Derby may be last for two Darrens
IPSWICH teenagers Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent will make their first – and last – Carrow Road derby appearances tomorrow.The pair, both 19, are set to leave Portman Road as hard-up Town realise they will have to cash in on their prize assets.
By Mel Henderson
IPSWICH teenagers Darren Ambrose and Darren Bent will make their first – and last – Carrow Road derby appearances tomorrow.
The pair, both 19, are set to leave Portman Road as hard-up Town realise they will have to cash in on their prize assets.
Even if Ipswich regain their Premiership status they are likely to be on their way to the highest bidder.
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And Newcastle, first to make a firm move last month, will not have it all their own way in the signing race.
Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton are all keen on the youngsters, who have scored 26 goals between them this season.
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Town, who slumped into administration almost three weeks ago, have had to accept that they simply cannot afford to keep the players.
The administrators rejected Newcastle's £3million bid for the pair – but that was merely the start, rather than the end, of the matter.
The decision was based on Ipswich still being in the play-off race and came before home games against Wolves and Grimsby reaped a meagre one point.
Defeat at Norwich tomorrow will virtually ensure Town remain a First Division club for at least one more year.
The club's cash problems – debts are currently hovering around the £50m mark – mean the administrators must be ruthless.
This week's 20 per cent wage deferral by the playing staff will improve cash flow in the short term, but there will have to be a day of reckoning when the players are reimbursed.
Town can use their £6m parachute payment from Sky, but will also need to bring in another significant sum.
Newcastle will be back with a £2.5m bid for their number one target, Ambrose, whose 11 goals make him one of the country's highest-scoring midfielders.
Striker Bent, the club's leading marksman with 15 goals, also has a growing list of admirers, with Everton boss David Moyes one of the most ardent.
The administrators, who must soon confront a long queue of anxious creditors owed millions, are under severe pressure to cash in on the duo.
Chairman David Sheepshanks, who accused Newcastle of a back door approach by going straight to the administrator with their first offer, has warned Town will not sanction any cut-price deals.
It is difficult to see how the administrator, who is calling the shots for the time being, can continue to turn away a cash injection of millions of pounds when the club has been losing in the region of £250,000 each week.
Meanwhile, Ambrose and Bent are unlikely to be the youngest Town stars on parade at Carrow Road, with 18-year-old Matt Richards in line for his first league start.
The left-sided youngster's only previous First Division experience was gained as a substitute for the last half hour of Town's 1-1 draw at Burnley in January.
Both John McGreal and Marcus Bent have lost their battles to overcome back and hamstring problems respectively.
And with Richard Naylor 11 pounds lighter after a bout of gastro-enteritis – "I'll have to try to get hold of that bug" joked Royle – the manager's hands seem tied.
He is likely to revert back to a 3-5-2 system with Ambrose in a 'floating' role behind Darren Bent. Striker Dean Bowditch, just 16, will be on the bench.
The Town boss appealed to fans to back ex-Norwich keeper Andy Marshall upon his return to Carrow Road for the first time.
He said: "I've had a good chat with Andy. He knows he has not been at his best, but he also knows he can make himself a hero with a clean sheet."