Davies the leading candidate

PRESTON boss Billy Davies is a leading candidate to replace Joe Royle at Portman Road.The Ipswich board have been impressed by the 41-year-old Scot's excellent record in his two years in charge at Deepdale.

By Mel Henderson

PRESTON boss Billy Davies is a leading

candidate to replace Joe Royle at Portman Road.

The Ipswich board have been impressed by the 41-year-old Scot's excellent record in his two years in charge at Deepdale.

Davies has taken Preston into the play-offs in successive seasons, losing just 21 of his 101 games in charge, and he has done it on a modest budget.

He has also been forced to sell players, bringing in millions, and replaced them at a fraction of the cost.

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His biggest success was to

capture England Under-21 striker David Nugent from Bury for just £100,000 and the player is now rated in the £3 million bracket.

But Davies is also in the frame for the vacant manager's job at Derby, where he came top in a poll of Rams' fans, and Preston are

bracing themselves for approaches this summer.

Former Ipswich captain and coach Tony Mowbray, now manager of Hibs, and Colchester boss Phil Parkinson are other leading candidates.

Town are in the market for a young manager who has already proved himself elsewhere and who would relish the challenge of restoring the club's Premiership status.

But a move for Parkinson could be ruled out on political grounds. Would Ipswich really want to risk another major fall-out with neighbours Colchester, which happened when George Burley left Layer Road in December 1994 to replace John Lyall?

That move had lengthy repercussions and Town are likely to look elsewhere, despite Parkinson's major achievement in securing the U's a place in English football's second tier for the first time in their history.

Mowbray's achievements in Scotland - he has only spent £5,000 in two seasons at Easter Road - have also seen his stock rise.

But he has also been linked with a move to Middlesbrough, where he is revered as a former captain of the club, and that is a job with massive pull.

Another ex-Town skipper, Terry Butcher, is sure to be interested. He always said that managing Ipswich would be his dream job.

After cutting his teeth at Sunderland and Coventry, he is now in charge of Motherwell and is being courted by Australian club Sydney.

Alan Curbishley is available after quitting Charlton, but there is now way Ipswich could afford his salary demands.

Royle was understood to be on a salary of just over £250,000 a year, but Premiership bosses earn four times that amount.

One person who will definitely not be applying is former Town captain Jim Magilton, who said an emotional Portman Road farewell last month.

Before exiting, Magilton admitted he would love to return as manager - little realising the vacancy would crop up so soon.

Veteran midfielder Magilton, who plans to continue playing for at least one more season, today spoke of his amazement at the departure of Royle.

He said: “I will not be sending in my cv - unless they ask for it of course!

“I'm still coming to terms with the news. As far as I was aware, Joe was optimistic about next season and felt he had the nucleus of a very good side

“The gaffer has been unlucky. Had we not suffered so many injuries last season, and he had been able to field a full-strength X1, results would have been a lot different.

“I don't know how this has come about, but I'm certain there will be plenty of applications flying through the letter box.

“Joe was fair, honest and decent, one of the most decent human beings you could ever wish to meet, and I enjoyed my time working with him.”

Magilton is about to move home with his wife and two sons to the north west of England.

He added: “I have no idea what's next for me. I am waiting anxiously by the phone and my body is telling me it's OK to play on. You're a long time retired in this game.”

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