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Monday, February 28
Town 0 QPR 2
Town suffered their second successive home defeat with a 2-0 reverse at the hands of QPR on Saturday, with 'keeper Kelvin Davis, in otherwise exemplary form this season, at fault for both of the Londoner's goals. Davis's first error came just four minutes into the game when he slipped while taking a free kick and the ball hit Paul Furlong in the back. Furlong, who scored twice against Town when the two sides met earlier this season, recovered quickly from the surprise to calmly drive the ball home from 16-yards. Quarter-of-an-hour from the end, Davis failed to collect Martin Rowlands' free kick and Danny Shittu headed home to seal the win.
BFJ refused to lay the blame solely at Town's No. 1 feet. "Kelvin Davis has held his hands up for both goals. He is one of the best kickers in the business and this is the first time his kicking has cost us a goal since he has been here. There are no recriminations because he has done terrifically well for us. For the second goal Kelvin shouted at the defence to leave it, so it was down to him. He is big enough and brave enough to handle the situation and he'll be there for us again next week."
Lack of creativity in front of goal was one of his main concerns: "Rangers challenged us to break them down and we couldn't. I don't think we enjoyed many breaks but we looked a little bit goal-shy. Some of our forwards are not having the best of times and we keep conceding early goals which makes things difficult. We will have to make up for it at Wigan next week. I had as near as we come to a dressing room lock-up, about four minutes. I was disappointed that one or two of our players didn't seem to want the ball today. Our fans were out-shouted by a few hundred away fans but our players must be strong enough to deal with it when our home supporters are frustrated."
Saturday's loss sees Town drop to third on goal difference. Sunderland moved level on points with both Wigan and the Blue's with a 2-1 home victory over Cardiff, while Wigan were surprising 2-1 losers at Gillingham. All three sides now have 66 points from 35 matches.
Coca-Cola Championship Top Six
Town's manager remains defiant: "If losing two home games represents a famine then we will have to make up for it at Wigan. All the games now are crucial. If we win at Wigan it doesn't mean we will go up, if we lose then we are three points behind the leaders. It is a big game but they are all big games. As it stands we are level top, third on goal difference, so it is not so bad."
The returning Georges Santos, who was warmly applauded on and off the field on Saturday, believes that Town will still go up despite the weekends defeat: "We deserved to win but I still expect Ipswich to go up. They have some quality players and are likely to come back from the defeat against us and win at Wigan next week."
Jason De Vos will out on this Saturday's game at the JJB Stadium after picking up his fifth booking of the season against QPR as will James Scowcroft who hit five cautions with his yellow in last Tuesday's defeat by Watford.
The Club have made an official apology for comments made by Chairman David Sheepshanks on Sky TV before the Watford game on Tuesday night that compared Town's financial collapse with the Asian Tsunami: "We have checked with David Sheepshanks and it was meant to be descriptive of the unprecedented sequence of events that the club suffered and not intended in any way to cause offence. He apologises if anyone took it that way."
And lastly, can BFJ hold it together for the run in? If past experience is anything to go by then yes. When he and Willie Donachie won automatic promotion to the Premiership with Manchester City in 2001, City beat Norwich on February 12th and then went winless for seven games (five draws, two defeats) until March 25th when they beat West Brom. That started a sequence of seven wins and two draws from their last nine games which saw them clinch 2nd place, ahead of Town, on the final day of the season.
Saturday, February 26
Turn up the volume
David Unsworth has called on Town fans to be the team's 12th man over the remainder of the season. "The supporters can certainly play their part in the run-in. They gave me a great reception on my home debut here and I thank them for that. Now we need them to turn up the volume and make Portman Road a hostile place for the opposition to come."
Injury doubts Darren Bent (knee), Kevin Horlock (sciatica) and Fabian Wilnis (groin) are all named in the 17-man squad for today's game with QPR, and all are likely to be passed fit. The squad also includes Pablo Counago for the first time in a month. Town from: Bent, Bowditch, Counago, Currie, Davis, De Vos, Horlock, Karbassiyoon, Magilton, Miller, Naylor, Price, Richards, Scowcroft, Unsworth, Westlake and Wilnis.
BFJ asked Town's fans to keep the faith after Tuesday nights defeat was met with boos from some sections of the crowd but Town aren't the only club with whingeing fans. Ian Holloway, manager of today's visitors, lambasted home supporters midweek after Wolves sub Carl Cort hit a late equaliser to earn the visitors a 1-1 draw. "I heard a few boos and all I can say is shut up. Look at the facts, look at what the Wolves players are paid compared to ours. Yet we are still ahead of them with games in hand. They brought on a player who cost them GBP7million. I wish I could do that. Who the hell do they think we are? We're not Chelsea."
Brian Talbot has parted company with Oldham Atheltic. Talbot became manager at Boundary Park just under a year ago, helping the club stave off relegation from Division Two. Despite their recent FA Cup heoics, however, seven consecutive league defeats sees the Latics just two points above the drop zone, and according to Chief executive Alan Hardy: "... both parties agreed that a change was probably in the best interests of the club."
And lastly, and slightly off at a tangent, Town's 1981 UEFA Cup final adversaries AZ Alkmaar came from behind on Thursday to reach the last sixteen of this seasons competition with a 2-1 victory over German second division TSV Alemannia Aachen. In domestic competition AZ currently lie second in the Holland Casino Eredivisie (aka the Dutch First Division) four points behind PSV Eindhoven.
Friday, February 25
The Premiership's first Kiwi/Twenty-man melee
BFJ is asking Town fans to keep the faith following the 2-1 reverse at the hands f struggling Watford at FPR on Tuesday. "I could sense a bit of over-reaction the other night. There were sporadic boos and I really didn't think it was fair. We've had one bad result, that's all, and we have still only been beaten six times in the league this season. Nobody ever gives you promotion. You have to go out and earn it, and there could be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between now and the end of the season. I never thought we were home and dry when we were six points clear at the top. Where we are come May is all that matters. The public will always have their say and that's fine, but there were one or two players in the dressing-room at the end saying, 'Are we really top'?"
Pablo Counago is in line for a recall to the first team squad after Darren Bent picked up a knee injury in training yesterday. While Dean Bowditch would appear to be the obvious replacement for Bent - partnering James Scowcroft up front - BFJ is concerned about the England U-19's strikers lack of goals this season and may give the Spaniard one last chance to prove himself. Fabian Wilnis (groin/back) and Kevin Horlock (sciatica) are all concerns ahead of tomorrows visit by QPR.
Georges Santos makes his first return to FPR since his summer move to the R's. The Frenchman has been booked nine-times this season, and was also sent-off during the Londoner's visit to Plymouth in December, but refuses to change his robust approach to the game. "I am not a nasty player or ever go out to hurt anyone, unlike some players, but I always do my best. Just because I'm on nine booking that doesn't mean I will change the way I play. That is not my style. I'm wholehearted and try my best every game and don't pull out of tackles."
Town will be looking to improve dramatically on the last visit by Rangers to FPR back in October of 1999 when Town hit the self-destruct button and Gerry Francis' side recorded a 4-1 win. Jim Magilton received the only red-card of his Town career that day when he was dismissed for kicking Gavin Peacock while the now MOTD pundit was lying on the ground. It took referee Paul Danson several minutes to restore order after Magilton's actions sparked a 20-man melee.
The home game with Sunderland has been moved from Saturday April 16th to Sunday April 17th with a noon kick-off for the benefit of Sky TV. The 2-0 loss at the Stadium of Light earlier this season was also televised.
Jamie Peters, who will officially become a Town player on his 18th birthday in May, has been called up for the Canadian senior teams friendly against Portugal in Barcelos on March 26th.
And lastly, I was contacted earlier this week by a journalist who writes for a magazine in New Zealand called Soccer Talk. He's currently researching an article on ex-Town player Lee Norfolk, who was the first Kiwi ever to play Premiership football. Coincidentally, the midfielder made his debut in the home game against Southampton exactly ten-years ago to the day - setting up Lee Chapman for the equaliser in a rare home win. Anyway, while I was rummaging around for some background info I came across an article on the south islander, which has been added to his profile page here if anyone is interested.
Thursday, February 24
An enlightened view of our national pastime from the Casino Times, a US publication.
"UK football fans, for a large majority of places, are escorted to the grounds by riot police, helicopters, police with dogs, police with full riot gear. It is traditional that the fans go to the pub first and drink as much as they possibly can. It is also traditional that after the match they go and have a punch up with the away fans therefore the police remove the away fans. So home fans will be made to sit in the football grounds sometimes for up to an hour while the away fans are escorted onto trains and coaches and make sure they get out of the city."
The words of Steve Donoughue, CEO of The Gambling Consultancy Ltd., who described deals to build casino's with clubs such as Glasgow Rangers, Sheffield United and Newcastle 'ridiculous' and said British 'football fans' -- as well as the families the teams have been trying to lure to games in recent years -- don't necessarily make good casino customers. He continues:
"Even if Great Britain allows new casinos to be built under a pending overhaul of the nation's gambling rules, they might not open until at least 2008 and be restricted to remote or downtrodden areas where U.S. casino operators wouldn't want to develop."
Whatever became of discussions a few years ago to incorporate a Las Vegas-style casino within the confines of FPR?
Town drop back to 2nd
Nathan Ellington's 68th minute volley secured the points for Wigan in their 2-1 victory over Coventry City at Highfield Road last night to send them back to the top of the table on goal difference. Town drop back to 2nd place for the first time since the end of November.
Shefki Kuqi may make a surprise return for Town when they visit the Latics a week this Saturday. Town's talisman suffered muscle damage in a challenge with Dion Dublin in the 2-1 win over Leicester twelve days ago and was originally expected to be out for at least a month. "I feel good and the wound is healing over nicely. It is only a small hole and you don't really know how the actual muscle is healing. If I had my way, I would play against QPR but I don't suppose they will let me. If not I aim to be back sooner rather than later." BFJ is taking a more conservative approach to the Finn's recovery and won't let Town's leading marksman take any risks. "Shefki has got to abide by medical advice. The last thing we want is to do something daft and lose him for twice as long as we would have. He is desperate to play, which is a good thing, but he won't be available for the QPR game, although we may get him back sooner than originally thought."
Meanwhile, Fabian Wilnis picked up groin and hamstring injuries in the Watford defeat. The defender was replaced by Dean Bowditch quarter-of-an-hour from the end of Tuesday's game but is expected to back for the QPR match at FPR this weekend.
James Scowcroft, who picked up his second yellow card in as many games on Tuesday, will definitely miss the Wigan game having accumulated five yellow cards this season. It had been hoped that Matt Messias, who cautioned Scowcroft in Friday's game at Preston, would rescind the booking but it will now stand. The Stantonian has also admitted to handling the ball when Town were awarded the late penalty in Tuesday nights game. "I went up to challenge for the ball in the air and as it came down it hit my hand. I don't know if it hit the defender's hand as well, but when the referee blew I was worried he was going to give me a second yellow card and that I'd be off."
And lastly, Tony Vaughan, of whom great things were once expected at FPR, was sent off in his current club Barnsley's 4-0 defeat at Doncaster on Tuesday night. Vaughan, who is the Tykes club captain, was shown red just before half-time by Uriah D. Rennie who appears to be having a more lenient season than usual with just two dismissals to his credit thus far.
Coca-Cola Championship Top Six
Wednesday, February 23
Town 1 Watford 2
Town lost for only the second time at home this season going down 2-1 to Watford last night. Jay Demerit put the Hornets a goal up just before the half-time break when he beat Richard Naylor to Neil Cox's cross and shouldered the ball home. Chances came and went for Town in the second half, Darren Bent missing several excellent chances, before Bruce Dyer put the visitors two-up. Town needlessly conceded a corner which Johnnie Jackson whipped in to the area for Dyer to head home. A late rally saw Bent hit the bar and David Unsworth miss from six-yards either side of an 87th minute penalty by Tommy Miller awarded after James Scowcroft appeared to handle in the Watford area.
"I am unhappy at losing but not distressed and there is no panic. Had we lost with a bad performance I'd have been more concerned. These things happen in football. Watford scored from two of their three chances while we have hit the bar and missed openings from zero range. We were very unfortunate really and certainly did not deserve to lose. We had most of the game and on another occasion we could have had five or six goals."
Third placed Sunderland moved within three points of Town with a 4-1 victory over bottom club Rotherham United, while second placed Wigan could move above Town on goal difference if they win at Coventry City this evening.
BFJ will have to wait until a later date to find out whether he must repay any of the GBP400,000 plus damages awarded to him by the High Court in Manchester at the end of last year. The award was made following his dismissal as manager of Manchester City after they were relegated from the Premiership in 2001. City took the case to appeal earlier this week but the three judges concerned have delayed their final decision.
And lastly, Tommy Miller's spot kick last night was his 21st straight penalty conversion since his first for Hartlepool at Mansfield in October, 1999:
Tuesday, February 22
Attitude the key
Manchester City yesterday launched an appeal against the GBP500,000 compensation awarded to former manager, and now Town supreme BFJ, in the Manchester High Court last year. BFJ had sued City when he received only a fraction of the pay-off he claimed was due to him following his dismissal when the club were relegated from the Premiership in 2001.
Coach Willie Donachie, who led training while BFJ was in court yesterday, says mental strength, not training, is the key to Town retaining an automatic promotion spot. "There is a little bit of fine tuning, with David Unsworth and James Scowcroft coming into the side, but the rest all know their jobs. When you have three games in a week, those will keep them fit. It is mental attitude, desire, passion, aggression and composure. It is not physical or tactical, it is just about being together as they have all season."
Watford will be without leading scorer Heidar Helguson when they visit FPR tonight, the Icelander picked up a knee injury in the Hornet's 4-2 loss at Sunderland the weekend before last, while former Town youth goalkeeper Alex Chamberlain, now 40, is likely to be on the bench. Town have the opportunity to go six points ahead of second place Wigan as the Latics are not in action until tomorrow when they visit Coventry although third placed Sunderland face a visit from bottom club Rotherham United this evening.
James Scowcroft's second half caution against Preston was his fourth of the season and not the fifth as reported elsewhere. A fifth card would have meant the returning Scowcroft missing out on the visit of QPR to FPR on Saturday but the Club have confirmed that is not the case. The Leicester loanee's previous bookings were picked up in City's games against Brighton (home), Leeds (away) and Rotherham (home).
And lastly, the reserve derby originally due to be played at Carrow Road tomorrow, but postponed due to the wintry conditions in East Anglia at the moment, has been rearranged for Wednesday, April 27th.
Monday, February 21
Town ready for Siberian blast
Head groundsman Alan Ferguson and his staff are working overtime to ensure that tomorrow nights home game with Watford will not be effected by the Siberian blast due to hit East Anglia over the next few days. "We were given good warning about the impending weather and were prepared. We have been in all day working on making sure the pitch will be ready," to told the EADT. However, the reserve team's clash with the Canaries, due to be played at Carrow Road the following day, is definitely off.
There are no surprises in the Town squad named for the visit of Watford, with James Scowcroft making his comeback home debut and Jim Magilton a likely starter having sat out the first half in Lancashire on Friday. Bent, Bowditch, Currie, Davis, De Vos, Horlock, Karbassiyoon, Magilton, Miller, Naylor, Price, Richards, Scowcroft, Unsworth, Westlake and Wilnis.
Town's U-18's drew 1-1 away at Chelsea on Saturday morning. The Londoner's took the lead through Ben Hudell's wind-assisted 50-yard plus strike while Kieran Leabon equalised for Town with a less spectacular close range header. In other Academy related news the FA Youth Cup Quarter-Final date with Colchester United has been confirmed for Wednesday, March 16th (19:45 ko) and Hungarian 16-year-old midfielder Zoltan Stieber will spend this week on trial at Playford Road.
Preston 1 Town 1
Town came away from Deepdale with a barely-deserved point in Friday night's Sky Televised 1-1 draw with Preston. The home side were denied their eighth victory in ten league games by Tommy Miller's close range strike twenty-minutes from time. David Nugent, a recent signing from Bury, had given Preston the lead in the first half but the home side failed to make their dominance pay and Town extended their lead, albeit temporarily, to six points at the top of the table.
"We have nicked a point - there is no doubt about it - and I'm delighted really to take seven points from three games where we have been no way near to our best," said BFJ. "They were excellent, they swarmed all over us and they didn't let us settle. Their front two [Nugent and Richard Cresswell] gave us all kind of problems. We just weren't there. I don't know why, but we do have these performances every now and again, but I won't criticise them. We have lost five in about 35, so they are not playing that badly."
Preston manager Billy Davies though his side should have been awarded a penalty when the ball struck Richard Naylor's arm early in the second-half. "We were robbed - there is no doubt about it. We were robbed of the three points and performance-wise, we were excellent. I thought we were definitely denied a stonewall penalty and I could not ask any more from the players. I said to them at the end of the game that, although we were all disappointed, these things happen."
The Scot was also less than impressed with Ian Westlake's challenge on Gavin Ward that saw the Preston 'keeper stretchered off minutes before the final whistle. "Andy has a very bad facial injury and is in a bad way. I'd like to see the television replay, but I thought it looked like a late challenge. It was disappointing but that's football and we just have to get on with it."
Wigan cut Town's lead down to three-points on Saturday with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Leeds United but Sunderland remain six points behind following a 2-1 reverse at Brighton.
Preston v Town pictures
Thursday, February 17
Shades of 75?/Winning Ugly
Town's U-18's stand a real chance of repeating the FA Youth Cup success enjoyed by their 1970's counterparts following last nights 3-1 victory against Aston Villa. Without wishing to count chickens before they hatch - first Colchester and then either Watford or Spurs must be beaten before arrangements for the two-legged final can be made - the style in which the win was achieved was reminiscent of that shown by the sides that won the trophy for Town in 1973 and 1975.
The current side boasts some impressive credentials. Shane Supple: capped at U-17 level by Republic of Ireland. Aidan Collins: made senior debut at Derby two-years ago. Cathal Lordan: capped at U-13 and U-18 level by the Republic. Darryl Knights: virtually ever present for the England U-16's last season and has been capped at U-17 level this one. Ipswich born Knights also made his Town senior debut at Sunderland in November. Billy Clarke: Capped at U-15, U-16, U-17, U-18 and U-19 level's by the Republic. Owen Garvan: Capped at U-15, U-16 and U-17 level's by the Republic. Liam Craig: A Scotland U-13 and U-17. And so on and so forth.
The side that so convincingly won the 1975 Final against West Ham United included, amongst others, Russell Osman, John Wark and David Geddis who would help the senior side win some serious silverware in subsequent years. The so called 'Football Academy' were outclassed by a Town side that clinched a notable double that season, finishing seven points clear of second placed Tottenham to win the South-East Counties League as well. Tommy O'Neill and Keith Bertschin scored the goals in the second leg of the final to seal a 5-1 aggregate victory in front of 16,000 fans at FPR.
Meanwhile, back in the Championship, Preston manager Billy Davies has no qualms about winning ugly as the North Ender's prepare to take on Town tomorrow night. "They are the league leaders and a team who have been very consistent, but we are coming off a good run and have shown good consistency away and at home, so it has the makings of a great game of football. But the most important thing is three points and if that means us going and having to scrap out three points and it not being a wonderful game of football for the fans, then so be it."
And no surprises in the Town squad heading north for the game with Kevin Horlock (shoulder) and Dean Bowditch (foot) included along with prodigal son James Scowcroft: Bent, Bowditch, Currie, Davis, De Vos, Horlock, Karbassiyoon, Magilton, Miller, Naylor, Price, Richards, Scowcroft, Unsworth, Westlake and Wilnis.
Town's U-18's were in inspired form last night as goals from Liam Craig, Cathal Lordan and Billy Clarke powered the young Blue's to a 3-1 win over Aston Villa and into the last eight of the FA Youth Cup. A crowd of 1,360 saw Town take the lead after 35 minutes through Craig and then double their tally just after the restart through Lordan. Clarke's goal on 53 extinguished any remaining hopes last years finalist may of had of progressing themselves although the Villans did get a consolation through Michael Touhy a quarter of an hour from the end.
Town youngsters will make the short journey down the A12 to face Colchester United in Round 6, the first time that the young U's have progressed this far in the competition.
Town have released details of season ticket prices for next season with an average increase of around 5%, the first increase in the cost of renewing a season ticket for four years. However, fan's must commit to renewing or buying a new season ticket before April 15th to take advantage of this relatively low price increase, after which the cost of some seats will rise by as much as 17%.
Chairman David Sheepshank's is urging fans to take the club up on this 'early-bird' offer. "Cash flow is important, more so than profit and loss in the running of a football business, so the pledge of early cash is important," he said. "But it is the certainty of renewal that is even more important, and that is the principal reason for asking supporters to renew early. It has nothing to do with James Scowcroft arriving at the club, that decision was made after we had decided on ticket details."
A take up of 20,000 season tickets will guarantee the club GBP9.0Million in revenue, or around 25% of the total revenue Town can expect if promotion back to the Premiership is achieved come May, or 40% if we are still in the Championship.
Details of season ticket prices at FPR, going back to the 1972-73 season, can be found here, and if I have my maths right the cost of an adult season ticket has increased a mere 3000% since my dad forked out GBP12.50 for my first one in J block of the West Stand over thirty years ago.
Shefki Kuqi has flown back home to Finland for a break with his family as he recovers from injury. Town's leading marksman was stretchered off just before the half-time break on Saturday suffering from a deep wound in his thigh following a challenge with Leicester's Dion Dublin: "He needs a break. He has plenty of hard work ahead of him so he might as well go home and spend some time with his family. He's a super pro. The medical people will be keeping a close check on him and looking for any risk of infection. He has internal stitches in the muscle to pull it together and more to close the wound, and it will be a couple of weeks before he can do anything. It is a massive blow to Shefki. He has played such a major part in getting us to the top of the league and will be missed."
The Foxes Keith Gillespie will not face disciplinary action after punching Daniel Karbassiyoon in a tunnel bust-up following Town's 2-1 victory at the weekend. Referee Kevin Wright omitted the incident from his match report so the FA will take no further action. Gillespie was apparently upset by a challenge the young American made in the closing stages of the game.
And lastly, Town fans heading to Preston for tomorrow nights game at Deepdale have the opportunity to be photographed with the FA Cup at the adjacent National Football Museum. It will set you back just a tenner, but you will need to there no later than 3. Mrs Chevington Blue and I will be setting off early for Lancashire to avail ourselves of this exciting opportunity.
Wednesday, February 16
Kiss my boots
BFJ is confident that Town are up to their next challenge - this Friday's televised game at Preston, a side that are unbeaten in their last nine Championship games while quietly moving into fourth place under new manager Billy Davies. "Whenever we are faced with a challenge we come through. It was said we faced a difficult Christmas period, yet we came out top of the table. Then, January was going to be a tough month with a lot of difficult games. So it was, but we stayed top. Now, the next challenge is away at Preston but it is one the players can handle."
Town's U-18's take on Aston Villa in the FA Youth Cup at FPR tonight with a 6th round tie against near neighbours Colchester United awaiting the winners. Town, however, will be without Chris Casement and Michael Synnott. "It's a blow because they are two important players for us," said Academy Director Bryan Klug. "It's a big match and we could have done with a full squad of players but we have got other boys available who will be looking to come in and it gives them an opportunity to show what they can do." Its thirty years since Town last lifted the trophy with a 5-1 two-legged win over West Ham United in May 1975.
The battle of former Town captain's ended with honours even in Scotland last night as Terry Butcher's Motherwell and Tony Mowbray's Hibs drew 1-1. Mowbray makes no secret of his admiration for Butcher. "Terry was the captain of England when I was a centre-half for Middlesbrough in the Second Division - he's a legend. I was at Ipswich for nine years and pictures of Terry adorn the walls down there." The point consolidates third place for Mogga's side while Motherwell are sixth.
Chris Makin, who recently admitted that his summer move from Town to Leicester was not the best of his career, is to be reunited with George Burley at Pride Park. The defender has joined Derby County on loan until the end of the season with a view to making the move a permanent one.
And lastly, one of the weekend's more interesting quotes comes from Darren Currie: "When I can't stretch to kiss my boots, I know it'll be time to hang them up!". Town's midfielder reveals his unusual pre-match routine of kissing his boots - while still wearing them!
Tuesday, February 15
James Scowcroft, back at FPR on loan until May, is looking to make his return to Suffolk a permanent one. "I'm here until the end of the season and hopefully I can win a contract but at the moment, I'm concentrating on taking it one game at a time. There are a few familiar faces from my time here before but I've been away nearly four years and the place has certainly changed a lot since then, both at the training ground and at the stadium."
Jerome Sobers was red-carded for the second time in the space of three days as the second string lost 1-0 to Leicester at Playford Road yesterday afternoon. Sobers, who was dismissed in the U-18's 1-0 loss at West Ham on Saturday, received a straight red for a professional foul eight minutes into the second half. Drissa Diallo, making a comeback from a hamstring injury picked up in training back in December, had made way for Sobers at halftime suffering from the effects of a clash of heads. Leicester Louis Dodd's earned the visitors all three points with the games only goal two minutes from time.
Kevin Horlock, who picked up a shoulder injury in Saturday's 2-1 victory over Leicester returned to training today and is confident that he will be fit to face Preston at Deepdale on Friday. "I didn't expect to be back in training until Thursday but the shoulder is improving all the time. It was very sore over the weekend and it didn't look great but it has picked up quickly over the last 24 hours and I should be fine for the Preston game."
And lastly, DIY retailers Wickes have become the "Official Home Improvement Partner of The Football League Championship" in a seven-figure three-year sponsorship deal announced earlier today by league chairman Sir Brian Mawhinney.
Monday, February 14
Scowcroft is back/Cudicini a Welshman?
James Scowcroft has re-joined Town on loan until May to provide cover for the injured Shefki Kuqi. Town's leading marksman was carried-off on a stretcher just before half-time on Saturday with a gashed thigh, an injury that will keep him sidelined for longer than was first expected. "With Shefki out we knew we had to bring someone in to fill that role and it's no secret that we have been interested in James for a while," said BFJ. "The deal was done over the weekend and he is with us for training today and will be here for the rest of the season." Scowcroft, who moved to Leicester from FPR for GBP3.0Million in 2001, becomes a free-agent when his contract with the Foxes runs out this summer.
Chris Makin believes he made a mistake in not staying with Town although his switch to the Walkers Stadium in the summer was not driven by money: "It was nothing to do with money. I took a pay cut to go to Leicester, so all that calling me greedy was not right, you need to know the full facts. The fans gave it to me both barrels [on Saturday] but I have had a lot worse than that at various clubs." Makin turned down a short-term contract in the summer that was designed to prove his fitness after he had missed most of last season through injury. He would have been offered a season-long deal had he come through that unscathed.
David Unsworth knows a good thing when he sees it, and believes the Premiership is where Town belong - both on and off the field: "The facilities here are first-class, the best I have ever experienced and I include Everton in that. Everything is geared to top-class football, from the training ground down to the little things behind the scenes on match days."
Willie Donachie, the quiet man in Town's managerial double act, believes Town will stay in the Premiership if promotion is achieved in May: "I am confident if we do get promoted we will stay up. Using Norwich as an example, we completely outplayed them twice last season and they could not get the ball off us."
Lewis Price is hoping that new Welsh team manager John Toshack fails in his attempt to persuade Chelsea's Italian goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini to become an honorary Welshman. Cudicini is eligible for a British Passport after spending five years in the UK and could choose to play for any of the home nations. "I don't want Carlo Cudicini to become Welsh," said Town's No. 2 'keeper. "If Carlo comes to play for Wales, I've got no chance. I rate him very, very highly." Price recently won his 5th U-21 cap for Wales and has been tipped to take over the No. 1 shirt at senior level.
Sunday, February 13
Town 2 Leicester 1
Town retain their five point lead at the top of the Championship holding on to a 2-1 lead despite a late revival by Leicester at FPR yesterday. With the other two contenders for automatic promotion also winning it proved to be another vital three points. Shefki Kuqi headed home his 15th goal of the season to put the Blue's ahead after just two minutes and a Mark de Vries own goal made it 2-0 on 24. The Foxes pulled one back through Jordan Stewart's precise free-kick with eight minutes left to play, but Town held their nerve.
"I was worried after we scored early and then stopped for 20 minutes. We staggered off at half-time two up without playing well," said BFJ. "The atrocious wind conditions were an enemy of passing football. We played a little better and defended more confidently in the second half. Then they scored with a fantastic free-kick but I never felt we were going to concede a second. Results are more important to us at this stage of the season but I would have liked us to have played better."
Kuqi was stretchered off just before half-time with a thigh wound and could be out for as long as a month. "It's not big but it is a deep wound. He will be out for three or more likely four weeks. We missed his physical presence, he's done tremendously well this season" said BFJ, who added that he would not rule out looking beyond the current squad for a replacement.
Jason Roberts hit two and Nathan Ellington scored from the spot as second placed Wigan won 3-1 win at Crewe, while former Town striker Marcus Stewart hit a hat-trick for third placed Sunderland in their 4-2 defeat of Watford.
And lastly, Wing Half Billy Baker, who made twenty appearances for Town in the Fifties, has died aged 84. Perhaps better known to football fans in Wales, he was the last surviving player to appear for Cardiff City both pre and post-Second World War. A former POW he made 304 league and cup appearances for the Bluebirds.
Saturday, February 12
More of the same
BFJ is looking for a repeat of last Saturday's performance at Bramall Lane when Leicester City visit FPR today. "We were very solid at the back at Sheffield and we know we will need a similar performance against Leicester. They are a big side and will be a danger at free-kicks and corners so we have to watch those situations in particular."
His opposite number Craig Levine plans to leave Suffolk with all three points. "Our away form has been good, as everyone knows. We went to Wigan when they were top and did all right. Ipswich will be favourites but, with this division being so unpredictable, we are going there with every intention of trying to win. We went to Wigan when their front two [Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts] were on fire and we came away with a 0-0 draw, but we will be hoping for more at Ipswich. We know it is going to be a difficult game for us but we are not travelling there in fear."
Jamie Scowcroft meanwhile will be hoping that there is no repeat of the Town performance on his only previous visit to FPR with the Foxes when, two-and-a-half years ago, Town handed City a 6-1 trashing. Scowie, however, is still tipping the Blue's for promotion. "Ipswich are the best side in the Championship and they are top of the table on merit. But if we win, it will be a great scalp for us - and we haven't lost many away from home this season."
His one time strike partner Richard Naylor would love to see him back at FPR in the Blue and White of Ipswich. "I see Scowie as a Premier League player and whatever happens that's where I think he will be playing his football next season. Several clubs have apparently shown an interest in him and if he chooses to leave Leicester I can't see him being short of offers. I am sure he would love to come back here and, as a quality player, he would be a welcome addition to our squad."
The Republic of Ireland's U-19's, with Town's Billy Clarke in the starting line-up, suffered their second defeat in two days losing 2-1 to Denmark in their third and final game of the La Manga Tournament yesterday.
And lastly, the Britannia Building Society have renewed their sponsorship of the West Stand for a further two-years and have announced that proceeds from the joint-venture ITFC Savings Account has netted the Blue's around GBP3.6Million since its inception six years ago.
Friday, February 11
Fear driving Town on
The 16 that travelled to South Yorkshire last weekend all retain their places for the visit of Leicester City to FPR tomorrow, with Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi, who missed out on international action during the week, having both recovered from their respective injuries. Town from: Bent, Bowditch, Currie, Davis, De Vos, Horlock, Karbassiyoon, Kuqi, Magilton, Miller, Naylor, Price, Richards, Unsworth, Westlake and Wilnis.
For Leicester, Chris Makin will miss out on a return to FPR through illness while James Scowcroft looks likely to be on the bench as he makes way for Mark de Vries, recently signed from Craig Levein's old club Hearts. "I was disappointed with Chris when he left and in the fashion he did. As for James, I'm just thinking of Saturday. We can't start talking about players we are interested in until we know what division we are going to be in," said BFJ.
Fear is driving Town on says Jason De Vos. Despite sitting five points clear at the top of the table the Canadian defender says the Blue's cannot afford any slip-ups. Comparing Town's current position to that of his 2002/03 promotion winning season with the Latics he said: "We had a 14-point gap at Wigan but we kept thinking 'if Cardiff win all their matches and we lose such and such, we won't do it', and that is what partially drives you on. It is the same here at Ipswich, and that fear of someone winning all their games is driving us on. Until it is mathematically impossible to be caught, we will never relax, no matter what the lead is." Town currently have 62 points whilst second and third placed Wigan and Sunderland are both on 57.
The Republic of Ireland U-19's lost their second game in the La Manga Tournament yesterday. Academy striker Billy Clarke was not in the starting line-up as the Czech Republic triumphed by two-goals-to-nil.
Elsewhere, Monaco loanee Jimmy Juan injured a foot in the reserve game against Arsenal last Monday and will be out for two weeks, while Drissa Diallo has been back in full training following a hamstring injury and could play for the second string against Leicester at FPR this coming Monday.
Thursday, February 10
Despite being five points clear at the top of the table use of the "P" word is being kept to a minumum at FPR says BFJ with the squad focusing on the next job at hand: relieving Leicester of three points this weekend. With Town in pole position for promotion he said: "I would be lying if I said I hadn't dreamed of the Premiership, but I dreamed about it at the start of the season. I have great belief in these players. We're in a great position but we're not going to start talking about it because we're nowhere near."
Dean Bowditch added a further international cap to his collection in the England U-19's 1-1 draw with Belgium in Zulte-Waregem last night. Bowditch had a hand in the young Lion's equalising goal winning the free-kick from which Lee Holmes scored.
Jamie Peters was a late sub for the Canadian senior side in their 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast. Frank Yallops side were down to 10-men after just 20 minutes when Gabriel Gervais was sent off but scored the decisive goal just minutes later when Jim Brennan headed home from a free-kick.
Lewis Price refuses to let the Welsh U-21's 4-0 home defeat to Germany on Tuesday night get him down. "I would like to think that by the beginning of next season a few lads from the under-21s will be in the new manager's [John Toshack] senior squad. We have got some quality players who can make the step up. I would like to think that one of those will be me."
Pablo Counago, dropped from the first team squad for last weekends trip to South Yorkshire, says that he struggles to motivate himself for Reserve team matches. "It is difficult when you have played professionally for a long time and then you go back to the reserves. I try to do my best and keep it going but sometimes it is tougher than others. I was playing those games when I was 15 and 16, when I had just started playing football. It is not hard to come back for one, two or three games, but it has been six months and it is difficult."
And lastly, Darren Bent and Shefki Kuqi who both missed out on international action this week due to injury are confident they will be fit again for Saturday's Championship fixture against the Foxes at FPR. Bent (knee, shin, and calf) had to withdraw from the England Under-21 squad for their game with Holland, while Kuqi (broken nose), skipped Finland's trip to Cyprus.
Wednesday, February 9
Saucy Town go for Brown
In a dramatic move announced earlier today, Town are set to switch from their traditional blue-and-white kit to an all-brown one.
The change of strip is down to HP Sauce, the condiment giants, who have become the official club sponsor for the next three seasons.
The deal also involves ditching the current FA approved matchball and replacing it with a pre-70's style brown leather one, bearing the HP logo, for all matches played at Portman Road from August onwards.
Chairman David Sheepshanks said: "The HP Sauce sponsorship of Ipswich Town Football Club really puts the fun back into football and, as both Chairman and lifetime fan of the team, I had absolutely no hesitation in recommending this deal to the board of directors.
"I think it is up to Club's like ours to help liven up football's image and raise its profile, and I feel good to do my bit with the help of HP."
"I think the fans will relate to the change. It's important. Every brand moves on and the kit change is modern but identifiable. It's not a sell-out, not at all."
Sheepshanks had pooh-poohed suggestions earlier this week that Town would switch to an all-red kit, the corporate colours of Powergen owner's E.On, in a bid to continue the existing deal with the electricity supplier.
"Complete and utter nonsense. Who makes up this crap?"
Germans may take solace from Town victory
As the Bundesliga betting scandal threatens to cast a shadow over next summers World Cup, hosts Germany may take some solace from the last time a host nation was embarrassed by a match-fixing scandal - England in 1966. Eight months after Town rocked the footballing world with their entirely unexpected League Championship triumph, English football was rocked again but for very different reasons. The People newspaper revealed that three Sheffield Wednesday players, Tony Kay, Peter Swan and David Layne, had been bribed to throw their game with Ipswich at FPR on December 1st, 1962. Two goals from Ray Crawford saw Town beat the Owls 2-0 following which the People, rather ironically, named one of the offending three Tony Kay as their man of the match. The trio were later found guilty and sent to prison in January of 1965, just eighteen months before West Germany were beaten 4-2 in THAT final.
Scowcroft won't be drawn
James Scowcroft refuses to be drawn on the subject of a possible return to FPR during the summer. The 29-year-old Stantonian joined Leicester City for GBP3Million during the summer of 2001 but is out of contract at the end of the season and was a target for BFJ, albeit a loan one, earlier this campaign. "It would not be right to talk about that, as I'm contracted to Leicester City. That runs out in the summer and I don't know if I'm going to be offered a new one or not yet. I'm not going to worry about it, as everything will sort itself out in time."
Scowie has also revealed that Micky Adams turned down the vacant managers role at FPR prior to BFJ's appointment two years ago. "Micky told me he turned the Ipswich job down. He was with Leicester at the time and felt then he was better off staying where he was."
BFJ see's no reason why both Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent should not finish the season with a least 20-goals apeice. Town's goal scoring partnership are both on 14 each for the season and are close on the heels of Wigan's Nathan Ellington and Jason Roberts who have hit thirty between them. "The way they are going, and with 15 games left, 20 goals is a reasonable target for them to reach this season," he said.
Lewis Price and the Welsh Under-21's lost 4-0 to Germany in Wrexham last night, the visitors scoring two goals in each half, but academy striker Billy Clarke and the Republic of Ireland U-19's enjoyed a better evening as he scored the first goal in a 3-0 win over Norway. The game was the first of two for the Republic in this weeks La Manga Tournament, their second coming on Thursday against the Czech Republic.
Jamie Peters is in line to win his sixth senior cap for Canada when they take on Northern Ireland in Belfast tonight, while Dean Bowditch should collect his third England U-19 cap as the young Lions take on Belgium in the Regenboogstadion, Zulte-Waregem, also this evening.
And lastly, a flu bug which has affected a number of academy and reserve team players, indeed a loan move for Jerome Sobers to Boston was called off last week because he was suffering its affects, has yet to find its way into the senior dressing room. "There's something going round that has struck down some of the younger lads. Thankfully it hasn't affected any of the first-team players," said BFJ.
Tuesday, February 8
The Reserves remain frimly entrenched at the bottom of the FA Premier Reserve League (South), almost getting the better of their illustrious Arsenal counterparts, but suffering a 2-1 reverse in the end. Town took a deserved lead through Pablo Counago after 25 minutes. The once again impressive looking Dean McDonald (a young Gunner until last summer) crossed from the right leaving Counago the simple task of sidefooting home from the edge of the six-yard box. Two well taken goals in five second half minutes were Town's undoing, Arturo Lupoli scoring in the 56th and 61st minutes to put the Gunner's 2-1 up, as the Blue's were forced onto the back foot and, despite a late rally, that concluded the game's scoring. A healthy 1,535 fan's braved the cold to attend the game and were rewarded with some end-to-end entertainment. It was also the first chance for home fans to take a look at Jimmy Juan. The young Frenchman chipped in with some excellent passes in the first half but faded, along with his team mates, in the second. Not one to be challenging current first team players but a reasonable looking back-up.
McDonald has since signed off on the contract that will keep him at FPR until the end of the season. The 18-year-old midfielder told the official site: "... hopefully I can stay here longer than the end of the season. That's my target, to impress the manager, force my way into the first-team squad and perhaps get a few games as well and then hopefully win myself a permanent contract."
Lewis Price is in action for the Welsh U-21's at Wrexham tonight, as they take on Germany, with former academy defender Lee Beevers a named sub.
And lastly, Bobby Petta scored the winner for his new club Darlington in their 1-0 League Two victory at Bury on Saturday, while the relegation of ITWFC from the FA Nationwide Women's Southern Division was confirmed at the weekend as they lost 4-0 at home to Watford.
Monday, February 7
Sheffield United 0 Town 2
Town moved five points clear at the top of the Championship on Saturday after a hard fought 2-0 victory over Sheffield United. Loan signing David Unsworth scored twenty minutes into his debut connecting with Shefki Kuqi's through-ball to rifle the ball into the net. Kuqi grabbed the second a quarter of an hour after the break, side-footing home Ian Westlake's deflected shot.
Unsworth becomes the 49th Town player to score on his senior debut and the 3rd member of the current squad to join this elite group (Shefki Kuqi and Darren Currie being the other two).
BFJ was quick to praise his defenders for a highly competent display: "It's nice to talk about the defence for a change. We don't keep a lot of clean sheets and I thought our goalkeeper and back four were all magnificent. It's the best we've ever dealt with an aerial bombardment. It's never easy coming here. There's a real intimidating atmosphere. We haven't passed the ball but we got the points so who cares?"
Second placed Wigan suffered a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Stoke City and are now ahead of Sunderland on goal difference only with the Black Cats securing a point at Molineux on Friday in a 1-1 draw with Wolves.
Shefki Kuqi and Darren Bent both picked up injuries in Saturday's game at Bramall Lane and look likely to miss out on international action this week. Kuqi, who broke his nose, was due to fly out to Cyprus with the Finnish squad for a four team tournament, while Bent, suffering the effects of an over jealous second-half tackle, was due to join the England U-21 squad in Derby for their friendly with Holland tomorrow.
And lastly, the U-18's beat Norwich City 1-0 at Playford Road on Saturday morning, Danny Haynes scoring the winner after just four minutes, and Jerome Sobers loan move to Boston United fell through on Friday as the young defender has flu'.
Sunday, February 6
Sheffield United v Town pictures
Friday, February 4
Goodbye Yellow (and Green) Brick Road
Loan signing David Unsworth has been named in the squad of 16 travelling to South Yorkshire for tomorrow's Championship clash with Sheffield United. The 31-year-old defender has been given the number 16 shirt by BFJ and will almost certainly start the game at Bramall Lane. 'Rhino' is looking forward to his first ever appearance outside English Football's top-flight: "The concept of football is the same no matter what league you are in and you have to earn the right to play football. I had no concerns about dropping down a division, especially with Ipswich flying high at the top of the league. Sheffield have an old pal of mine in Danny Cadamarteri, and they have Michael Tonge, so I know they have quality players and it will be a tough game for us."
Still out of contention is Drissa Diallo who is expected to resume training next week having been out of action since mid-December with a hamstring injury. The Guinean may make a playing return for the Reserves against Leicester City on February 14th.
Darren Bent has been named in the England U-21 squad for their match against Holland next Tuesday at Pride Park, Derby. Town's leading marksman has 10 U-21 caps to his credit so far, netting on 7 occasions.
Reserve and academy defender Jerome Sobers, who was signed from Ford United (now Redbridge) towards the end of last season, is to join Boston United on loan for a month. Pilgrims manager Steve Evans said: "Jerome comes highly recommended from Ipswich manager Joe Royle and he is expected to have a big future in the Championship."
And lastly, Sir Elton John is to perform at Carrow Road just 22 days after the last ever Premiership game is played there. The Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Tour will head up the A11 to bandit country on May 29th.
Thursday, February 3
Midfielder Dean McDonald, who has put in a number of impressive performances for the Reserves in recent weeks, is discussing Town's contract offer with his family and could sign-off on the deal this week. The deal will run until the end of the season and the 19-year-old will be looking to impress sufficiently during that time to earn a longer contract. "To play in front of 30,000 would be breathtaking, and that is what I'm aiming to do. The ideal scenario for me at the moment would be me on one wing and Darren [Currie] on the other."
Jason de Vos's international career is all but over after telling Canadian Head Coach Frank Yallop that he would not be available for selection for the remainder of this year. Capped 49 times at senior level, the 31-year-old said: "I'm not going to announce my retirement but, to all intents and purposes, I have probably played my last game for Canada. I spoke to Frank about it at length a couple of days ago and there is nothing for me to play for anymore. The World Cup qualifiers are finished for us and the next one doesn't start for another four years."
Despite campaigning strongly against FIFA's transfer regulations, and specifically the controversial transfer window, the Football League has been notified by football's governing body that its special dispensation will come to an end in the summer. The League had asked for continued dispensation to allow player transfers between its 72 member clubs year-round and to allow similar trading with the 20 Premiership sides.
BFJ says the transfer window rules border on restraint of trade and admits he is no fan of the system. "I don't see how the transfer window in general helps anyone but the biggest clubs with the biggest squads. There shouldn't be a restriction in transfer dealings to certain times, it's almost restraint of trade but the simple facts are that it's here and we have to deal with it."
The draw for the Sixth Round and Semi's of the FA Youth Cup were made on Tuesday and should the U-18's make it past Aston Villa in their fifth round tie at FPR on February 16th then a sixth round clash with near neighbours Colchester United beckons. Aston Villa were last seasons runners-up however and Town will have to be at their best to advance.
Tuesday, February 1
Moons and Horror Shows
The Zutons will support REM when the US rock giants play FPR on July 8th. The Zutons, who have been nominated for a Brit Award, are one of two support acts, the second of which has still to be named. "We are delighted that The Zutons have been added to the bill, their album is riding high in the charts and they will appeal to a slightly younger audience than R.E.M.," said CEO Derek Bowden. (and the slightly older, excuse me!)
Rotherham United manager Ronnie Moore has left the club by mutual consent. Moore was the victim of an elaborate hoax back in October, 2002 in which a caller, claiming to be Town Chairman David Sheepshanks, offered him the vacant managers seat at FPR following the sacking of George Burley. "Ipswich have denied they approached us, so I don't know what the hell's going on," Moore told the press at the time. "I don't know what I'm doing. Friday's phone call was taken by our chief executive. A phone number was left - and as far as we were aware, it was the Ipswich chairman. Now Sheepshanks is saying it wasn't him, and if it's a hoax I just won't be able to believe it." He took charge at Millmoor in May 1997, steering the club to two successive promotions, but the South Yorkshire side now look odds-on for relegation from the Championship.
Owen Garvan has been named in the Republic of Ireland U-17 squad for two friendlies against Slovenia in Dublin on February 15th and February 17th, while Billy Clarke is in the Republic's U-18 squad for an International Tournament in La Manga, Spain between February 7th and Februray 12th.
Chris Hogg is the latest Town player to join the Tony Mowbray managed SPL side Hibernian. Hogg, still recovering from an arm injured incurred after an altercation with car thieves in Middlesbrough, joins Antonio Murray, Sam Morrow and Mark Venus on the Easter Park payroll. Mogga incidentally was voted SPL Manager of the Month for January.
Free-transfer listed Pablo Counago has been dropped from the squad for the visit to Sheffield United's Bramall Lane this Saturday following another below par performance for the Reserves last night. Counago was replaced at half-time by Billy Knight in the 1-0 loss to Coventry City for whom former Blues' striker Craig Reid scored a first-half winner.
And lastly, Town's possible promotion party at Brighton on the last day of the season (Sunday May 8th) has been confirmed as a 1pm kick-off. SKY TV will be providing live coverage of the key Championship games taking place that day.
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