Fortnight will shape our future

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks has reason to be a worried man.He needs manager Joe Royle and his team to come up with the goods over the next two Saturdays.

By Elvin King

IPSWICH Town chairman David Sheepshanks has reason to be a worried man.

He needs manager Joe Royle and his team to come up with the goods over the next two Saturdays.

If they fail to turn on the style against Stoke City and Brighton at Portman Road, Sheepshanks fears this will hit season-ticket sales next season.

And if so, seriously jeopardise his beloved Town's chances of a return to the Premiership in the foreseeable future. A couple of promising youngsters could leave and chances of promotion in the next few years become remote.

Sheepshanks still backs Royle to the hilt, but he could not hide his disappointment at Saturday's 1-0 Championship reverse at Luton Town.

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“We had fantastic support at Kenilworth Road and our 1,800 travelling fans - like me - expected us to do better,” said Sheepshanks, who re-confirmed the stark reality that if significantly less season tickets are sold then he cannot guarantee keeping the current squad - let alone bring in newcomers.

“We can accept that Luton have a great home record and that conditions were not ideal, but if we had been at our best we would have got a result.”

This is a crucial time for Ipswich Town. The next two games are vital to their well-being.

Sheepshanks explained: “People are making their minds up about buying season tickets and two good performances would be timely as never before.

“I believe our fans went home frustrated by a failure to beat Hull in our last home game, but they were excited about the way we played and how we passed the ball around. You could not say that on Saturday.

“Hopefully our fans saw enough in the first two months of the year - when we were effectively one of the top two sides in the division - and will take this into account and not focus on Saturday's display.

“To be fair to the manager he has gone on record as saying that he wants to finish the season with a flourish, and Joe will be disappointed at the moment like the rest of us.”

There have been instances over the last few weeks when chairman and manager have not always appeared to be on the same wavelength over finances for next season.

For example, last week Royle confirmed his interest in signing striker Ricardo Fuller - currently on Premiership wages with Southampton - while today Sheepshanks re-affirmed that strict monetary restraints still exist.

“I can categorically state that similar season ticket sales will mean no pressure to sell players,” added Sheepshanks.

“It would secure our current squad, but beyond that additional money would have to be found, and we are planning a new share issue in the summer.

“We have shown our desire to succeed by agreeing contracts with a number of players over the last few weeks and we are looking ahead with optimism.

“But we need a same level of season ticket sales and the next two weeks are very important to us all.”

Cathal Lordan, a member of Town's FA Youth Cup-winning side last season, is having a trial this week at Eircom champions Cork City.

The 19-year-old has been told he will not be offered a new contract in the summer.

Cork boss Damien Richardson said: “Cathal has a number of cross-channel clubs chasing him, but the real fact now is that the Eircom League has improved so much and is now a viable alternative to lads like him.”