Keane's thinning Blue line

FOR Gareth McAuley read virtually every member of the Ipswich Town squad.budget within reason.

Elvin King

FOR Gareth McAuley read virtually every member of the Ipswich Town squad.

The 29-year-old Northern Ireland international's confirmation that his agent has been told that he can leave Portman Road shows that manager Roy Keane must keep his player budget within reason.

While it is no great surprise that McAuley is available after a similar stumbling start to the season as last year - culminating in his sending off against Nottingham Forest on Tuesday - it will come as a shock to Town fans that others are in a similar boat.

Keane has said all along that he will have to wheel and deal to strengthen his squad, and the provision of around �6million to pay transfer fees and wages to newcomers Grant Leadbitter, Carlos Edwards and Liam Rosenior by owner Marcus Evans only adds to this need.

Keane desperately needs a commanding and experienced central defender - someone who will put a stop to the bad goals his team are conceding.

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Once the necessary plumbing improvements have been made to stop the leaking of goals, a move up the table can start.

Consequently, McAuley, who ended last season in supreme form, is particularly vulnerable.

McAuley said: “My agent got a call from the chairman who said if a club could be found for me then to go ahead.”

This quote was made to the Irish press during McAuley's time on international duty and was not said within the last week.

Keane will certainly not part with McAuley until he has a replacement with Bolton's Danny Shittu and Sheffield Wednesday's Richard Wood believed to have been on the manager's shopping list.

He is still seeking additions to his squad with a central defender and goalscorer his priority, and any realistic interest he receives in any of his players to pave the way for this will be given serious consideration.

McAuley took a kick on the knee in the final half an hour of Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Forest and he was struggling to complete the game when dispossessed by Dele Adebola that led to his 90th minute red card.

He would have been a doubt for tomorrow's match Coca-Cola Championship match at Doncaster Rovers (kick-off 3pm) even if he hadn't been serving a one-match ban for a professional foul.

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