before the break when Lee Bullock headed home from close range.

Town went into the game requiring a win to ensure a play-off berth but with Wigan and Sheffield United both drawing and Palace losing 2-1 at Coventry Town's draw proved to be enough.


Saturday, May 8


Playford Road

Chairman David Sheepshanks and CEO Derek Bowden reported on Town's current financial position to shareholders at two sets of meetings on Wednesday evening. Given that twelve months ago the club where in administration they were able to paint a far rosier picture a year on with Sheepshanks stating that "immense progress" had been made in balancing the books.

However, if Town fail to gain promotion to the Premiership, and with no parachute payment next season, a shortfall of some GBP8.0Million will have to be made up from somewhere with player sales not being ruled out.

Former Town midfielder Simon Milton has been appointed as full time sponsorship manager at the academy. Fulham born Milton, who had been working on a part-time basis at the academy, takes up his new position on June 1st.

And finally, Joe Royle has named a squad of sixteen for tomorrow's crucial home game with Cardiff City:

Chris Bart-Williams, Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch, Kelvin Davis, Matt Elliott, Shefki Kuqi, Jim Magilton, John McGreal, Tommy Miller, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price, Martijn Reuser, Matt Richards, Ian Westlake, Fabian Wilnis and Jermaine Wright.


Friday, May 7

Town's reserves lost their final league game of the season 3-2 to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground yesterday afternoon. Liam Craig (30 and 35 (penalty)) had put Town two goals up at the interval but the home side pulled two back in the space of three second half minutes (Bopp and Perch) and secured victory through Cash with eight minutes left to play. Town finish the season second bottom in the FA Premier Reserve League (South).

Former Town defender Gary Croft is one of a number of Cardiff players looking to impress manager Lennie Lawrence on Sunday and earn himself a contract renewal. Croft joined Town from Blackburn Rovers in September, 1999 and made 21 appearances in the promotion winning season including the play-off final at Wembley. However, he made just a handful of appearances in Town's successful first season back in the top flight eventually being loaned out to both Wigan and Cardiff, and joining Cardiff permanently in July, 2002.


Thursday, May 6


Lots of Cash - but not for Town

Michael Spencer, 122nd on the Sunday Times Rich List, has been revealed as the leading individual investor in the club's recent share issue. Spencer, who founded ICAP, the world's largest money brokerage, declined a place on the board despite investing GBP 200,000 in the purchase of 10,000 shares. Estimated to have a personal fortune of GBP 355Million, the Spencer family have a home near Woodbridge, but have no intentions of a Roman Abramovich-style takeover. The share purchase, according to the EADT, was purely a gesture of support to David Sheepshanks and the ITFC board of directors.

AFC Sudbury have been given use of the Town's Playford Road training facilities and the practice pitch at Portman Road. Sudbury take on Winchester City in the FA Vase Final at Birmingham City's St Andrews Stadium on May 16th, but due to work at their own King's Marsh Stadium, they currently have no where to train. Academy Director Brian Klug played for AFC Sudbury's forerunners, Sudbury Town, in the 1989 final at Wembley Stadium and will put together a side from the academy for a training match against the Vase hopefuls.

Should the outcome of this Sunday's games go in Town's favour, play-off tickets will go on sale next week, starting with Gold Card members on Monday morning. Subject to confirmation the first-leg will be played on Friday May 14th or Saturday May 15th and the second-leg on Monday May 17th or Tuesday May 18th.

The Reserves play their final fixture this afternoon in the re-arranged game with Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

And finally, both Titus Bramble and Darren Ambrose are likely to be in Sir Bobby Robson's starting line-up as Newcastle take on Marseilles in France tonight as Sir Bob looks to take his first English side to a UEFA Cup final for 23 years. The first leg of the semi-final ended nil-nil.


Wednesday, May 5


Championship fever grips Norfolk

Town's reserves lost 2-0 to their Southampton counterparts at St Mary's Stadium last night. Ormerod scored from the penalty spot for the home side after just seven minutes and Davies doubled the scoreline on 61.

Town face Nottingham Forest Reserves away tomorrow night in their final FA Premier Reserve League fixture of the season.

Leicester want to keep on loan striker Marcus Bent on a more permanent basis despite being relegated from the Premiership at the weekend. Bent, who George Burley signed from Blackburn for GBP3.0Million in November 2001, has also been linked to Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic although manager Joe Royle has had no contact with the Old Firm pair. If Town gain promotion to the top flight they may well want to keep the GBP17,000 a week striker who joined the Foxes on a season long loan back in September primarily to reduce Town's wage bill.

Midfielder Tommy Miller will have surgery on his jaw in the close season and will miss out on a possible Scotland debut in the process. Berti Vogts side have two end of season friendlies with Estonia and Trinidad & Tobago lined up.

And finally, Norwich City clinched the First Division Title last night despite a 1-0 reverse at Sunderland. West Brom, their only remaining challengers, were hammered 4-1 by Stoke meaning the Canaries can no longer be caught. The victory for Sunderland confirms their place in the play-offs.


Tuesday, May 4


Croft back on Sunday

This Sunday's opponents Cardiff City are embroiled in a series of contract disputes with their players. Midfielder Gary Whalley, who had expected to pick up a GBP50,000 bonus for making 23 appearances this season, was not picked for the game at Preston on April 24th (or any of Cardiff's subsequent games) which would have triggered the payment. Understandably he and the other players are incensed at the actions of Bluebirds chairman Sam Hamman and manager Lennie Lawrence.

Ex-Town defender Gary Croft has already received a similar appearance related bonus this season but is one of a number of Cardiff players whose contracts will not be renewed this summer.

Town will hopefully be at full-strength for Sunday's game with Tommy Miller (hamstring) the only uncertainty.

A young reserve side travel's to St Marys Stadium tonight for the first of two FA Premier Reserve League fixtures this week. Alun Armstrong (one of nine squad members out of contract this summer - see below) will be the most senior player taking part as he once again puts himself in the shop window in his efforts to find a new club for next season. Pablo Counago may also feature in the game.

Steve McCalls side take on Forest reserves in a rearranged fixture on Thursday night in Nottingham, the second string's final game of the season.

Town players out of contract in June:

Fabian Wilnis
Chris Makin
John McGreal
Jim Magilton
Alun Armstrong
Jermaine Wright
Richard Naylor
Lewis Price
Chris Bart-Williams


Monday, May 3


Stay calm!

Ian Westlake has been voted Supporters' Player of the Year and has also been selected as Most Improved Player by Town's backroom staff. The 20-year-old was informed of his accolades at Legends Bar last night in front of over 300 fans - an event compered by Anglia TV's Donovan Blake. The Clacton born midfielder received more than a fifth of the 8500 votes cast, with Darren Bent runner-up and keeper Kelvin Davis in third place.

"This was a great surprise and a terrific thrill. Really I was just hoping to get in the side and push for a regular place around Christmas time but it's gone better than I expected" said the midfielder, who netted Town's equaliser in Friday night's 1-1 draw at Bramall Lane. The official trophy presentation will take place before Sunday's game with Cardiff.

Saturday's results have left Town precariously placed in sixth place, despite the hard earned draw with fellow play-off contenders Sheffield United, with seven sides left chasing the four play-off places. While Wigan lost to Nottingham Forest, courtesy of a goal from former Town striker David Johnson, West Ham United, Crystal Palace and Reading all won, and Sunderland drew at home to Crewe.

While Sunderland have a game in hand over all the other challengers, and face Norwich at home in midweek, next weekends vital games line-up as follows:

Burnley v SUNDERLAND
TOWN v Cardiff
WIGAN v WEST HAM
Coventry v PALACE
Preston v SHEFFIELD UNITED
Watford v READING

"The best thing everyone can do is stay calm. The fans have been fantastic and were again at Sheffield. They have been superb lately at home as well and we need them on Sunday to roar us on to victory" says BFJ.


Sunday, May 2


33500 Town fans have attended away games this season

Town's crucial last game of the season against Cardiff City is one of two games to be shown live on Sky TV next Sunday. In addition to the game at Portman Road Sky will also broadcast the Coventry City v Crystal Palace match.

Although the U-17's FA Premier Academy League season ended several weeks ago a friendly with Norwich City was played at Playford Road on Saturday morning with Town's youngsters running out 3-1 winners. Sammy Moore (28) and Liam Craig (penalty 32) gave Ipswich a 2-0 half-time lead which they extended 10 minutes into the second half through Danny Haynes. Ludlow netted a consolation goal for the Canaries fifteen minutes from time.

Recent academy inductee Chris Casement has been in action for Northern Ireland's U-16's at an International tournament in Ballymena. The Northern Irish drew their opening game with Canada 1-1 on Thursday, followed by a 2-2 draw with Finland on Friday and a 1-0 loss to Switzerland on Saturday.

Aidan Collins played the full ninety minutes of England U-21's 2-1 win against Sweden last Tuesday night. The 17-year-old defender was also in the squad for a second game against the Swede's at York City's Bootham Crescent on Friday but did not play.

Finally, despite the Sky TV enforced switch of Friday night's game at Bramall Lane in excess of 1600 Town fans still made the journey to South Yorkshire to cheer on the Blue's. Over the course of the season that pushes the total number of fan's at away games this season to over 33500 which is pretty impressive, even more so when you consider that almost a third of our 23 away games have been midweek ones. The highest: 3133 at the National Hockey Stadium for the game with Wimbledon. The lowest: 457 at Sunderland (not bad for a 550 mile roundtrip on a Tuesday night).

Ground  
Fans
  Notes
National Hockey  
3133
   
Madejski  
3006
   
Upton Park  
2781
   
Selhurst Park  
2134
  Midweek
Vicarage Road  
1991
   
Pride Park  
1889
   
Highfield Road  
1739
   
Bramall Lane  
1600
  Midweek
Priestfield  
1403
   
Carrow Road  
1403
   
Hawthorn's  
1375
   
City Ground  
1186
  Midweek
Millmoor  
1152
   
Ninian Park  
1130
   
Deepdale  
1121
   
New Den  
1097
   
Turf Moor  
1024
   
Gresty Road  
992
   
Bescot  
792
  Midweek
JJB Stadium  
758
  Midweek
Britannia  
707
  Midweek
Valley Parade  
675
   
Stadium of Light  
457
  Midweek
Total  
33545
 

* Includes tickets sold by ITFC ticket office and doesn't take into account tickets purchased on the day by travelling fans


Saturday, May 1


Bramall Lane last night

Ian Westlake hit a vital 71st minute equaliser last night to earn Ipswich a 1-1 draw with Sheffield United and edge them closer to the play-offs, Andy Gray having put the Blades ahead with a 64th minute penalty. Town were denied their own penalty, and a chance to take all three points, when Chris Morgan handled in the area in the dying minutes, but referee Ilderton ignored appeals leaving Town manager Joe Royle less than happy:

"We are all bitterly disappointed, particularly with Morgan's handball in the last minute.

"The linesman was just 15 yards away while for the one in the first half Morgan has put his hand in the air to deflect the ball away.

"We should have had two penalties yet they get an obligatory one but in the end 1-1 is fine with us.

"We've still got to win our last game and bearing in mind we didn't have to play West Ham in their final game, so we would have settled for this.

"After being bottom of the table following our first six games, to be in this position with one game to go and just needing a win to make the play-offs is not bad."






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