Dale was our unsung hero, says Matt

EMOTIONAL Ipswich Town captain Matt Holland today paid tribute to unsung hero Dale Roberts.The Republic of Ireland international said: "He spent hours and hours of extra time out on the training ground with players, including myself.

By Dave Allard

EMOTIONAL Ipswich Town captain Matt Holland today paid tribute to unsung hero Dale Roberts.

The Republic of Ireland

international said: "He spent hours and hours of extra time out on the training ground with players, including myself. He helped us all so much and his reward was seeing people benefit from his coaching."

Town assistant manager Roberts, the widely-respected right-hand man to former boss George Burley for so long, finally lost his battle against cancer yesterday. The ex-Blues and Hull central defender was 46.

Holland, who has worked closely with Roberts since being signed from Bournemouth in the summer of 1997, said in his moving appraisal of the man: "His death is an horrendous loss. Since I've been at the club he's always been there for me, just as he has for everyone else.

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"He was such a nice man. He could not do enough for you. His death has put life in perspective for everyone at Portman Road.

"I can't compliment Dale enough. He was such a terrific guy. He put in hour after hour of extra work for the benefit of the players and the club. His enthusiasm was enormous. He didn't seek the headlines or anything like that.

"He was a real unsung hero of Ipswich Town. He worked so very hard for the cause over so many years.

"We'll all miss Dale so much and, at this time, our great sympathy goes out to his wife Cheryl and his sons."

On Saturday Holland leads his promotion chasing Town side in a home battle with high-flying Sheffield United at Portman Road in the Nationwide First Division.

There will be a minute's silence before the start and teams will wear black armbands. Flags at Portman Road are flying at half-mast and before last night's reserve game with Fulham the teams lined up to pay their tribute.

Holland continued: "There is so much sadness at the club right now. But it would be so fitting if we could get the sort of result against Sheffield United that Dale would have wanted us to get."

Manager Joe Royle revealed today that there was a suggestion that last night's reserve game, which Town lost 2-0, should be called off.

He said "The whole club was upset last night. So many people who had worked with Dale for long were hurting. But it was decided that the game should go ahead. The feeling was that Dale would have wanted it that way."

Town go into the Sheffield United game looking to avenge a 4-3 FA Cup fourth round defeat at Bramall Lane late last month.

Dutch midfield man Martijn Reuser is under treatment for a hip injury and striker Richard Naylor for a sore knee.

Crystal Palace's FA Cup win at Liverpool means that Town's visit to Selhurst Park on Saturday week is off.

This means that one of Hermann Hreidarsson's games to miss due to his forthcoming three-match ban will be the East Anglian derby on Sunday, March 2.

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