Jim toys with starting with Billy

IPSWICH boss Jim Magilton is toying with the idea of naming teenage hero Billy Clarke in the starting line-up at table-topping Birmingham tomorrow.

By Mel Henderson

IPSWICH boss Jim Magilton is toying with the idea of naming teenage hero Billy Clarke in the starting line-up at table-topping Birmingham tomorrow.

Clarke, 18, came off the bench to score winning goals in Town's last two games and Magilton admitted today: “You can only keep them on the leash for so long.”

The kid from Cork has played a huge part in Ipswich's improved form, starting the game at QPR that launched them on a run of three straight wins to climb away from the wrong end of the Championship.

Magilton said: “There is definitely a case for Billy being in from the start but I have a lot to weigh up before I make that decision.

“It could be argued that an away game suits him better at the moment. Teams like to get in amongst us at Portman Road and we have obviously had great success in using him as a substitute.

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“But we started with him at QPR and he did a great job for us on the night so I wouldn't dismiss his chances of starting tomorrow.”

Magilton admitted it was Clarke's immense promise that convinced him to go ahead with the £250,000 sale of Nicky Forster to Hull.

The Town boss added: “Both Bryan Klug and I were fully aware of Billy and what he could give us at this level. He was bubbling away just under the surface.

“Joe Royle wanted to use him more last season but the lad had his injury problems. I think his spell on loan at Colchester was very good for him.

“He came back from there and was involved with us straight away, which was a real pick-me-up for him.”

Magilton, Klug and the Town players have been working hard in training this week in a bid to find the best answer to Alex Bruce's enforced absence from the game against his former side.

“It is possible we might try something a bit different at Birmingham,” said Magilton.

“Managers always like to have continuity but it hasn't been possible with us for one reason or another and the fact that Alex can't play means another enforced change.

“I also have to look at Billy's situation. Should he start or be on the bench? That's a big decision I have to make.”

But regardless of the Town line-up, Magilton insisted his team will be heading for the Midlands in the hope of achieving a fourth successive win rather than with the intention of sneaking a point.

He added: “If we can quieten their crowd down by matching Birmingham for the first 20 minutes or so we can then get the ball down and start playing.

“They have a very passionate support but that can often work the other way if things are not always going according to plan and they get a bit impatient.

“It's the acid test for us as well. It will either tell us how far we have come or how far we still have to go.”

Birmingham will be without on-loan Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, who is serving a one-game ban, and his absence could give Cameron Jerome, who cost £3 million from Cardiff in the summer, his first league start for the Blues.

SQUADS

BIRMINGHAM: Maik Taylor, Johnson, Jaidi, N'Gotty, Gray, Larsson, Nafti, Dunn, Jerome, McSheffrey, Campbell, Muamba, Martin Taylor, Danns, Kilkenny, Forssell and Doyle.

IPSWICH: Price, Wilnis, De Vos, Naylor, Harding, Williams, Legwinski, Walton, Noble, Richards, Currie, Clarke, Lee, Macken, Bowditch, Brittain, Haynes and Supple.

Referee: Howard Webb (Rotherham).

WOULD you put Billy Clarke in the starting line-up? Is he too young? Let us know, starsport@eveningstar.co.uk

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