Drissa feels smiles better

THE huge smile lighting up the face of Ipswich defender Drissa Diallo says it all.It confirms that the 31-year-old Guinea international is once again enjoying his football after his first season at Portman Road proved to be the most frustrating of his career.

By Mel Henderson

THE huge smile lighting up the face of Ipswich defender Drissa Diallo says it all.

It confirms that the 31-year-old Guinea international is once again enjoying his football after his first season at Portman Road proved to be the most frustrating of his career.

One certainty about Town's visit to Nottingham Forest tonight is that Diallo will feature in the starting line-up.

If he doesn't have to switch and replace crocked captain Jason De Vos in the middle of the back line, he will slot in at right-back for the sixth game in a row.

No wonder Diallo said: “It is not a problem - after having such a frustrating time last season I just want to play.

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“I want to show my determination and my desire. No matter where the manager wants me to play, I will cope with it.”

Stand-in skipper De Vos will have a pre-match fitness test on his injured knee, which he first

suffered in last week's friendly against Osasuna and aggravated against Gillingham on Saturday.

Captain Jim Magilton, absent against the Gills with a thigh strain, is once again ruled out. If De Vos does not make it, Diallo will switch to a central role alongside Richard Naylor, allowing Fabian Wilnis to reclaim the right-back berth.

Manager Joe Royle must also decide whether to give loan signing Tony Dinning his debut. “He looks fit, but he lacks match practice,” he said of his new arrival from Wigan.

Diallo, meanwhile, spoke of his disappointment at failing to make the desired impact after his free transfer switch from Burnley last summer.

He added: “The manager made me his very first signing and I was very keen to repay him for the faith he showed in me. I really wanted to do well.

“At all my other clubs everybody was happy with me, but last season was the most frustrating of my career.

“After nine games I was injured and I ended up being out for four months. Then, when I did get back into the team, I was not at my best - either physically or mentally.

“I tried to do my best, but I knew I could do much better. At the end of the season the manager said he still believed in me and that meant a lot to me.”

Diallo spent holidays back in France, visiting family and friends in Paris before he and his wife relaxed in the south near Cannes.

He also spent a week in Marbella with a pal before returning to pre-season training, determined that his second campaign at Ipswich would be a lot more memorable than his first.

Diallo added: “The thing I missed most last season was not being out there on the pitch and when I returned I not only felt stronger, both physically and mentally, but I wanted to show people what I could do.

“When you join a new club the fans are waiting to see something from you. They don't know you and I didn't want the Ipswich supporters to judge me on how I played last season.

“Now I feel I am really settling in. I have played football for a long time and I have the experience to cope with playing wherever the manager feels it will benefit the team.

“I have been enjoying it at right-back but it won't be a problem if I have to switch.”

Forest, who drew 1-1 at Wigan on the opening day of the season, have defenders Michael Dawson, John Thompson and Wes Morgan all missing.

Teenager James Perch, who made his debut at the weekend, suffered a thigh injury and boss Joe Kinnear is awaiting

international clearance from South Korean club Busan Icons before Norwegian star Jon Olav Hjelde can resume at his former club.

Striker David Johnson, sold by Ipswich in January 2001 for £3million, has claimed four goals in just three outings against his old club.

Royle said: “It was significant last season that Forest started scoring goals and winning games when David returned after his broken leg.

“He's a lively character and a goalscorer - and players love to score against their former clubs. He has always done well against us in the past. In fact he's been a real pain in the backside and with a bit of luck it's not too late for him to get flu!”

SQUADS

IPSWICH: Davis, Diallo, De Vos, Naylor, Richards, Miller, Horlock, Westlake, Bent, Kuqi, Bowditch, Wilnis, Dinning, Counago, Mitchell, Barron, Price.

NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Gerrard, Louis-Jean, Perch, Doig, Rogers, Impey, Evans, Jess, Reid, Taylor, Johnson, Walker, King, James, Gardner, Hjelde, Roche.

Referee: Alan Kaye (West Yorkshire).

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