Armstrong eyes massive season

ALUN Armstrong will pinch himself when he gets on the plane tomorrow for Ipswich Town's pre-season tour to Sweden."To be honest, I did not expect to get in the party," he said.

ALUN Armstrong will pinch himself when he gets on the plane tomorrow for Ipswich Town's pre-season tour to Sweden.

"To be honest, I did not expect to get in the party," he said.

"I think I have surprised the gaffer with my fitness levels and plan to make the most of my second chance."

Less than 18 months after scoring goals in both legs of the UEFA Cup tie against mighty Inter Milan, Armstrong's career looked in danger.

Manager Joe Royle made Armstrong available for a free transfer from Portman Road – and the striker's future at the club looked bleak.

"The manager did not include me towards the end of last season and I knew I had to do something," added Armstrong, who played alongside Marcus Bent in the first half of last night's friendly at Southend United.

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"This is a massive season for me. I have one year left on my contract and plan to make the most of it.

"I love the club and the area and my family is settled."

Armstrong has been getting himself into tip-top condition during the summer break.

"When I went to Spain for a week with the family I ran every day," he said.

"I paid special attention to my diet, and it has paid off. I feel fitter than I have for a long while and have not been hampered this pre-season by niggling injuries.

Interest

"My back problem cleared up last season and hopefully is now a thing of the past."

Coventry showed interest in Armstrong last month, but he has no plans to move on.

"Mr Royle told me about an inquiry from Coventry and my agent got involved, but it did not get very far," recalled Armstrong.

"As I said, I see my future at Ipswich for at least another 11 months and my next goal is to make the first team on a regular basis.

"I have been given a reprieve and plan to take it. So far my hours of work during the close season have paid off, but there is still some way to go."

l Ian Westlake's fine goal in last night's 4-2 win at Southend has whetted his appetite for the season.

"This is make or break time for me," said the youngster from Clacton, who broke on to the first team scene last term.

"I have seen players like Titus Bramble, Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose and Matt Richards move into the side and become regulars – and this year must be my turn.

"They have all been an inspiration for me. The tour to Sweden is my big chance to make a statement and I will hopefully have three games to do it."

There is a midfield vacancy following the departure of Matt Holland and Thomas Gaardsoe was tried in that position beside Westlake at Roots Hall.

"I want to make the squad on a regular basis, and move into the starting line-up," added Westlake, who was delighted with his goal.

"Marcus Bent played me in and I could see a gap. I bent the ball with my left foot and it ended up just where I planned.

"Southend came at us at 100 mph as we expected but after a few early problems we settled down well." 

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