By Georges, he's got it

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today underlined Georges Santos's immense value to his ever-improving team.But the French defender remains an injury doubt for tomorrow's visit of Burnley, when Town will be seeking to make it six wins from seven league games.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Joe Royle today underlined Georges Santos's immense value to his ever-improving team.

But the French defender remains an injury doubt for tomorrow's visit of Burnley, when Town will be seeking to make it six wins from seven league games.

Santos required a fitness test on Saturday morning before playing his part in the 1-0 win at Bradford that hoisted Ipswich into the top half of the table for the first time this season.

And he will remain a doubt with a groin strain until he undergoes another examination of his fitness ahead of Tuesday's kick-off.

Royle said: "Big Georges was outstanding at Bradford, in my book right up there as a leading contender for the man of the match award.

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"I said to him after the game 'We're going to have to get you injured every week if you are going to play like that'.

"I know one or two people had doubts about me bringing him to the club, but I was slightly unfair to him by playing him in midfield. He has done really well since moving to centre-half.

"Georges has had a career in the lower divisions since he came over to England and he sees this as an outstanding opportunity. You can see the hunger he has to succeed."

The former Tranmere, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United and Grimsby man has played a key role in Ipswich's recent resurgence.

After a miserable run – no wins from the first six games – left them stranded at the foot of the table, taking 15 points from a possible 18 has seen them rocket towards the top.

Royle said: "After all our early-season trials and tribulations we now find ourselves just six points away from second place.

"But I'm not saying we've arrived. This team still has a lot of improving to do – we can definitely get even better."

Seventeen-year-old Irish defender Gerard Nash is standing by for his senior debut if Santos fails to make it tomorrow night.

Royle said: "All I can say about Georges is that I hope he's fit, but he'll need another test.

"He probably needs a rest, but at least he was no worse yesterday. He's tired and tight, but Georges always wants to play."

Royle also praised the contribution of loan trio Alan Mahon, Chris Bart-Williams and Shefki Kuqi, who have all proved to be lucky mascots.

He added: "Alan will get the plaudits for his goal at Bradford and rightly so, because it was a tremendous strike.

"But Chris was outstanding and Shefki could have had three or four goals after working good positions for himself.

"He didn't score, but once Shefki gets a couple of goals under his belt he can run riot."

Drissa Diallo will again be absent against his former club as he continues his fight for fitness after

missing the last five games with a knee injury.

Royle signed the Guinea international on a free transfer in the summer, much to the disappointment of his pal, Burnley boss Stan Ternent.

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