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Tuesday, August 31

Third successive Championship win for Town/Newcastle dump Uncle Bob


Town recorded their third successive Championship win with a 2-1 victory over Wolves at FPR yesterday. Darren Bent had given Town a first half-lead which was doubled by a Tommy Miller penalty after 50. Town had dominated the first half and should have had the game sewn up well before Olofinjana's diving header pulled one back for the visitors on 55. But despite being forced onto the back foot for long spells during the remainder of the game Town hung on for a well deserved victory.

Joe Royle was understandably upbeat after the game: "I thought we were outstanding. We played with excitement, with verve, created chances. We hit the woodwork twice, scored twice and could have had more. We had one concentration lapse that let them in and in 90 minutes, Kelvin has hardly had a save to make and we could have won by more. The first-half in particular we were excellent and my only complaint was that we weren't ahead by more than one goal. Shefki missed a sitter after the break which would have calmed my nerves but we were excellent all over the pitch in the end. The two lads up front gave them problems, the defence were solid and I wouldn't swap our midfield for any other in this division."

Town's manager suggested earlier that Darren Bent could be staying at FPR as no further offer has been received from Charlton. "We received an offer from Charlton, which we turned down. We have heard nothing since and my gut feeling is that Darren will stay."

And lastly, Newcastle United have sacked Sir Bobby Robson after their poor start to the Premiership season which culminated in a 4-2 reverse at Villa Park on Saturday. Robson managed Town from 1969-1982 and had been due to leave St James' Park at the end of the season. "I am massively disappointed not to be able to finish the job I came here to do," said Robson. "I have immensely enjoyed my time here as manager, and I wish the club all the best of success in the future."

Monday, August 30

New bid for Bent?


Charlton Athletic are expected to make an improved offer for Darren Bent today after an initial offer of GBP3.0Million was rejected by Town at the end of last week. Bent himself admits the lure of the Premiership may be too much for him to turn down. "Obviously it is a massive opportunity. Every player wants to play in the Premiership. Whether it is the right time for me or not only time will tell. Whatever will be will be, but at the moment all I'm doing is focusing on the Wolves game."

Meanwhile, Shefi Kuqi, who struck twice for Town at Rotherham on Saturday, has quit international football. Kuqi who has been capped almost 50 times by Finland says he will not make himself available for selection for his country's World Cup qualifiers as long as coach Anti Muurinen is at the helm.

Joe Royle expects today's opposition at FPR to be among the promotion contenders come May. "Wolves have had a terrible time with injuries but once they are back to somewhere near their full quota I would expect them to be among the clubs challenging for promotion. I know their manager Dave Jones well and he's done a good job there. Whoever is playing for them, we know it will be a difficult game."

Town's main doubt for today's Coca-Cola Championship clash is Matt Richards who missed Saturday's game with a foot infection.

Sunday, August 29

Shefki double earns Town the points


Two goals from Shefki Kuqi earned Town all the points in a 2-0 victory over Rotherham at Millmoor yesterday. The Finn hit the goals either side of the break, the first a stunning 25-yard volley and the second a close range tap in from a Darren Bent pass. Town's frontman might have secured a hat trick 15 minutes from time but he headed just wide from Dean Bowditch's cross.

"It's nice to win and nice to keep a clean sheet, especially when we haven't been at our best," said BFJ after the game. "It was 60 minutes before we really got going. But we are averaging two goals per game and that is not a bad habit to have. And Kuqi missed an easier chance before he opened the scoring. I was delighted with the back four who just get better and better. Rotherham never got behind us and Kelvin Davis only had one half save to make all afternoon."

And a round-up of the rest of the weeks news .....

Chairman David Sheepshanks has commented on reports in the local press suggesting an agreement with Charlton, over the sale of Darren Bent, has been reached before a change of heart by Town. "Last week Charlton Athletic Football Club made an official approach for Darren Bent. Contrary to reports and speculation in the local press, no agreement was at anytime reached between the clubs. An offer was made, given careful consideration by the Board, and declined. There have been no further discussions since."

On Friday Charlton chief executive Peter Varney had confirmed that a GBP3.0Million bid by the Addicks for Bent had been "rejected by Ipswich" and added that "as far as we are concerned that is the end of the matter. We are now pursuing other options."

Reports on Wednesday suggesting that Glasgow Rangers are interested in the free transfer listed Pablo Counago were confirmed by Joe Royle. "We've had an enquiry from Rangers, but there has been no follow up," said BFJ. "With the transfer deadline only seven days away, we will know if there is serious interest very soon."

Town's boss is not impressed with claims by the Spaniard that he is being forced out of the club. "Pablo's attitude has not been right, his fitness has not been right and his form has not been right," he told the Evening Star. "I think he's a nice lad, but I believe he has been badly advised. All the answers lie with Pablo - it's really up to him. When we reported back for pre-season training he was grossly unfit, easily the most unfit player in the entire squad. All the players had fitness schedules and it was clear that Pablo had not done anything in the summer."

Scott Barron made his first debut in the 2-0 Carling Cup win over Brentford at FPR on Tuesday night, a game that disappointed BFJ. "We had a lot of changes - too many changes to expect us to carry on playing the way we were on Saturday," said Royle. "I was wondering where a goal was going to come from. They had two or three chances but apart from Lewis Price's save at the end and a bit of aerial warfare we did fine. I was disappointed with our front players. We did not get hold of the ball. We will have to play a lot better at Rotherham on Saturday."

Town fan's had to wait until the 73rd minute for Town to take the lead against their Coca-Cola Division One opponents through Tommy Miller. Victory was sealed on the stroke of full time by a second from Ian Westlake who took advantage of Bee's 'keeper Nelson still being upfield for a Brentford corner.

Town's progress has been rewarded with a second round tie against Doncaster Rovers in South Yorkshire on Tuesday September 21st.

Jason De Vos will fly out to join his Canadian team mates after tomorrow afternoon's home game with Wolves. The Canadian's take on Honduras on September 4th and Costa Rica on September 8th in two World Cup Qualifiers. At the same time Darren Bent and Ian Westlake will be on international duty with the England U-21's as they take on Austria and Poland, while Lewis Price is in the Welsh U-21 squad for their game with Azerbaijan.

And lastly, Town's U-18's lost their game at Newcastle on Saturday, going down 2-0 to the United youngsters.

Sunday, August 22

Battling Town clinch win


Town secured their second home win of the season but had to work hard to take the points from a battling Cardiff in a 3-1 victory. Darren Bent opened the scoring in the 21st minute when he steered the ball home from a tight angle on the right of the Bluebird's penalty area. The visitors found themselves back in the game ten minutes into the second half when Alan Lee made the most of Richard Naylor's fluffed back pass to score from a similar position to Bent's opener. However, Tommy Miller restored Town's lead after 67 minutes following excellent build up play by Pablo Counago and Dean Bowditch, and Ian Westlake secured the points with Town's third four minutes from time.

BFJ was particularly pleased with the performance given by the Town defence: "I was pleased with our defensive performance overall. Bar one mistake it was our best defensive performance for a long while. We have not given them a sniff. Lee cost them a lot of money and (Robert) Earnshaw may go for a lot."

Town's boss was also full of praise for Darren Bent: "He is a bit of an enigma - his pace is exceptional. He scored a goal for us and he had a hand in two. His goal record is terrific - it is one in two which is terrific for a lad still learning the game. We are always on at Darren to use his pace more. He has not really got going yet this season - that was his best half so far in the second half. He has now got two in four for us."

And, as was the case last week, due to work commitments that will be the last update for a few days. Between now and then you can keep track of all Town's goings on here.

Saturday, August 21

Jim back?

Youth may cost us

Fabian Wilnis is concerned that Town's reliance on youth could cost them promotion this season. With Jermaine Wright, Chris Makin and John McGreal all gone, and Matt Elliott back at Leicester, the Dutch defender hopes that Town can cope with what looks to be the closest promotion race for many years. Talking to the EADT he said: "In this league anyone can beat anyone on their day. Over the course of the season having so many youngsters may not be enough for us. In the long run time will tell."

Captain Jim Magilton could make a return to the side for today's visit by Cardiff City in the Coca-Cola Championship, after missing the first three games of the season with a thigh injury. Jason de Vos, who has acted as stand in skipper in Magic's absence, may be included in the side despite the midweek discovery of a fractured fibula that ruled him out of Canada's World Cup qualifier with Guatemala. If de Vos does not play then Drissa Diallo will move to central defence with Wilnis returning at right back.

Town line-up: Kelvin Davis, Drissa Diallo, Jason de Vos, Richard Naylor, Matt Richards, Tommy Miller, Jim Magilton, Kevin Horlock, Ian Westlake, Dean Bowditch, Darren Bent. Subs: Lewis Price, Fabian Wilnis, Tony Dinning, Pablo Counago, Shefki Kuqi.

And a quick(ish) recap of the events of last week ...

Following Town's defeat at Derby last weekend Kevin Horlock was brutal in his assessment of a game that saw Town turn a fortuitous 2-1 lead into a 3-2 defeat: "They outplayed us and outfought us. It is a sharp kick up the backside so early in the season but hopefully it will be just what we needed. We have a week's hard training to get back to winning ways."

Former Town manager George Burley, now in charge at Pride Park, insisted that he took no extra satisfaction from his first win of the season just because it was against his former charges: "In the two previous games I was pleased with the performance but against Ipswich it could have gone against us. I'm delighted with the three points but it is just another game and just another win."

Finidi George has decided to call it a day, a close friend of the Nigerians saying: "Finidi is going to end his career and is happy with his decision. He has received several offers from Spain and the Gulf, but he has decided that now is the time to retire."

Town's youngsters won the Doetinchem U-19 youth tournament for the second year running in Holland last weekend.

Jason de Vos returned home early from World Cup qualifying duty with Canada in midweek with a suspected stress fracture of the tibia.

Town played their opening game of the FA Premier Reserve League at FPR on Tuesday night. Scott Barron was on target but the Blue's went down 2-1 to Crystal Palace. Matt Richards won his first U-21 cap, and Darren Bent scored his third goal in six appearances, as Peter Taylor's England side beat the Ukraine 3-1 at Middlesbrough's Riverside that same evening.

The following day reserve keeper Lewis Price made his international debut, in the Welsh U-21's nil-nil draw in Latvia, and still on the international front Dean Bowditch has been named in the England U-19 squad for a friendly against the Republic of Ireland next month.

And lastly, miss-firing striker Pablo Counago has been told that he can leave FPR on a free-transfer.

Sunday, August 15

Town get their just deserts

View from the Cawarden South Stand

Despite leading 2-1 at the break, Town lost their first game of the season at Pride Park yesterday. Derby had taken the lead through Marco Reich in the 35th minute and could have been further ahead before conceding a penalty, converted by Tommy Miller on 41, and gifting Dean Bowditch Town's second two minutes later. Inigo Idiakez curled in a free-kick to bring the home side level on 58 before Reich struck his second, and the winner, after 65.

"It was the poorest we have been for a long time and we got what our performance merited - nothing," Joe Royle told the official site. "Derby were more competitive than us and they also gifted us both our goals. We were lucky to be in front at half-time and there can be no excuses for that display. We just weren't good enough."

Due to work commitments that will be the last update for a few days. In the meantime, you can keep track of all Town's goings on here.

Saturday, August 14

Royle looking for improvement

Burley: winless against Town

Joe Royle was not happy with the overall performance at Forest on Wednesday night and is looking for an all round improvement when Town take on Derby at Pride Park today.

"I was very disappointed that we didn't do enough to win the game at Forest and in the end we were grateful for the point," he told the official site. "We had a slice of luck in the game but then we didn't have any last season so perhaps we were due some and long may it continue. What we have to do is improve our performance at Derby, especially in the attacking areas. The front two didn't keep the ball well enough at Forest and we hardly created a chance all night. Mind you the service in to them wasn't great."

Jason De Vos is confident that he will be fit to face the Rams and will again captain the side in the continued absence of Jim Magilton (thigh strain). He survived the 90 minutes at the City Ground in midweek but told the official site: "I shouldn't have really played at Nottingham because the knee was very sore. But I've had a session in the swimming pool this morning and it feels a lot better than it did 24 hours ago." After today's game de Vos will jet off to Vancouver to join up with his Canadian team mates ahead of their World Cup Qualifier with Guatemala on Wednesday.

Ian Westlake, Matt Richards and Darren Bent have all been called up for the England U-21's friendly against the Ukraine next week. The game, at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesboro, could mark Bent's sixth appearance at this level, while for both Westlake and Richards it is the opportunity to win their first cap's.

And lastly, former Town midfielder Danny Sonner has joined Peterborough United on a two-year contract. Sonner, who was released by Forest during the summer, has previously played for Burnley, Bury, Preussen Koeln, Town, Wednesday, Birmingham and Walsall.

Friday, August 13

Burley looking for first win

Pride Park

Former Town manager George Burley will be looking to pick up his first points of the season against the Blue's at Pride Park tomorrow. Derby have lost their opening two games of the season and Burley is also aware that he has failed to win any of the four games in which he has managed the Rams against Town. "We have lost three and drawn one but I felt we have improved as a team since then and that will show on Saturday," he told the EADT.

County have no new injury concerns ahead of the game. Defenders Mo Konjic (knee) and Jamie Vincent (thigh) have both missed the opening two games and midfielder Paul Boertien is still recovering from cruciate knee ligament surgery.

Joe Royle will be looking for an improvement in the standard of refereeing at Pride Park tomorrow after blasting referee Alan Kaye and his two linesmen after Wednesday nights game at Forest:

"If I said what I really thought I'd get a three-year touchline ban - let alone three games. We should have had a penalty for a foul on Darren Bent and I was disappointed with the booking we got for Jason De Vos. Drissa Diallo could have had his leg broken by another tackle and, if the officials aren't spotting things like that, I've got one thing to say - help."

Captain Jim Magilton will sit out the game at Derby, the third consecutive game he has missed due to a thigh strain picked up in pre-season. "I am having a scan on Monday and hopefully it will be good news," he told the Evening Star. "I played on perhaps a bit too long in pre-season when I should have taken a rest earlier. But I wanted to be part of the action."

The 35-year-old also believes that Town have nothing to fear in the Coca-Cola Championship. "Promotion places are up for grabs," he said. "They are anybody's. On the evidence of our two matches we have nothing to fear and teams will be beating each other."

Chief executive Derek Bowden says that Joe Royle can bring in another loanee at any time and that no further players need to leave before that can happen:

"A loan deal for a short period similar to the Tony Dinning deal that manager Joe Royle completed last weekend is a possibility if that is what the manager wants. There is no need for him to offload anyone before he can bring in a loan signing. We plan to look at the situation again at the end of this month and the possibility of a full-time signing and year-long loan will be discussed."

Thursday, August 12

Town ride their luck

The City Ground last night

Town came away with a point from the City Ground last night after a 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest. Darren Bent's predatory equaliser in the 54th minute levelled the scores after Forest had taken a first half lead through Paul Evans. Keeper Kelvin Davis was the hero of the night making a string of excellent saves but Town must also thank their luck as Andy Reid, David Johnson and Gareth Taylor where all denied by the woodwork in the second half.

Despite riding their luck on occasions Town could have won the game themselves had the front men shown more potency and BFJ told the official site: "I will take the point but I'm disappointed we didn't do more to win the game. Darren should have had a penalty but we didn't threaten enough up front and we couldn't hang on to the ball in those attacking areas."

But he was pleased with the performance given by Davis, Drissa Diallo and debutant Tony Dinning. "Kelvin was magnificent and Drissa wasn't far behind either. Tony Dinning did a good job for us as well especially as he has only just arrived at the Club."

Although named in a initial squad for Finland's World Cup Qualifier with Romania in Bucharest next week, Shefki Kuqi has not survived the final cut which saw the squad trimmed down to twenty.

However, Town target Jaime Peters has been named in Frank Yallop's 18-man squad for Canada's World Cup Qualifier with Guatemala on August 18th in British Columbia. Also in the squad for that game is Jason De Vos. De Vos hopes to do his part in persuading the 17-year-old to sign-up with Town who face competition from, amongst others, Derby and Millwall for the wingers signature.

Wednesday, August 11

Walker to face Town?

Forest manager Joe Kinnear hopes to have re-signed Jon-Olav Hjelde in time for the defender to feature against Town in the Coca-Cola Championship tonight. The Nottingham side have something of a defensive crisis at the moment with Michael Dawson and John Thompson out injured and Wes Morgan suspended. Kinnear has also had to re-register 38-year-old Des Walker as defensive cover. Walker, who was capped by England on 59 occasions, played the last 15 minutes of Forest's game at Wigan on Saturday and may feature again this evening.

Town will definitely be without captain Jim Magilton (thigh strain), while Jason de Vos (bruised knee) is a doubt. Fabian Wilnis will be looking to reclaim the right-back spot from Drissa Diallo now that he has recovered from a back injury. If De Vos fails to shake off his injury by tonight, Diallo will move along to partner Richard Naylor in central defence with Wilnis back on the right.

The squad of 17, including loan signing Tony Dinning, for the trip to the City Ground is:

Scott Barron, Marcus Bent, Dean Bowditch, Pablo Counago, Kelvin Davis, Jason De Vos, Drissa Diallo, Tony Dinning, Shefki Kuqi, Kevin Horlock, Tommy Miller, Scott Mitchell, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price, Matt Richards, Ian Westlake and Fabian Wilnis.

Tony Dinning's arrival at FPR has eased Joe Royle's early season concerns about midfield cover. "We were desperately short of numbers in midfield, especially with Jim Magilton injured," he told the official site. "Tony coming in has certainly eased that problem because he is versatile and can play in midfield and at the back if needed."

And lastly, the new contract that Richard Naylor signed in the summer was for two-year's, and not one-year as previously reported, and BFJ is keen to sign triallist Jaime Peters. The 17-year-old Canadian winger impressed for the reserves in Monday nights 5-0 win at Needham Market but is also being chased by Derby County and Millwall.

Tuesday, August 10

Town will tighten up

Needham Market FC last night

Town's reserves beat Needham Market 5-0 last night. The game, in aid of the Derrick Bloomfield Testimonial, attracted a crowd of around 300 and raised over GBP1,000 for charity.

Town's loan signing Tony Dinning hopes to impress Joe Royle sufficiently to earn a permanent move to FPR.

"It didn't really work out for me at Wigan last season and now I'm looking forward to a fresh challenge at Ipswich," he told the official site. "Once I knew of the Club's interest I spoke to Jason De Vos, who I was with at Wigan last season, about coming here and he said it's a great place to play football."

The midfielder, who's arrival is likely to end Town's transfer activity for the time being, goes straight into the squad for the game at Forest tomorrow night.

Meanwhile his former Wigan team mate Jason de Vos has been named in the Canadian squad for their World Cup qualifying group games against Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica. The Canucks opening group game is on August 18th against Guatemala with the concluding game, also against Guatemala, on November 17th. De Vos is not expected to miss any Town games between those two dates, and says "It's a lot of travelling but I am used to it now and have my own ways of dealing with it."

Town 'keeper Kelvin Davis is convinced that Town will tighten up defensively this season. The Blue's had one of the worst defensive records last season, but Davis believes that the arrival of Kevin Horlock from West Ham will tighten things up.

"Kevin was exceptional against Gillingham on Saturday," said Davis. "His distribution was fantastic and he was never afraid to throw in a hard tackle in midfield when it mattered. Kevin is the type of player we missed last season when we got into a defensive rut, which was hard to get out of."

Monday, August 9

Gateway to the Premiership!

Ripping Yarns: ChevBlue Jr struggles through Chairman Dave's latest programme notes

Chairman David Sheepshanks reiterated his support for the re-branding of the Football League in Saturday's match programme and said that the launch of the Coca-Cola Championship will, he hopes, bring greater focus and rewards to the participating clubs. He was also welcomed Coca-Cola as the new sponsors of the "gateway to the Premiership" a deal that a Global brand of their size does not enter into lightly.

29-year-old attacking midfielder Tony Dinning is joining Town today on a two-month loan deal from Wigan Athletic. Manager Joe Royle will be looking to make the move a permanent one should the loan spell prove a success.

"Tony is still only 29 but a very good player. I remember him particularly well from when he was at Stockport and went on to be almost a GBP1m player," Royle told the EADT. "He has been pushed out a little at Wigan and we have given him two months to show what he can do and if he proves himself he could land a permanent deal."

Aston Villa are the latest club to show an unhealthy interest in 18-year-old Dean Bowditch who scored Town's winner over the weekend. "That would be telling" was BFJ's response when asked if any of the Premiership and SPL clubs known to be keen on the striker had made direct inquiries.

Town are sending a team to Needham Market tonight for the Derrick Bloomfield Testimonial. The game kick's-off at 7:30pm at Needham Market FC's "Bloomfield" ground, renamed in recognition of over 60's years of service by Derrick to the club.

And lastly, two Town fan's are due in court this week to face charges of alleged football hooliganism. The pair were arrested following a mass brawl in Peterborough after Town's friendly at London Road four weeks ago. A group of Posh fan's are facing similar charges.

Sunday, August 8

Town off to winning start

Superb winner

Dean Bowditch scored his sixth senior goal to earn Town all three points as they came from behind to beat Gillingham at FPR yesterday. Despite dominating the earlier stages Town went a goal down after 24 minutes when the visitors took the lead through Paul Smith. But they fought back well and equalised when Richard Naylor headed home from close range on 35, and Bowditch's superbly taken goal a minute after the restart sealed the victory.

Joe Royle was obviously delighted to open the new season with a win:

"I was pleased with the second-half performance and we should have scored two or three goals. I was angry at half-time and so were the players.

"We gave away another horror goal to make it difficult for us but we turned it around and the most important thing is that we got the three points."

Former Norwich striker Iwan Roberts got his Gillingham career off to a flying start with a booking after just 39 seconds following a tussle with Drissa Diallo. Town's defender looked to have taken an elbow in the face from the ex-Canary who was booed through-out.

Former Town, Rangers and England captain Terry Butcher has blasted Newcastle United over their treatment of Sir Bobby Robson. Sir Bobby has been told by the club that they will not be renewing his contract at the end of this season.

"I have heard he won't get a contract at the end of the season but that's not the sort of way to treat someone who has resurrected Newcastle," Butcher told the Mirror. "He's such a great figure in the game and has worked wonders there."

And former player and coach Tony Mowbray may have a treasure chest of memories from his playing career with Middlesbrough, Celtic and Town, but the now Hibernian manager says winning a trophy at Hibs will top anything that has come before.

Saturday, August 7

Joe's three wishes

Better home form, improved start and concede less goals

If Town manager Joe Royle could be granted three wishes for the coming season, reports the EADT, they would be better home form, an improved start and to concede far less goals.

So the new season is here and Town take on Gillingham at FPR today at 3:00pm. Gillingham saved themselves from relegation on the very last day of the last campaign and are favourites for the drop this coming season too. But beware, they have won on their last two visits to Suffolk including a last minute win here back in November.

Gills manager Andy Hessenthaler is not expecting a hat-trick of wins and knows he has a tough task today. "They've got Jason De Vos in. He's a good player, very intimidating. Kevin Horlock from West Ham has come into their midfield but they've lost a few so it'll be interesting. They've got some really good youngsters as well but we beat them at their place last year and the year before so let's see if we can make it three times in a row. We've got to be on our game. We know what we've got to do and we're looking forward to it."

Hessenthaler, signed former Canary Iwan Roberts as player/coach last month, and the Welshman is sure to receive a "warm" FPR reception this afternoon. "I was at Portman Road on Monday when Ipswich played Osasuna and got booed then and there was only 4000 in the ground so it will be fun on Saturday," he told the official site.

Town will be without Jim Magilton today as he has not recovered from a thigh injury picked up in the game against Newcastle ten days ago. However, Jason De Vos (knee), Kevin Horlock (knee) and Matt Richards (foot) have all recovered from their respective ailments and will play.

De Vos will wear the captains armband today and has been tipped by Magilton to be the future club captain. "Jason has skippered teams wherever he has played and the position would sit very easily on his shoulders here," he told the official site.

And lastly, Chairman David Sheepshanks has confirmed that funds are available for BFJ to bring in loan players during the season and possibly a permanent signing.

Friday, August 6

Dyer buys a Hummer

Move still on

Yesterdays lead story in the EADT suggesting that Arsenal's young defender Justin Hoyte will reject a season long loan deal with Town seems to have been a bit premature. The delay in completing the deal is to allow last seasons Premiership Champions time to bring in cover for right-back Lauren.

BFJ's target was in action again for the Gunners on Wednesday and was in the starting line-up as they completed their pre-season friendlies with a goalless draw at Beveren.

Trialist striker Pascal Nouma will not be signing a permanent deal at FPR. The Parisian played the last 30 minutes in Town's 2-1 victory over Osasuna on Monday night but BFJ will not be taking things any further.

Despite the above Town's manager is not ruling out the possibility of two new faces in the Town line-up that faces Gillingham at FPR tomorrow.

Jason De Vos will captain Town on his home debut if Jim Magilton has not recovered from the thigh tear that forced him to miss the friendly on Monday night. "Jim is very doubtful at this stage but we will see how he is over the next 24 hours before making a decision," BFJ told the official site. "If he doesn't make it, Jason De Vos will skipper the side providing he recovers from his own injury. "

Town from (provisionally): Scott Barron, Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch, Pablo Counago, Kelvin Davis, Jason De Vos, Drissa Diallo, Shefki Kuqi, Kevin Horlock, Tommy Miller, Scott Mitchell, Antonio Murray, Richard Naylor, Lewis Price, Matt Richards, Ian Westlake and Fabian Wilnis

Current Newcastle manager and former Town boss Sir Bobby Robson says he wants to stay in management when his final season at St James' Park is over. Robson, who's contract at St James' Park will not be renewed at the end of the new season, said: "I'm not thinking about retiring. No way. As long as I can do this job I will do it. I'm not going into this season thinking this will be my last. I like what I'm doing and feel fit."

And lastly, former Town midfield star Kieron Dyer is now the proud owner of a Hummer H2. His new vehicle, bearing the plate K13 DYR and described by a Newcastle United insider as "humongous", is 6ft 10in wide, 14ft 6in long and 7ft tall. It cost GBP55,000, does 10 miles to the gallon and needs GBP90 worth of fuel to fill its tank.

Thursday, August 5

Magilton concern

Tighten up

Fabian Wilnis has called on his team mates to defend better as a team if promotion is to be achieved this campaign. In 2003/04 Town had the worst defensive record in the division, conceding more goals than relegated Bradford and Walsall. "It's not just the back four, you defend as a whole team. If the midfield or strikers do not hold the ball up then it comes back straight away and that makes it hard for the defence."

Sunderland are the latest side to show an interest in Shefki Kuqi, however they will not be allowed to take the striker for free. "I'm not sure I would let him go on a free. You have to look after number one, so why should we help one of our rivals?" said BFJ. In any case the Finnish International will not be going anywhere until a replacement is found.

Lastly, captain Jim Magilton is the major injury concern ahead of Saturday's league opener with Gillingham. Magilton, who was ever present in the league last season, may have to sit out the game having suffered a thigh tear.

Wednesday, August 4

Blind, Stupid and Desperate

Kuqi: Staying put

According to a story run by Team Talk, and a number of other sites yesterday morning, Shefki Kuqi was virtually a Hansa Rostock player. The Town striker had flown to Germany to talk with the Bundesliga side after being given permission by BFJ to do so. "It's up to Shefki now. He's going to have a look round for a couple of days and make up his mind."

It transpires that the Finn had not actually flown anywhere after, according to Sporting Life, a 'dramatic change of mind'. "We received an approach from Hansa Rostock about Shefki," said Town's manager, "and we gave clearance for him to go and spend a few days in Germany and see how he gets on. He has decided to stay here, though, but it seems that if Rostock firm up their interest Shefki will talk to them about a permanent move."

All, however, is made clear in this mornings EADT. Free transfer listed Kuqi is digging his heels in to stay at Town and any move away from FPR would have to be extremely good. "I would prefer to play in England and preferably with Ipswich Town," he says. "I'm happy here in Ipswich and it would have to be something a lot better for me to move on."

Joe Royle was happy that his side hung on for a win against Osasuna at FPR on Monday night but not with the overall performance. "That was probably the worst we have played but given the influential players missing it shows from that performance, and the Newcastle game, how important our big players are to us. I was pleased we hung on the way we did but I just hope by playing on the Monday after not being able to get Lazio when we wanted, it has not cost us in terms of injury. We were not physically overawed in a game that was hardly Copa de la Goodwill."

Town are sending a team of former stars to Trimley St Mary for a game to mark the opening of a memorial to murdered schoolgirl Vicky Hall later today. Joe Royle will assist in the opening ceremony at Stennetts Memorial Playing Field at 6:45pm with the game, against Trimley Red Devils, kicking-off at 7pm.

Reserve 'keeper Lewis Price has been named in the Welsh U-21 squad for their friendly with Latvia in Riga on August 18th. Bournemouth born Price qualifies for a Welsh call-up through his father and has previously played for the U-19's.

And lastly ..... Back again, with contributions from supporters of every Championship club (yours truly included) and another extensive census of fans it's the Blind, Stupid and Desperate (Watford site) 2004/05 Preview.

Tuesday, August 3

Town round off pre-season with win

Osasuna square-up for a free-kick

Town concluded their pre-season matches with a 2-1 win over Spanish La Liga side C.A. Osasuna at FPR last night. First half goals from Pablo Counago and Shefki Kuqi, were enough to clinch victory in a game that was not played in the best of spirits. Flano completed the scoring with a late strike for the visitors.

Some over jealous challenges by the visitors saw Town's new boys Kevin Horlock and Jason De Vos both substituted. "Kevin has stud marks on the side of his knee and it's sore while Jason also took a blow on the knee" BFJ told the official site.

And from Milosevic's performance for Osasuna last night you can understand why Aston Villa fans were so frustrated with him during his three-years at Villa Park. If he concentrated less on arm waving and throwing temper tantrums and more on his football he could be quite a prodigious force in front of goal.

Former Besiktas striker Pascal (keep your hands where we can see them) Nouma made a second half appearance for Town but, apart from a half chance within minutes of replacing Pablo Counago, the trialist was given little opportunity to impress.

This seasons Coca Cola Championship is the strongest for many season, says BBC Sport, and ranks Town in the top six along with Leeds, Leicester, Wolves, West Ham and Sunderland. Joe Royle, they say, is experienced enough to make sure his players are primed for another crack at promotion, with Tommy Miller being our key man.

Despite earlier plans to retire at 55, Town's manager says that is the last thing on his mind with the new season just four days away. His contract at FPR is up next summer, when he will be 56, but he say's "There is plenty more to be done with Ipswich and I have not drawn any lines when I would like to hand over to someone else. My contract ends in June, but that is not a reason to think that my job here will end then."

And in today's EADT Town Chairman David Sheepshanks talks about his special relationship with BFJ: "The working relationship between chairman and manager is pivotal in any football club and the one Joe and I enjoy is first class."

And lastly, Derry City have released former Town midfielder Sean Friars. Friars, who made a single appearance for Town as a sub back in 99, was a member of Derry's 2002 FAI Cup winning side.

Monday, August 2

Pascal Nouma on trial

Milosevic at FPR tonight

Former Aston Villa striker Savo Milosevic will be in the Osasuna line-up at FPR tonight as Town take on the La Liga side in their final pre-season game. Milosevic spent last season on loan at Celta Vigo, from Parma, before joining Osasuna permanently last month. Other former Premiership players in the Spanish side are Ibrahima Bakayoko (Everton) and John Aloisi (Coventry City).

Matt Richards will miss tonights game, having suffered a cut foot in the win over Newcastle last Wednesday, but likely to feature at some point is Frenchman Pascal Nouma. The Parisian striker is on trial at Town and will play if international clearance comes through in time. 32-year-old Nouma, who is looking to sign for an English club, has previously played for Paris St Germain, Strasbourg, Besiktas, Lille, Lens, Caen, Olympique Marseilles and Qatar club Al Khor.

Town from: Kelvin Davis, Fabian Wilnis, Scott Barron, Richard Naylor, Jason De Vos, Ian Westlake, Kevin Horlock, Tommy Miller, Pablo Counago, Darren Bent, Dean Bowditch, Jim Magilton, Lewis Price, Pascal Nouma, Antonio Murray, Scott Mitchell and Shefki Kuqi.

And lastly, The Times says that Joe Royle, who was arguably one of the best television pundit's during Euro 2004, must now match his words with actions. The broadsheet's preview of Town's upcoming Championship campaign can be found here.

Sunday, August 1

MOTD is back


Osasuna, Town's final pre-season opponents, drew 0-0 with Tranmere at Prenton Park on Friday night. And on the subject of Tranmere, there is an interesting article on former Blue Georges Santos by the RoversRearguard.com fanzine editor here. Santos, who completed his move to QPR on Friday, played for Tranmere when he first arrived in the UK before moving onto WBA, Sheffield United, Grimsby and Town.

Town have sacked assistant academy director Ian Smith. Smith's departure came back in April, following a youth tournament in Italy, although no announcement was made at the time.

Town's rumoured defensive target Justin Hoyte has been in action for Arsenal this weekend. Hoyte made an appearance as sub in the Gunner's 0-0 draw with River Plate in the Amsterdam Arena.

Lastly, watching Norwich Premiership highlights will be made even more enjoyable with the return of Match of the Day which returns after a three year break to replace the awful ITV's The Premiership. Details of the show which will now run on Saturday and Sunday nights can be found here.


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