Blues in tug of war for defender

IPSWICH are ready to battle it out with neighbours Norwich in a bid to sign Stoke defender Wayne Thomas.The powerful stopper is out of contract and is also interesting another two Championship clubs in Burnley and Derby.

IPSWICH are ready to battle it out with neighbours Norwich in a bid to sign Stoke defender Wayne Thomas.

The powerful stopper is out of contract and is also interesting another two Championship clubs in Burnley and Derby.

Thomas, who was 26 earlier this month, ticks all the right boxes as far as Town are concerned.

But it looks as if the player who cost £200,000 from first club Torquay in 2000 is going to be able to take his pick from several suitors.

Thomas can play at full-back or in central defence and, if Town boss Joe Royle can persuade him that his future lies at Portman Road, he will fill the gap caused by Drissa Diallo's departure earlier this week.

The player has been offered a new deal to remain at Stoke but his delay in accepting has inevitably led to speculation that he is keen to make a fresh start elsewhere.

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Stoke chief executive Tony Scholes said: “Wayne is a free agent and because he has not signed a new contract with us he can talk to other clubs.

“He has been a good servant for the last few years and our manager, Tony Pulis, wants him to stay, but it looks like being difficult.”

Thomas was among the most vocal of the Stoke players who endured an uneasy relationship with the Britannia Stadium board last season.

But he was an on-the-field hero, helping his team to keep 20 clean sheets in the Championship, a feat equalled only by Premiership-bound Wigan.

In addition, he scored three goals. He netted in the FA Cup at Arsenal, while his two league goals came in the 3-2 home win over Ipswich last September that took the Potters, albeit briefly, to the top of the table.

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